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I think it’s a bit unfair to blame wordpress directly for speed problems, any cms that is accessing the database can also have major speed issues, especially if caching is not being used well and the server side code is poor.

There’s a movement towards static site generators.
i.e. you use a cms to enter your content, and then that cms generates static html pages for hosting. There’s even a wordpress plugin that does exactly that :

It’s a great idea for those sites that don’t change often, but you lose any server side functionality, which for wordpress would include comments and contact forms.

I’m playing with the idea of using it for my own site, but it’s hard to get the time to play with these things. Especially when it’s not useful for my own clients.