Elementor first launched in 2016 and has quickly risen to become one of the most widely-used page builders for WordPress. It allows users to easily create customized pages and sites through an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. The WordPress.org plugin page displays that it has over 5 million active installs, while Elementor stated 10 million active websites, in a 2022 article.

Here we are at the start of 2024, with no updated count on the install base from Elementor. However, W3Techs tells us they sit at 9.5% of the Content Management System marketshare for 2023. There’s just one problem with that: Elementor is not a Content Management System.

A Content Management System (CMS), according it it’s definition, is software that allows a user to create, manage, and modify content for a website or application. I’d even go a step further and bolt on the user access management part of the “CMS Stack.” Like when you create an admin user role versus an editor role in WordPress.

Elementor does not do any of these critical functions. You could argue that you can make pages of content with Elementor, but its tied to the pages “feature” of the WordPress CMS.

In fact, Elementor requires WordPress to operate.

It’s a plugin that sits on top of WordPress. You don’t start a blog with Elementor, you start a blog with WordPress and then use Elementor to design the look & feel of the front-end. It’s a builder, which oddly, W3Tech points out in their own blog post.

Elementor is a website builder based on WordPress. WordPress itself is not in our top 3 this year, because growing further becomes really hard once you reach well over 60% market share. Elementor’s 9.5% market share is significantly higher than any other CMS besides WordPress, and just ahead of second ranked WooCommerce, the WordPress-based e-commerce platform with 9.0% market share. Shopify comes in third this year.

W3Techs

Did W3Techs get it wrong?

Yes.

Elementor is not a CMS. Full stop. How could WordPress lose out on that top spot when Elementor requires it to function?

If you look at their Content Management System of the Year 2022, they named Wix as the top spot, here’s why:

Wix usage numbers went up from 1.9% of all websites to 2.4% in just one year, growing faster than any other CMS. WordPress gained this title in the last 12 years, but growing further becomes really hard once you reach well over 60% market share.

W3Techs

Wix “won” because it saw a higher jump than WordPress, but WordPress still dominated.

The only criteria that I can tell changed is that they now consider these plugins as CMS platforms moving forward. We saw the same line two years in a row, “but growing further becomes really hard once you reach well over 60% market share.”

Where was Elementor in 2022? How about WooCommerce, the runner-up it’s sharing the podium with this year? Both existed then, both had really high install counts. It seems like an arbitrary ranking method in back to back years. As if Matthias Gelbmann is bored of WordPress and wants to spice things up for his readers.

What about Divi? VisualComposer? Surely in the millions of active WordPress websites. Also plugins. They are not listed in the CMS technologies page or included in Extensive Market Report W3Techs offers for 999 euro.

WordPress Wins in the End

If plugins like Elementor and WooCommerce are now cemented in the CMS category, competitors will be hard-pressed to compete in the coming years. Your top spots will be:

  1. WordPress CMS
  2. Elementor Builder
  3. WooCommerce E-Commerce Plugin

That’s a lot of WordPress owning the top spots of the charts. I should note, they do have a methodology page which outlines how they rank “technologies” on the site, along with a more extensive FAQ section, but it lacks the nuance of WordPress vs its own plugin ecosystem.

Maybe we’ll see a nod to Gutenberg in the 2024 rankings once W3Techs considers the core builder functions inside WordPress. The WordPress footprint will grow even larger. Wouldn’t that be a quirky award to hand out?

What will the criteria look like for the 2024 CMS rankings? What do you think? Let me know on Twitter/X or LinkedIn!

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