Does WordPress power 27% of the internet?

WordPress powers 27% of the internet.

en.wordpress.com

Every year people repeat the claim of WordPress to an increasing share of the internet. The number is so large that other people naturally question it.

So… Does it?

By top sites sample

The 27% number and its previous incarnations come from W3Techs WordPress market share report:

WordPress is used by 58.5% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 27.3% of all websites.

w3techs.com/technologies/details/cm-wordpress/all/all

There are several notable things about it in relevance to the claim:

  1. Report surveys top 10 million sites by traffic (provided by Alexa), which they consider representative of the entire web.
  2. Rather than “powers” it words it as “used by” for which it considers if WordPress is detected on any page of the site.

So the claim seems to hold (if exaggerated — “powered” is a stronger word) and number is consistent.

[added 2017–02–05] Kaspars Dambis had run his own scan of top million Alexa sites, looking for WordPress on front page. His result ended up at 17.24%. Lower number suggests that significant portion of sites just have a WordPress install (likely for blog portion) as opposed it to being used for front/main functionality of the site.

By large sample

Still, 10 million is a rather small subset of the internet. Internet live stats estimate total number of sites to be above one billion in 2016. Alexa 10 million sample makes less than 1% of it. Selected by traffic, not meant to be representative of the web.

Does anyone survey WordPress usage in larger portion of the web? Another often cited source BuiltWith does:

BuiltWith Top Million 230,405 of 942,312 24.5%

Entire Internet 17,788,502 of 365,373,923 4.9%

trends.builtwith.com/cms/WordPress

The share in top sites by traffic sample seems roughly consistent with the claim.

However in largest 365 millions sample (approximately one third of estimated total of web) the share is much lower.

By absolute count

Would it not be easier if WordPress just told how many sites there are, instead of third parties trying to find and count them?

In fact they did in the past. WordPress.com stats page used to publish absolute “WordPress sites in the world” number. It was removed on 2014–04–04, with last number published of 77 686 011.

With estimated size of the 2014 web of 969 million sites, that number put market share at ~7.8%. For comparison W3Techs report claimed 2014 market share of 23.2%.

Conclusions

WordPress market share of about 25% seems to be consistent for relatively small samples of top sites by traffic.

For large samples and previously released numbers market share is measured to be below 10%.

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14 Comments

  • I’ve also wondered how those stats could be so high. I’d rather not see one platform dominating by that amount anyway. Competition is healthy, not to mention WordPress is not the most suitable option for many applications.

  • I would see more of a problem with the statistic as it’s currently reported if the source of the information were obscured. It isn’t for the most part. If I were to put it up against most statistics that are reported, I’d say it’s actually amazingly transparent. See, for example, the number of unemployed people with disabilities in the U.S. Every single advocacy organization will give you a different number, and advocacy organizations within the same group will again give separate numbers, none of which are backed by any sources. Or, take screen reader market figures. Every figure quoted is based on a response-driven survey, and I can promise you that this isn’t mentioned in screen reader marketing materials. Just the market shares. When statistics are used for marketing purposes, everybody plays fast and loose with the numbers. So while I think it’s admirable to strive for honesty, I don’t think WordPress deserves special scrutiny.

    • Oh, but is the source of information transparent?

      Front page of WP.com — no source.
      Automattic 2016 report — no source.
      State of word 2016 — no source.

      To be clear I have no issues with surveys and statistics. My issue here is WordPress fudging number from one small non–random sample of the web and presenting it as hard and true global market share in a much stronger worded claim.

  • Hi Andrey,

    Good that you raised this point, has always been questioning about the authenticity of WordPress powering 25%+ of all the websites on the internet.

    WordPress is popular without a doubt, but there are just too many other platforms that are popular for building websites.

    There should be transparency about this report.

  • According to Netcraft, there are some ~1.7 billion sites on the Internet. But as many of these are parked domains etc., they have another metric, active sites, which currently is at ~140 million sites.
    Ref.: https://news.netcraft.com/archives/2016/12/21/december-2016-web-server-survey.html

    A claim that WordPress powers 27%+ of the web would technically have to include the majority of the sites, which according to Netcraft aren’t even real sites — and I’d be suprised if a domain parking service runs on WP. But are those sites relevant at all? Should they even be considered part of the web? (Philosophical bonus question: is it even part of a web when nobody links there?)

    I’m a fan of staying to claims that is backed by what we actually know, which is that: WordPress is used by more than 27% of the 10 billion busiest sites according to W3Techs count.

    Oh, and people should stop saying «the internet» when we’re talking about «the web».

    • My point precisely. 27% of top 10M is incredible achievement and something to be proud of. But WP’s endless desire for popularity twists that to be presented as something much more global.

      Another factor is inactive WordPress sites. WP.com is huge portion of WP sites (I’ve heard numbers from 35 to 50 millions) and their abandonment was said to be something upwards of 90%. But every site ever started they still keep up and technically it counts.

    • IIRC W3Tech counts WordPress.com as only one site.

    • > W3Tech counts WordPress.com as only one site

      Yes, which makes figure even more overblown if projected on the whole web. If WP had 27% of market w/o WP.com then w/ WP.com it would already have over 50% (!) of the web.

  • I love this article, but I was wondering, on the absolute count, are those number inflated by Bots? I mean, a lot of the sites that are currently living on the web also belong to dead websites correct?

    I mean, almost on the same subject as Social Media in a few years becoming a huge graveyard of dead people with profiles still active. Still without a solution.

    • Oh, that number is most likely inflated by bots and abandoned WP sites.

      I wouldn’t consider it too reliable, but it’s the closest thing to absolute count that anyone with access to the hard data ever released.

  • How do the other platforms figure in to the absolute number? By simple logic, if WP is inflated, wouldn’t the other platforms be inflated as well?

    To me understanding the market share compared to other platforms is really interesting.

    • It is hard to say. Essentially the only real hard number will be if everyone puts their cards on the table and says “we measured and this is how many sites we have”. But this is not happening or likely to happen.

      Note how WP itself stopped publishing the absolute number (which back then I didn’t even know was being published) and repeatedly pushes third party W3Techs results instead.

      They could and did put absolute number on display. But the choice was made not to at some point.

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