WordPress: The smart person’s guide

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In 1440 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. The invention changed the world because it made information creation, dissemination, and consumption manageable at large scale. Inspired by technology that democratizes the dissemination of information, more than 500 years later a young programmer released WordPress, open source publishing software that today powers nearly a third of the top 10 million sites on the web.

WordPress is not the letterpress. But the analogues are similar, and because the platform is relied on by millions of businesses it’s hard to overstate its impact. TechRepublic’s smart person’s guide is a routinely updated “living” precis loaded with contemporary information about how WordPress works, who WordPress affects, and why the open source publishing software used by millions of developers is important.

SEE: Check out all of TechRepublic’s smart person’s guides

Executive summary

  • What is WordPress? WordPress is an open source content management system maintained by the nonprofit WordPress Foundation. WordPress is also available as a hosted, commercial version maintained by Automattic, the company founded by WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg.
  • Why WordPress matters: WordPress is free, powerful, customizable, and supported by a massive third-party ecosystem.
  • Who WordPress affects: WordPress primarily impacts small and midsize business owners, ecommerce companies, startups, and creative professionals.
  • When WordPress is happening: WordPress iterations have been routinely released since version 1.0 launched in May 2003.
  • How to get started with WordPress: The best way to experience WordPress is to install and experiment with the software. The software is easy to install, and many sites offer affordable cloud hosting.

SEE: Five ways small companies can get ahead through technology sharing (Tech Pro Research)

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a blogging platform built on PHP and MySQL. The basic install is still blog-oriented, but as users customized the code to serve niche purposes WordPress iterations evolved to support features included in CMS competitors Drupal, Magento, and Joomla. Early on, the company partnered with shared hosting providers like GoDaddy.

Today dedicated WordPress cloud hosting allows startups, publishers, and major enterprise companies to scale the platform quickly. Sophisticated code enables the site to behave in radically different ways. With a few clicks the modern WordPress can be customized to suit almost any business need, though it excels at managing ecommerce and content marketing sites.

Large companies that rely on WordPress:

  • CBS Interactive (parent of TechRepublic)
  • The New Yorker
  • MTV
  • TechCrunch
  • eBay
  • Xerox
  • Facebook
  • The New York Times
  • Google Ventures
  • Rackspace

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