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Website software

WordPress is software used to create websites. It started out as a platform for blogging and is still used on millions of blogs. But it has become an excellent content management system as well and today is used for building and maintaining all types of websites. It is free to use, with no licensing fees or other direct costs.

First released in 2003, WordPress has undergone many revisions and is now a stable and mature product. It powers more than 50 million websites all over the world and is used by individuals, small and large businesses, including CNN and the New York Times.

WordPress is designed specifically to be user-friendly for the average person. Eight years of refinements have resulted in a polished administration interface which most people can begin using with just a little training.

Website creation without writing code

Only a few years ago, the power to change and edit a website was almost completely in the hands of people who knew HTML and other coding languages. With the advent of content management systems like WordPress, anyone with ordinary computer skills can write a blog post or create a page of information. Including images, video and music is as simple as point-and-click, drag-and-drop or copy-paste.

WordPress runs on almost any ordinary, inexpensive web hosting service. Installing it takes some know-how, but is straightforward enough for less-technical people to handle.

A community project

WordPress is not owned by any individual or organization; rather, it is a community project. It is open source software: its source code is available to study, change and use at no cost to anyone and for any purpose. Contributors all over the world, mostly volunteer, have made WordPress what it is today, and work continues every day. There is a team of core developers who lead the project, but anyone can contribute, and the project leaders change from one version to the next.

open-source software: computer software whose source code is available and licensed in such a way that the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose

Based on open-source technologies

WordPress is based on the programming language PHP and the database management system MySQL, both also open source and free.

Basic WordPress concepts

The Administration Screens (“the Admin”) are the “back end” or “control panel” of WordPress.

Themes are like outfits for WordPress, outfits which include some awesome accessories. They modify the way the website looks and functions without touching the underlying WordPress core files.

Posts and Pages are the essential units of a WordPress website. Pages normally are static and aren’t categorized. Posts are dated articles, and can have categories and tags assigned to them.

Widgets are modules of website content which can be dragged-and-dropped into position in the website’s layout.

Plugins are code add-ons which are not part of the WordPress core, but can be used to add all kind of functionality to it.

So what is WordPress.com — that’s .com?

This is an important distinction to understand:

  • WordPress.COM is a for-profit online platform.
  • WordPress.ORG is the not-for-profit website for self-hosted WordPress.

self-hosted WordPress website: a site created when someone downloads the WordPress software from WordPress.org and installs it on a web hosting account he owns or has access to, as distinct from aWordPress.com website.

The term “WordPress refers to the software itself, a set of digital files. The WordPress software is used by both self-hosted websites and WordPress.com websites.

WordPress.com is a commercial offering comparable to Blogger and other easy do-it-yourself publishing systems. It’s a product of Automattic, a for-profit company owned by original WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg. WordPress.com offers turn-key websites using the WordPress software which are hosted, managed and controlled by the company. A basic site is free and supported by ads. Other than being free, at least initially, the main advantage to WordPress.com is that the owner has much less responsibility for maintaining a healthy website; the down-side is that he has much less freedom in what can be done with the site. WordPress.com sites can be customized and extended in lots of ways, but these added services cost money. Even using a domain name without “wordpress” in it carries a cost.

WordPress.com can be a good choice in some situations, but a self-hosted WordPress site such as we’re teaching in this Course allows you much more control and nearly unlimited options as to what you can create. And self-hosted WordPress will most likely be less expensive in the long run than WordPress.com.