I didn't start with EPiServer development until 2008, so I can only assume that before World, there was only darkness. Then the ISP created the new DNS record, and they saw that it was good.
Steady community growth
During the 5 years since EPiServer World was launched in March 2008, the community has been ever growing, with a bananazillion users, plugins, articles, code snippets, forum and blog posts. Using the Wayback Machine as reference, we get this graph of member count combined with EPiServer release milestones:
While expecting to find a wavy graph and perhaps some spikes around the releases of new versions, the member growth is surprisingly linear. The main point being that it's always steadily increasing, at a constant rate of approx. 300 new members each month. That's quite impressive, and shows that EPiServer continues to reach new markets and user segments without stalling.
Registering on World is of course free, and there is no requirement that you are either a certified developer or employed at an EPiServer partner.In fact, you don't even have to register to be able to browse and search the extensive forums (although you have to register to post in one).
Best place for EPiServer answers
Even though EPiServer has a pretty decent vendor support program, I'm sure World reduces the support load a great deal. Many developers find most of their answers on World. Speaking for myself, I can count on one hand the number of times I've had to contact EPiServer support directly in 5 years of EPiServer development. Also, in an informal poll conducted recently by EMVP Ted Nyberg, EPiServer World came out on top as the preferred place for getting technical EPiServer answers (beating Stack Overflow, for instance).
Granted, some members are just registering to get access to downloads and documentation, and may not turn into community contributors as such - I'm sure EPiServer can provide some stats on how many of the 19000 members have actually submitted a forum or blog post. There is however an impressive amount of regular contributors which ensures that EPiServer World remains a dynamic and valuable source of reference material. In addition, free-to-attend meetups for EPiServer users are regularly being held in countries like Sweden, Norway and the UK - organized and sponsored by passionate community members and their employers.
Great community recognition program
World added a gamification factor with the Community Recognition Program introduced in 2010 which stimulates contributions. Within 2012, one member had reached the highest level (Oracle - beyond 3000 pts). Now remember, contributing on World is voluntary, and reaching that sort of level amounts to a whooole bunch of unpaid work dedicated to helping fellow EPiServer users.
As a natural next step, EPiServer have even recruited several high profile community contributors as full-time developers or program managers, giving them the chance to use their experience and fresh ideas to influence the product directly. Similarily, many of those who stop working for EPiServer, go on to work at one of the many EPiServer partner companies, retaining their experience and expertise within the community.
As Deane Barker of Gadgetopia points out in this 2012 blog post:
"What I’ve always found remarkable is that EPiServer has managed to cultivate a very open-source-like community around a product that’s not exactly cheap."
Given the amount of free open source plugins available, extensive volunteer contributions and steadily increasing member count, that quote is hard to argue against.
Congratulations to EPiServer World for the first 5 successful years. If you haven't registered yet - do it!