Composite illustration of WordPress logo and growth chart with man pointing upwards.

Ready to drop your jaw?

WP Engine, a leading WordPress digital experience platform for websites and apps, just released a comprehensive study of the “WordPress Economy.”

Simply put: the numbers are staggering.

The research – which was carried out in the US, UK, and Australia – suggests that 41% of the internet is currently built on WordPress, representing over 82 million websites. It also reveals that WordPress powers 35% of the top 10,000 sites by traffic, making it the open source force behind some of the top-performing websites on the planet.

Perhaps the most mind-boggling metrics were from the financial side of the study. According to WP Engine, the economic value of WordPress is estimated to be around $597 billion. As if that wasn’t enough, the research forecasts a 6.5% increase in 2021 – bringing the total value to $636 billion.

That’s over half a trillion dollars.

WP Engine also provided some interesting context in their report. For example: if the WordPress Economy were the market cap of a company, it would rank 10th – making it one of the largest companies in the world, and in the same league as Amazon and Walmart.

And if that example wasn’t shocking enough, try this one on for size: if the WordPress economy were a country, it would rank 39th in the world based on the IMF’s GDP rankings.

Accelerating digital transformation in the digital economy

When your head stops spinning, you might ask why and how these numbers escalated to epic proportions. According to the study, the answer can (almost) be summed up in a single word: pandemic.

According to a study by McKinsey & Company, 36% of all global customer interactions in 2019 happened online – and by 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, that number had ballooned to 58%. In the U.S. alone, digital interactions climbed from 41% to 65% in the same time period.

While the pandemic appears to be waning, its impact will be felt for many years to come – and a new urgency to compete on the digital playing field has become the status quo.

As noted in the WP Engine study, the businesses that pivoted to digital early in the pandemic have emerged successful, and in some cases even thrived. Thanks to flexible, open source software like WordPress, large segments of the economy – from small brick-and-mortar stores to large global brands – have adapted to meet customers’ digital behaviors and demands.

While the "gig economy" was already a well-documented phenomenon, the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated a sweeping shift to remote work. This may have contributed to the overall impact on individual incomes, which were likely elevated by higher demand for digital services. In fact, nearly half of all respondents in the study said that 25% to 100% of their personal income is represented by WordPress – and that users who work with the platform more than 15 hours a week derive 48% of their income from WordPress.

This groundswell of increased WordPress use is tied to an average income increase of 0.1% across all markets, which represents an estimated $610 million impact on the overall economy.

Understanding the scope of the WordPress study

Given the explosive growth of WordPress, WP Engine commissioned this study to better understand the breadth, reach, and potential of the ecosystem.

In partnership with research firm Vanson Bourne and the Institute of Management Studies (IMS) at Goldsmiths University of London, the research was focused on the economic value and social impact of WordPress. The respective firms conducted reviews of academic and industry literature, as well as survey-based valuations of 103 research group members, 400 businesses, and 400 WordPress end users.

The study also included a diverse group of over 100 collaborators and co-marketers representing a cross-section of the WordPress ecosystem that derive revenue from the open source platform.

Based on the results of the study, WP Engine suggests that flexibility, lower total cost of ownership (TCO), and a growing open source community are the key factors that have made WordPress the most popular choice for a wide range of users.

The broader WordPress ecosystem is also a force multiplier. With over 500 hosting providers, 11,000 themes, and 60,000 plugins, WordPress has far surpassed the scope of any other website building platform. And with a CMS market share of nearly 65%, WordPress is nearly unreachable in terms of scale; in fact, the next most-used CMS, Shopify, has only a 5.5% market share.

A Legacy of WordPress innovation

Since its launch in 2003, WordPress has grown from a humble blogging engine to the worldwide de facto standard for building and managing websites.

Along the way, WP Engine emerged as a laser-focused WordPress hosting provider, working to make the open source framework more secure, scalable, and trusted – so it can meet the challenges of the digital economy head-on.

With more than 90,000 customers, WP Engine delivers a range of features that help fortify WordPress in key gap areas, providing DDoS mitigation, dev tools, SSL/CDN, backups, and even 24/7 dedicated support.

What does this study mean for the future of WordPress?

The power and reach of WordPress is undeniable. In less than two decades, it has shaped the internet in profound ways, and this research codifies its sweeping impact.

What’s abundantly clear is how WordPress has democratized the internet for builders at every level of the market. Once the niche domain of PHP developers and independent bloggers, the platform is now trusted by leading media brands like the New York Times and public sector entities like The White House.

While open source is undoubtedly one of the biggest advantages to WordPress, it remains one of its most persistent challenges. As companies wrestle with increased security requirements and heightened compliance around data privacy, WordPress struggles with risks from outdated plugins, themes, and other exploitable vulnerabilities.

When it comes to the eCommerce horizon, WordPress also faces growing headwinds from players like Shopify and other services that offer complete solutions. Additionally, the wave of headless CMS options continues to grow, providing developers with secure and scalable choices that are more purpose-built for API and JAMstack applications.

But this is where WP Engine continues to prove its value as an industry-leading platform. Their solution provides an answer to many of the challenges that exist with WordPress, powering more than 1.5 million digital experiences with trusted, managed solutions. While competition continues to increase up and down the CMS and DXP stack, WordPress on WP Engine looks to have a very promising future ahead.

We highly recommend reading this study. But put down your drink first. These numbers are… well… intimidating.

About WP Engine

WP Engine, the WordPress technology company, provides the most relied upon and trusted brands and developer-centric WordPress products for companies and agencies of all sizes, including managed WordPress hosting, enterprise WordPress, headless WordPress, Flywheel, Local and Genesis. WP Engine’s tech innovation and award-winning WordPress experts help to power more than 1.5 million sites across 150 countries.