Fifteen years ago Matt Mullenweg put a dent in the universe.
Frustrated with the nascent blogging software available at the time, Mullenweg set out to develop his own, which he called WordPress on a recommendation from a friend.
It also lead him to found Automattic — a now billion dollar company that offers commercial services to the WordPress community.
Today, over 30% of all websites use WordPress making it one of the most popular and important pieces of open source software in the world. With that level of success you might think Mullenweg and WordPress would be ready to play it safe.
Quite the opposite.
Just as tens of millions of users have finally become comfortable using WordPress, Mullenweg is preparing to introduce Gutenberg — a sweeping new feature that fundamentally changes the way people use WordPress to create content.
Gutenberg, which is named after the famed inventor of the printing press, is shaping up to be one of the biggest changes to WordPress in years. So much so that the project has been a source of heated debate and controversy within the WordPress community.
Mullenweg is no stranger to controversy. Over the years, he has instigated numerous changes to WordPress that were unpopular at the time but later proved to be key to the software’s continued rapid adoption.
However, this time Mullenweg did something different.
When he announced Gutenberg he didn’t propose a date for when it would be ready. The implication was clear. Mullenweg was prepared to wait as long as necessary to bring Gutenberg to life – even if the wait was uncomfortable.
To further the point, he announced that he would grow a beard and not shave it until Guttenberg shipped.
Two years later, Mullenweg’s beard has indeed grown while much of the initial resistance to Gutenberg has faded. The long wait appears to be coming to an end next month when Gutenberg debuts as part of WordPress 5.0.
Mullenweg flies over 400,000 miles year often attending WordPress events and visiting Automattic employees who work remotely from countries all over the world.
Needless to say, It took a while to sync up our schedules for a portrait sitting.
By the time I got Matt into the studio a few weeks ago he had reached peak “Guten-beard”. We decided to honor the beard and do a few different shots for the WordPress history books.
Despite being symbolic of the epic journey to ship Gutenberg, I could tell that Matt is looking forward to shaving the beard.
“My mom hates it”.