Why Microsoft switched to WordPress

A story of how Microsoft made a stunning shift towards open source and lately WordPress which is no longer just a blogging tool but rather an enterprise-ready WCM platform.

What a difference some 15 years make. Back in 2001, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer branded Linux as “cancer”. Fast forward to 2016 and the new CEO Satya Nadella shouts “Microsoft loves Linux.” It is a stunning shift towards open source and Linux, and lately, very serious attention has been paid to WordPress which is no longer just a blogging tool but rather enterprise-ready content management and app development platform.


It all starts with numbers: market share

The turnaround started when Microsoft made a strategic decision to shift its main focus to utility computing through the Azure Cloud Platform. To keep up with Amazon Web Services (AWS) which has roughly ten times the market share of Microsoft, Redmond had no choice but to fully embrace Linux whose web servers Apache and Nginx power over 83% of the entire Internet, compared to Microsoft’s IIS which takes about 12% market share. Number crunching works for WordPress as well because it powers over 27% of all websites and takes over 58% of the Content Management System market share. In comparison, Joomla, as the runner up, powers 3.4% of the Internet and takes 7.2% of the CMS market share. That is a huge difference. These numbers make WordPress a key influential factor for Internet-related adoption of standards, frameworks, platforms, and web technologies in general. If WordPress runs it, 27% of the Internet instantly runs it as well.


More numbers: cost-efficiency

The web server market could never be dominated by anything but open source. It is simple: successful Internet companies like Facebook, Google, eBay, Amazon, and the likes have huge server farms. It is out of the question that they would pay a license fee for a propitiatory OS running on every server. Similar philosophy goes for small businesses that take a huge chunk of the webspace. The only thing that Microsoft could ever take is what they did take: traditional corporations. But there is a new tune playing at those corporations as well: to keep up with the competition, they also have to embrace agility and cost-efficiency. WordPress’ agility and cost efficiency are thus increasingly making it appealing to traditional corporations as well.

WordPress with its open source approach, huge community, and over 50,000 plugins enables companies of all sizes to do more in less time and with a smaller budget. Simply put, why do something from scratch if with WordPress you can already find a ready or almost ready solution for just about any imaginable web challenge. The old tune started by Microsoft about WordPress performance and security is now getting quieter. Microsoft is not only making big efforts to streamline WordPress on Azure but it is also migrating its own websites to WordPress.

Brian Messenlehner, the mastermind behind the migration of 11 Microsoft websites to WordPress, simply said:

“You would think that Microsoft would use their own technology to run all of their websites but the fact is they wanted to save time and money like a lot of other big companies going Open Source.”


Beyond numbers: millennials love WordPress

Up until recently Microsoft and its entire ecosystem of partners and developers had a proper last-century approach on how end-users fit within apps and software; users were treated as “dumb” and it was preferable to restrict their access to the system as much as possible. In the case of web content management that translates into restricting users to input something like title and plain text for a news item or a blog post and let developers handle everything else. However, a new generation of web editors want and need more. It is now more important than ever to publish content fast, experiment with variations, and implement functional changes with minimum cost, effort and time. Thus, business users need to easily accomplish what was previously handled by a tech team. WordPress makes this possible, enjoyable and safe.

Furthermore, a lot of corporate employees use WordPress at home and they love it. While other CMS platforms are treated as work, WordPress is treated as fun, and luckily, more and more organisations of all sizes wish to ride that wave of energy and enthusiasm. This change where business users want more direct control of web content and functionality continues to propel WordPress’s remarkable growth.


So, what is Microsoft doing about WordPress?

In the past 2 years Microsoft migrated 12 key websites to WordPress including, Microsoft Europe and Microsoft News. 2017 will be the year with additional WP migrations. Microsoft made major efforts to streamline deployment of WordPress on Azure for both small and enterprise-class websites. Most recent software and apps provide integration with WordPress. Microsoft sponsors WordCamps and worldwide WordPress conferences.

The last laugh

In 2007, Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress predicted that Microsoft will open source its software by 2017. By now Microsoft has already open sourced several key products including the .NET core. Matt may be wrong for the exact year but he might have the last laugh. As for United Experts, 5 years ago Fortune 500 companies hired us to migrate their sites from Microsoft SharePoint to Telerik Sitefinity (based on Microsoft .NET); today they hire us to do the migration from Sitefinity to WordPress.