The Rise of WordPress in Sri Lanka – A Brief History

Sri Lanka today has a steadily growing WordPress community led by tireless contributors at the front. We are concentrated in the capital city Colombo.

The history of WordPress on the island can be traced back to 2010, when a hugely active Linux community got together to create a Sinhalese version of Linux. Just like many technology groups, the same people happened to be members of the Sinhala Bloggers Union, at a time when WordPress competed with Blogger as the platform of choice.

WordPress surged ahead as the preferred CMS, owing to user-friendliness, programmer-friendliness and rapid development activity worldwide. Long before we had an organized meetup group, WordPress found interest among small companies and freelancers selling websites and web solutions.

As WordPress rose silently in Sri Lanka, an avid blogger named Rakhitha Nimesh Ratnayake decided to write a book “Developing Web Applications in WordPress”. This was published by Packt in November 2013, four years before the REST API was finally baked into the core of WordPress 4.7. The book was an indication of the immense promise provided by WordPress to developers who wished to transform the CMS into a full-fledged application framework.

Regular Meetups

Setting the momentum for regular meetups required significant sacrifices by our first community leaders, Dasun Edirisinghe and Harshadewa Ariyasinghe. The Colombo Meetup group was formed in 2015. We also have in our fold Mahangu Weerasinghe and Prasath Nadarajah, both longtime WordPress users, and contributors. They were at the first meetup with Dasun and Harshadewa.

The very first meetup happened in a modest coffee shop in September 2015, and this was added to our WordPress Meetup Chapter. The next took place at the Royal College Auditorium in November 2015, with Dasun speaking on contributing to WordPress Sinhala and further taking us on a back-to-basics tour of the WordPress platform and theme development. More meetups followed, and the attendance count fluctuated.

But the vanishing people didn’t cause us to lose heart. We had to conduct at least three quality meetups to continue pursuing the aim of getting an approval for WordCamp Colombo – an event that would put Sri Lanka’s WordPress community on the world map.

Our quest for WordCamp Colombo was successful, and we are confident the 2017 event will determine the future for WordPress in Sri Lanka.

WordPress 4.7 and the REST API

Over the last couple of years, Human Made took the lead to bring the REST API into WordPress and expose raw JSON data across platforms. The metamorphosis of WordPress into a headless CMS with Version 4.7 is the second turning point in the history of WordPress after the introduction of Custom Posts Types in 2010. Our WordPress community could not afford to be left behind when history was unfolding in front of our eyes – hence multiple meetups since November 2016 have been dwelling on the subject.

A significant boost to the WordPress Colombo Meetup group was the participation by members of the Colombo JavaScript meetup group at the February workshop-style meetup.

Gearing up for the Future

At the time of writing this blog, WordPress in Sinhala is 71% translated. Credits go to Dasun for monitoring this effort during 2015, and Chevindu for contributing a bulk of the translations. Contributors from the Sinhala Bloggers Union and other members of the community also carried out a notable role.

“Learn JavaScript, deeply! It is the future of the web” — Matt Mullenweg

We wish to actualize Matt’s advice in our lives and careers, and the enthusiasm shown by Colombo’s JavaScript Meetup group earlier this year makes us optimistic about huge new value additions to our own community.

Apart from Colombo JS, we have linked up with university students and are planning hands-on workshops to help them adopt WordPress. These early adopters from among undergraduate students will help shape newer versions of WordPress and its endless implementation ideas.

Have you thought of being part of the Sri Lankan WordPress community? You don’t necessarily have to be a programmer. Even if you are a programmer, you do not need to possess special badges and insignia. Every role will be valued. You could also be a business owner looking for the finest web solutions, a photographer capturing memorable moments, or a linguist who can help transcribe videos and translate content.

Keep an eye out for updates on this site, as we prepare for WordCamp Colombo 2017 on 23rd September!