What Exactly is WordPress?
What is WordPress? At its core, WordPress is the simplest, most popular way to create your own website or blog. In fact, WordPress powers over 34% of all the websites on the Internet. Yes – more than one in four websites that you visit are likely powered by WordPress.
On a slightly more technical level, WordPress is an open-source content management system licensed under GPLv2, which means that anyone can use or modify the WordPress software for free. A content management system is basically a tool that makes it easy to manage important aspects of your website – like content – without needing to know anything about programming.
The end result is that WordPress makes building a website accessible to anyone – even people who aren’t developers.
What is #WordPress? Simply put, it’s the best way to build a website. 😉
What is a ‘Content Management System’?
As already mentioned, WordPress is a content management system (or CMS, for short). To explain what this really means however, we first need to touch on what websites really are and how they work.
When you type the address of a website (for example, winningwp.com) into a web browser (such as Internet Explorer, Chrome or Safari) your computer connects (via the internet) to another computer (called a server), and asks to see the code stored on that computer in the location (i.e. the web address) you’ve specified. The browser then loads this code and shows you the corresponding webpage the code was created to display.
What’s important here is how this code came to be stored in a particular location on the server in the first place: someone — or something — put it there. There are two ways this could have been done: a) somebody wrote the code by hand and uploaded it to the server manually, or b) it was done using a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS, you see, is a piece of software that allows someone to quickly and easily manage all the different code on a server that goes together to display web pages — all via an easy-to-understand human-friendly interface that creates and edits the code on their behalf.
As a CMS, WordPress will write — and manage — all of this complicated code for you, thereby enabling you to publish whatever content you please without having to concern yourself with what’s happening in the background (i.e. on the server).
WordPress, then, is an application (i.e. a piece of software) that allows regular people to create, edit and manage their own websites via an easy-to-use (some may even say intuitive) interface.
Who Made WordPress And How Long Has It Been Around?
WordPress was created as a standalone project all the way back in 2003, originating as an offshoot of a previous project called b2/cafelog.
WordPress is open-source software, so nowadays it’s made by a huge community of contributors. But if we were to trace WordPress’ origins back to its roots, its original creation was a collaboration between Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little.
Since then, Matt Mullenweg has largely become the face of WordPress. And he’s also the founder of Automattic, which is the company behind the for-profit WordPress.com service.
The history of WordPress between its founding as a blog platform back in 2003 and today is a long one…
But suffice it to say, WordPress has pushed forward and, thanks to its contributors and huge community, developed into the most popular solution to create any type of website.
What Kinds Of Websites Can WordPress Make?
Many years ago, WordPress was primarily a tool to create a blog, rather than more traditional websites. That hasn’t been true for a long time, though. Nowadays, thanks to changes to the core code, as well as WordPress’ massive ecosystem of plugins and themes, you can create any type of website with WordPress.
For example, not only does WordPress power a huge number of business sites and blogs, it’s also the most popular way to create an eCommerce store as well! With WordPress, you can create:
- Business websites
- eCommerce stores
- Social networks
- Membership sites
- …pretty much anything else you can dream up.
What’s The Difference Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?
The self-hosted WordPress.org homepage
We’ve covered the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com in a lot more detail, but here’s the short version:
- WordPress.org, often called self-hosted WordPress, is the free, open-source WordPress software that you can install on your own web host to create a website that’s 100% your own.
- WordPress.com is a for-profit, paid service that is powered by the WordPress.org software. It’s simple to use, but you lose much of the flexibility of the self-hosted WordPress.
Most of the time, when people say “WordPress”, they mean the self-hosted WordPress available at WordPress.org. If you want to truly own your website, self-hosted WordPress.org is almost always the best option.
All you need to do to get started with self-hosted WordPress is purchase web hosting and a domain name.
The Power of WordPress
The goal of WordPress is to empower people, no matter where or who they are, to publish content online in whatever form they like. Want a simple website that displays a collection of blog posts next to a sidebar showing an author bio and a few pictures from your Instagram feed? No problem! Or maybe you need a more complicated state-of-the-art eCommerce store selling homemade handbags with a payment solution that allows people to buy your products from anywhere in the world? No problem! Or perhaps you’re after a website for a service-based business, with a way for customers to make restaurant or hotel bookings online. Again, no problem! With WordPress, you can put together almost any type of website you like!
Best of all, WordPress gives you the means to do all of this on your own: without having to hire a professional — and potentially very expensive — wordpress website designer.
WordPress Is Everywhere
Believe it or not, you’ve almost certainly come across the power of WordPress many times already. How can I be so sure? Because WordPress is currently used to create and manage more than 345% of all websites.
WordPress isn’t just for the do-it-yourself types — far from it, in fact. WordPress-powered websites span a range of sizes, from personal blogs that get just a few hundred visitors a week to multinational corporations boasting weekly traffic in the tens of millions.
Usability and Extendability
The popularity of WordPress comes, in part, from how user-friendly it is — enabling everyday people to create their own websites. Once installed (something that, in itself, is easy to do), you’ll find a dashboard that’s not only beautifully designed but also straightforward to use. However, the real power of WordPress isn’t its ease-of-use — indeed, its real power isn’t actually within it at all. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the true power of WordPress is in its incredible extendability. You see, WordPress isn’t something that’s limited by being stuck in its ways: it’s a system that’s been built to have all kinds of additional functionality added to it via themes and plugins.
Themes and Plugins
As a CMS, WordPress will allow you to add or change your website’s content whenever you please — but without detailed instructions on how to arrange this content on a web page, it won’t be able to display any of it. A WordPress theme, then, is this entirely necessary set of instructions. When you install WordPress, it comes with a default theme — a very simple set of instructions on how to display your content that lets you view a version of your website straight away. This is just the beginning, though, because by separating your site’s content from the instructions on how to display it (i.e. the specific theme you’re using), WordPress is saying it doesn’t mind how you choose to display the content you’re using it to manage. As long as your theme meets a requisite set of conditions, you can use any one you like. You could, of course, set about making your own theme (or commission a web design agency to make one for you), but one of the real beauties of WordPress is that there are tens of thousands of themes already available for you to choose from.
Themes are all about displaying content, but what if you want more features than just those that WordPress comes out of the box with? Whether you’re looking for a fancy image slider, a contact form or perhaps something more complicated, such as an eCommerce shopping cart, WordPress opens the door via plugins.
Plugins are sets of instructions that define additional features and functions. They are essentially code files that can be uploaded to the server via the WordPress dashboard, but, like themes, they can be used to make WordPress do just about anything. And, like themes, there are thousands of them already available.
The possibilities are almost endless — limited only by what others have already created (and made available to use).
When it was created in 2003, WordPress was a simple affair — focused almost entirely on just one type of website: blogs). Everything has to start somewhere, but it wasn’t long before its horizons began to broaden. Nowadays, WordPress is far from just a blogging platform — indeed, combined with the added power of plugins, it’s now an extremely flexible piece of software that’s capable of powering almost any type of website.
Because of how easily it can be extended, many would argue it has become one of the most flexible content management systems ever created.
It’s no exaggeration to say that WordPress is an extremely powerful platform to launch almost any website with. It can be used to power both small and large websites, it’s easy to use, and, with the added power of themes and plugins, it’s easily one of the most flexible systems available. What’s more, it has a thriving community and is both free and open source.
Whatever your gender, social background, race, financial position, orientation or level of experience on the web, WordPress wants to help you be heard. Essentially, WordPress is all about putting the power to publish things online in the hands of the people — something it does extremely darn well!