The SharePoint landscape has evolved dramatically since SharePoint's inception 17 years ago. And while there have been improvements every year since it’s release, SharePoint didn’t come into its own until 2007. So we’re going to focus on post 2007 SharePoint.
The major versions of SharePoint are: SharePoint 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and SharePoint Online. Of these versions, SharePoint 2007, 2010, and 2013 are no longer implemented and are increasingly being replaced by SharePoint 2016, SharePoint Online, and soon SharePoint 2019 . To see why users are updating to newer versions of SharePoint, we need to understand the differences between the versions.
SharePoint 2007 and 2010: A History Lesson
Although these versions have key differences, they're combined here because they are largely unused.
SharePoint 2007 was released in 2006 and brought with it the introduction of Excel Services, content types, and SharePoint Designer. SharePoint 2010 came along next, with a better interface and expanded functionality. This version was so useful and influential that by 2011, 57% of SP users had switched from 2007 to 2010. This shift could largely be attributed to the shift from static document management to collaborative work spaces. Essentially, SharePoint 2010 was an environment that users could work inside of instead of being just a place to store files.
SharePoint 2010 also was the first SharePoint version to have an online counterpart. In 2011, Microsoft launched Office 365: their cloud-based software suite. Unfortunately for Microsoft, there was a lack of confidence in cloud security at the time and it would take a bit more time before SharePoint Online adoption became widespread.
SharePoint 2013: Adding Social Element
SharePoint 2013 redesigned the SharePoint interface. This time, the interface was polished, modern, and easy to use. It expanded on the functionality of SharePoint 2010 and introduced a variety of new social elements to the platform.
Office 2013 was released with this new SharePoint version, and was beginning Microsoft's ongoing push to Office 365. Although SP 2013 allowed sandbox solutions, they were discouraged since app solutions became easier to use. These apps are web-based solutions that allow IT pros to make changes without touching the farm (servers), which they wouldn't have access to in Online versions. For in depth descriptions of both, check out TechNet's article.
The changes introduced in SharePoint 2016 further encourage users to migrate to Office 365. Overall, SharePoint 2016 blends almost seamlessly into the Office 365 experience. Simple site creation and management lets users easily increase site size for their organization. Microsoft has also determined that updates to SharePoint Online and 2016 should come out more regularly than once every 3 years. New functionality will be released as it is developed in Feature Packs, the first of which was announced in this 2016's Ignite conference. Finally, sandbox solutions were no longer an option in SharePoint 2016, furthering the online transition. All custom work that previously used sandbox solutions is now only possible through the aforementioned app solutions.
SharePoint 2019 and SharePoint Online
So we've mentioned SharePoint Online multiple times, but it hasn't been explained until here. This is because unlike other SharePoint versions, SharePoint Online automatically updates to the newest version. Therefore, users can no longer access the SharePoint Online from 2011. Whenever we reference SharePoint online in this post, we are referring to the version that matches the functionality and design of SharePoint 2019. Other versions are no longer relevant.
With SharePoint 2019 and SP Online, Microsoft has made some significant improvements from the SharePoint you've come to know so well. In the new SharePoint versions, modern sites with better UI, quicker site creation times, and other features are being brought in from the Online version to the on-prem version. Additionally, remote file storage capability is being made easier as is navigating the new lists and libraries which are also getting UI improvements and other upgrades for both. Check out our SharePoint 2019 article for more.
And as the feature sets for both SharePoint 2019 and SharePoint Online blur together, so too has the line between local and cloud hosting. While adoption rates continue to go up across the board for SharePoint, growth in Online deployments far outpaces that of the on-prem version. And most organizations that are not fully in the cloud are making use of hybrid solutions of SharePoint. It leaves one to wonder if 2019 and this year's SharePoint Online update release will be the last true discernable "versions" of SharePoint.
If you have any questions about how to best leverage your version of SharePoint, feel free to reach out! We've worked with every version and instance of SharePoint one can imagine.