An Ode to Hello Dolly with Matt Mullenweg

WordPress has been around for over 20 years. Part of its continuing popularity stems from how extensible it is. A skilled developer can make the content management system (CMS) do just about anything.

Its plugin architecture powers shopping carts, forms, and photo galleries. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. Niche functionality abounds, so it’s no wonder it leads the pack in market share.

But let’s take a step back. The ability to use plugins came about in WordPress 1.2. It was a new concept in those days. The project needed to educate developers on how things work. To encourage them to build and experiment. But how?

Well, hello, Dolly! Or, if you prefer more formality, Hello Dolly.

It’s one of two default plugins that come with each installation of WordPress. Maybe you delete it. Perhaps you leave it deactivated in your plugins folder. But do you know about its roots as a teaching tool?

In case you didn’t know: “Hello Dolly” is also a song made famous by Louis Armstrong. The jazz legend was a perfect fit for this project. WordPress releases are named for famous musicians. So, “Satchmo” gets some glory here. The plugin shows a random line from the song’s lyrics in the WordPress dashboard.

Love it or not, Hello Dolly (the plugin) has a purpose and is here to stay. I spoke to someone who knows a thing or two about the subject.

Why Matt Mullenweg Is Still Jazzed Up

WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg is a big fan of jazz. He also developed Hello Dolly. Matt was kind enough to take a quick trip down memory lane with me.

Besides sharing a classic song, what was the inspiration for creating Hello Dolly?

Matt Mullenweg: We wanted to riff on the “Hello World” that sits at the inception of many people’s introduction to programming. We felt like actions and hooks were a really nice paradigm alternative to purely object-based extending of applications.

Why has it continued to be a part of every new WordPress install?

MM: Because it’s nice to have a plugin with every install, and it’s funny and weird.

The plugin’s inclusion has resulted in some 1-star reviews. Does that keep you up at night?

Matt Mullenweg: Not at all.

Do you foresee a time when the plugin might evolve? For example, a Hello Dolly block might be a nice introduction to block development.

Matt Mullenweg: I think it would be cool if Hello Dolly could connect people to live jazz happening near them.

According to its development log, Hello Dolly has been around for 16 years and has over 700k active installs. Does that make you think about how far WordPress has come?

Matt Mullenweg: It shows that even though Hello Dolly is silly and simple, a pretty significant number of people appreciate the little bit of joy and randomness it introduces into their day.

” This is not just a plugin, it symbolizes the hope and enthusiasm of an entire generation summed up in two words sung most famously by Louis Armstrong: Hello, Dolly.”
– Hello Dolly plugin description from

A Living Connection to the Early Days of WordPress

Hello Dolly is a bit silly on the surface. However, it also represents something bigger.

Consider the importance of plugins to the WordPress ecosystem. Where would the CMS be without the likes of WooCommerce or Yoast SEO? What about the tens of thousands of plugins at our fingertips?

Every developer has to start somewhere. Some may have used Hello Dolly to take that first plunge into development. And people interested in building plugins can still use its code as a resource.

The plugin has played a role, however small, in the growth of WordPress. We owe it some thanks. Having said that…

Dolly, never go away, promise, you’ll never go away!

Thanks to Matt Mullenweg for chatting with me! Find more from Matt on his blog.

Related Topics




Hi There!

× How can I help you?