The formal definition given by Wikipedia says “…WordPress is an open source CMS, often used as a blog publishing application powered by PHP and MySQL…”.
This is a bit cryptic definition, catered to Web savvy people, but what WordPress should mean for the rest of us? Let me briefly explain each of those terms.
Open Source means the source code of a product is freely distributed and given to review by anyone. Generally speaking, it doesn’t necessary mean the end product itself is distributed freely as well, but with the WordPress platform it is the case.
CMS stands for “Content Management System” or “Content Management Software”. There are plenty of other CMS systems. Drupal, Joomla, Expression Engine just are few examples. Each of those platforms has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each has its own community of fans and supporters. There are both open- and closed-sourced, free and paid, run on various operating systems and written in various programming languages.
The “blog” word is a shortcut, derived from “web log”, which means personal web journal. Blogs are specified type of CMS. They do one thing and do it well. Blogs enabled millions of people, even without any technical background to easily publish their own personal records, called posts, share them and send comments on posts written by others. Blogs in general has become wildly popular around 2004. Explosive growth of bogs and social web sites has become a real Internet phenomenon, which commonly was described by new words “blogosphere” and “Web 2.0”.
PHP is one of the most popular programming languages for Web and MySQL is one of the most popular database management system. They both often used together in modern Web project. Linux, popular open source operating system and Apache, popular web server engine are two other components of so-called LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). Sometimes the ‘P’ word is read as ‘Perl’ or ‘Python’. They are two other popular programming languages for Web, used in consequence with Linux, Apache and MySQL.
But, let’s return to WordPress discussion. One thing is to know that WordPress comes in two flavours, in terms of hosting. They called WordPress.com and WordPress.org correspondingly. WordPress.com is a company and a web site which run multiple WordPress blogs. Basically every one may have its own WordPress blog for free. But usually WordPress.org is meant by default.
WordPress.org is an organization or community and downloadable, freely available, self-hosted blogging software. It means the person who is about to use it should download it from the wordpress.org site and install it on its own hosting account. In most cases thought, there are automatic scripts to help you with a fresh WordPress installation.
But what makes WordPress so special? Quite a few things. First of all – simplicity and straight forward approach. It’s simple to understand, to use and to administrate. WordPress is also very simple to be extended beyond its standard capabilities. The architecture of WordPress allows adding so-called plugins and themes. The purpose of plugins is to enrich the core functionality, while themes are used to customize look and feel, or style of a blog.
Large amount of those plugins and themes are available to install right from administrative interface of WordPress. Just write in search box what is you interested in, then look up through plugin descriptions, or apply a theme preview, choose what fits your taste and press “install” button.
My favorite plugins include “Akismet”(installed by default, needs an API key for activation), “Google Analytics” and “All In One SEO Pack”. Those help you to fight comment spam, integrate Google’s traffic tracing system and tweak SEO options of your blog.
Numerous and various themes allow you to give your site just any look you can think about. It may be as fancy as a teenager’s personal journal or as solid as a corporate web visit card. Got a designer’s portfolio or want to run your own online magazine? Look for “portfolio” or “magazine” theme!
Did you notice this? Portfolio, magazines and all sorts of other, non-blog types of sites built upon blogging engine. This is exactly the point! Pick right theme and plugins, customize your settings and you’ll get just any type of site you want. This alone makes WordPress my personal favorite CMS.