If you are an Android fan, or even if you are not, but you simply follow what’s new in the technology world, you have probably heard of the delicious names that Google gave to several versions of its operating system. Kit Kat, Cupcake and Nougat are just a few examples. The company discontinued this practice in 2019 for various reasons. Did you know, however, that WordPress versions have code names as well? What is more, the first version with a code name was released in 2004, well before Google used code names. This was version 1.0, or “Miles”, named after the jazz musician Miles Davis.

This year WordPress celebrated its 21st birthday, so we decided to dedicate this article to the most popular content management system out there. We will tell you more about the code names behind the versions, and we will see why they are all named after popular jazz musicians.

What are code names?

Code names are made-up names that developers give their products for various reasons. Some companies use code names for their work in progress, making it easier for teams to contribute to a particular project. Others choose code names for their software products to commemorate someone or something, or to designate a specific purpose to a specific release.

Along with Android, other popular examples are Apple’s MacOS (Leopard, Sierra, Mojave), Debian (Wheezy, Stretch, Buster), and Adobe (Space Monkey, White Lion). Unlike Google, some companies keep using code names. WordPress is another popular application that uses code names, but these names are not that popular despite the huge number of WordPress installations.

The WordPress code names

All major WordPress versions are named after popular jazz musicians. If you wonder why, you can find the reason on their website:

WordPress core developers share a love of jazz music, and all our major releases are named in honor of jazz musicians we personally admire.

Matt Mullenweg in 2019. Source: Wikipedia.

This is all the information you will find there, but there is more behind this tradition. Matt Mullenweg, the founder of Automattic (the company behind WordPress), was a jazz musician himself. He studied jazz saxophone in the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas. He played for years before he founded Automattic.

Mullenweg mentioned in his blog that the developer team sees a lot of similarities between jazz music and WordPress in terms of what the blogging platform should represent. They both allow individuals to express themselves and to be creative. They both give people unique freedom. As Mullenweg shares:

[Jazz music] has a form, history, and legacy, but still allows for a tremendous amount of individual creative expression when it’s performed. It can, with intention, be different every time, and unique to every performer.

This is exactly what Mullenweg and the rest of the team would like WordPress to be.

WordPress is an open-source project and while the core developer team plans the release schedule and chooses the code name for each major version, its contribution is only a fraction of the entire WordPress code. The rest of the code is written by volunteers. It is worth mentioning that Automattic is a for-profit company that is behind services such as WordPress.com, WooCommerce and Tumblr, but they dedicate 5% of their time and resources to the WordPress project.

A small part of the Automattic team.

Many companies simply name their software without providing further information about why they have chosen a particular name or what stands behind it. Unlike them, the WordPress developers mention who the musicians are and what they are famous for. The team adds more information directly in the version release notes.

For some versions, it is a link to the Wikipedia page of that musician or to a free audio streaming service where people can listen to pieces created/performed by the musician. For other versions, it is a whole paragraph about the musician. Sometimes the dev team publishes a short video presentation to highlight the features of a new version, and the background music is a song performed by the musician the version has been named after. This way the team commemorates the musicians and popularizes their work among the public.

A video presentation of WordPress 2.7 "Coltrane", named after John Coltrane.

The list

There isn’t a specific order in which names have been used so far or a list of musicians that will be used in the future. Every code name is chosen solely by the WordPress developers, and the public sees it with the official release. Beta or Release Candidate versions do not reveal the name. Each major version has its own code name. These are the versions that have two digits, such as 5.5 or 6.4, for example.

Minor versions that include three digits (5.5.1, 6.4.3) do not have code names. There have been only two exceptions in the past 21 years. The first one was version 1.0.2, named Art Blakey. It is not known why this version had a code name, but it is likely that back then the dev team planned to name (almost) every version. The second minor version, which received its own code name, was 2.0.5. It was named Rohan Boren, after the newborn son of Ryan Boren – the lead WordPress developer at the time. This was the only version that was not named after a jazz musician.

Here is a list of all the artists whose names have been used through the years. We have also added links to the Wikipedia page and the Soundcloud stream for each artist (if available), so you can easily read more about them or listen to their music.

VersionCode nameWikipediaSoundcloud
1.0Miles DavisRead moreListen
1.0.2Art BlakeyRead moreListen
1.2Charles MingusRead moreListen
1.5Billy StrayhornRead moreListen
2.0Duke EllingtonRead moreListen
2.0.5Ronan Boren--
2.1Ella FitzgeraldRead moreListen
2.2Stan GetzRead moreListen
2.3Dexter GordonRead moreListen
2.5Michael BreckerRead moreListen
2.6McCoy TynerRead moreListen
2.7John ColtraneRead moreListen
2.8Chet BakerRead moreListen
2.9Carmen McRaeRead moreListen
3.0Thelonious MonkRead moreListen
3.1Django ReinhardtRead moreListen
3.2George GershwinRead moreListen
3.3Sonny StittRead moreListen
3.4Grant GreenRead moreListen
3.5Elvin JonesRead moreListen
3.6Oscar PetersonRead moreListen
3.7Count BasieRead moreListen
3.8Charlie ParkerRead moreListen
3.9Jimmy SmithRead moreListen
4.0Benny GoodmanRead moreListen
4.1Dinah WashingtonRead moreListen
4.2Bud PowellRead moreListen
4.3Billie HolidayRead moreListen
4.4Clifford BrownRead moreListen
4.5Coleman HawkinsRead moreListen
4.6Pepper AdamsRead moreListen
4.7Sarah “Sassy” VaughanRead moreListen
4.8William John “Bill” EvansRead moreListen
4.9Billy TiptonRead more-
5.0Bebo ValdésRead moreListen
5.1Betty CarterRead moreListen
5.2Jaco PastoriusRead moreListen
5.3Rahsaan Roland KirkRead moreListen
5.4Nat AdderleyRead moreListen
5.5Billy EckstineRead moreListen
5.6Nina SimoneRead moreListen
5.7Esperanza SpaldingRead moreListen
5.8Art TatumRead moreListen
5.9Joséphine BakerRead moreListen
6.0Arturo O’FarrillRead moreListen
6.1Mikhail AlperinRead moreListen
6.2Eric DolphyRead moreListen
6.3Lionel HamptonRead moreListen
6.4Shirley HornRead moreListen
6.5Regina CarterRead moreListen

Will future versions still have code names?

The online world has changed a lot in the past 20 years, but the tradition of giving each major WordPress version a code name has not. While we cannot be certain if all future versions will have a code name, chances are that this will still be the case. There are many more talented jazz musicians that deserve to be mentioned, and jazz music always finds its place in interviews given by Matt Mullenweg or events created by the WordPress team. This is why we are confident that each new version will continue to bring users and jazz music closer.


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