WordPress is a content management system (CMS), a system that manages content in such a way that it can be manipulated using plain English or one of the other 70 languages in which the software is available. However, WordPress goes far beyond that. According to mid-2022 estimates by W3 Techs Web Technology Surveys, it forms the basis of 43% of all sites on the world wide web. Although that number has been holding fairly steady over the preceding year (thus with low year-on-year growth), it is still an impressive figure and attests to the fact that WordPress does what it does exceptionally well.
The ensuing overview will introduce you to WordPress, the humble blogging software that now powers well over a third of the web. It will outline the many things the world’s most popular CMS can do and, perhaps more to the point, the many things it can do for you.
What Can You Do with WordPress?
WordPress first came to digital life in 2003 as blogging software. It enabled people seeking to establish a voice for themselves on the internet to create blogs without the need for actual coding. As such, WordPress remains extremely popular with bloggers. Indeed, anyone seeking to set up a blog will probably find themselves directed to WordPress for its relative ease of use and wide variety of features that make it possible for lay users to create something “professional” in appearance.
However, 43% of all sites on the web can’t all be blogs, and, indeed, WordPress is currently employed for a great deal more than maintaining ongoing records of what its more casual users had for dinner. WordPress has grown exponentially over the nearly two decades it has been in existence and is used for a variety of purposes today. A range of software plugins allows WordPress to do practically anything. To choose one example from many, the WooCommerce plugin allows the user to turn a WordPress site into a store. As such, WordPress has become the internet’s leading ecommerce platform.
Perhaps the most salient aspect of WordPress is that the software is open-source and free. This has many ramifications, not the least of which is that it opens the software for use as anything a user can imagine. WordPress has expanded beyond blogs and smaller websites and stores into major websites for major companies (zoom.us, indeed.com, and the cryptocurrency site coinmarketcap.com are all powered by WordPress; so is hairwrapsandbrading.au). The software’s server side has most recently begun to be employed as a framework for creating applications. And all these possibilities are within reach of anyone who knows how to make use of the software.
How Do You Get WordPress? How Much Does it Cost?
WordPress is open-source and free for the taking at WordPress.org. The meaning of open-source is that the code is made visible and available to anyone interested in taking a look under the hood. WordPress employs the GNU GPL license, which has nothing to do with wildebeest, but which guarantees licensees the freedom to use, study, alter and share the software. These Four Freedoms remain an integral aspect of the WordPress project.
The major caveat the WordPress emptor has to confront is that your site has to have a place to go, meaning a server. While those with a knack for such things may want to get digital dirt under their fingernails and set WordPress up on their own using their own server, there are hosting providers who make installing WordPress easier. The most obvious of such providers is WordPress.com, which is not the same thing as WordPress.org, but which enables users to create a very, very barebones blog for free in a matter of minutes. WordPress.com will even provide you with a free (sub)domain name.
The odds are that if you’re even remotely serious about blogging or building a personal site, you’re going to outgrow the possibilities of a free WordPress.com site pretty quickly. Fortunately WordPress (including, but not limited to, WordPress.com) is designed to grow with the user, the only hitch being that many of the add-ons and plugins that make a WordPress site more functional cost money. Purchasing a WordPress.com subscription won’t cost you an arm and a leg, however, and a subscription will make it possible to acquire your own custom domain name and select from a vast portfolio of visual themes (some of which require a further outlay of capital) to make your site look like something more than words on a page.
Of course, those interested in building and maintaining their own websites can use the free software available from WordPress.org and a third-party hosting service. With WordPress.org, the choice of plugins and themes at one’s disposal tends almost to infinity. People are divided as to which is better, WordPress.org or WordPress.com. Many maintain that the former is the “real” WordPress, and while there is something to that, much can be said for the convenience of having WordPress.com provide you with both software and hosting. Very ambitious and elaborate things can be done with either, however. Although one option does present you with more tools than the other, you should ask yourself whether you need that many tools and have the time or the inclination to learn how to use them.
What Are the Benefits of Learning WordPress?
Powering as it does over 64% of all sites using a known CMS, WordPress is a versatile software that allows you to create just about any variety of website you can imagine. That could be building an unassuming site with which to introduce yourself to the world, or it could be a multi-tentacled commercial site packed with information and even ecommerce possibilities.
WordPress can therefore be a useful skill for you to possess for your own personal use, or it can become a highly practical adjunct to your professional toolkit. Many companies require staff who can maintain WordPress sites; knowing how the CMS works will enable you to fill such a role. You can also delve deeper into WordPress and be able to create websites, perhaps as a freelancer, which can be a remunerative career with plenty of built-in freedom. Finally, if you really want to become an expert at using the system (and acquire some coding knowledge along the way), you can become a WordPress Developer who can profitably develop new themes and plugins for the system.
Read more about why you should learn WordPress.
People able to build WordPress sites can also become freelancers and create custom sites for clients using the building blocks the system makes available. You won’t be able to build thoroughly original sites (that does take some coding ability), but you can achieve so much with WordPress that clients probably won’t even notice that the site you created for them was done entirely with a CMS and no coding.
How to Learn WordPress
The most obvious way to learn WordPress is by attending a class in a brick-and-mortar school with a live teacher. That’s how you learned most of what you learned growing up, and nothing can compete with a live teacher to whom you can address questions when something doesn’t make sense. The 21st century, however, has brought into play the option of live online education, through which you become part of a virtual classroom and study with a live teacher, but in the comfort and convenience of your own space. Take a look at a listing of available WordPress classes and live online WordPress classes from which you can choose.
If your impulse when you have to learn something is to get the book and study at your own pace, you should consider an on-demand online class. Also called asynchronous (as opposed to a class with a live teacher operating synchronously with the students) learning, this method furnishes students with a series of video lessons that they can follow at their own pace, and sometimes with a human being to oversee students’ progress through the course. Self-starters will find this an effective means of learning (it is also considerably more affordable than a live class.) More information about on-demand WordPress classes is to be had simply by clicking the preceding link.
A Brief History of WordPress
At the origins of WordPress lies dinosauric open-source blogging software called b2/cafelog. Matt Mullenweg, still a teenager at the time, was an avid amateur photographer in search of blogging software to show off the fruits of his labors with his camera. He settled on b2, which had been created by French developer Michel Valdrighi, partly because it was open-source, although it only had around 2000 users.
In 2002, Valdrighi (temporarily) fell off the edge of the Earth, leaving b2 without his (or any) stewardship. That led Mullenweg to post the suggestion on his blog that a fork in the b2 software be considered. In the software world, a fork is not unlike a fork in an actual road, which takes you off in a new and different direction. Another b2 user in the UK, Mike Little, answered Mullenweg that he would be interested in participating in such a fork, and, with that, the groundwork was laid for the creation of WordPress. (The name was the suggestion of a friend of Little’s.)
As it turned out, Mullenweg and Little weren’t the only ones forking b2, and, for a short period, a number of different versions were competing for spots on the evolutionary ladder. The matter was settled with the return of Valdrighi to the scene; he proclaimed only a few days before WordPress 0.7 made its first appearance that WordPress was to be the official successor to b2.
Forking the software had its problems. Valdrighi was apparently only learning PHP at the time he wrote b2, meaning that the code from which the newly formed WordPress community had to work was rudimentary and often idiosyncratic. On the plus side, Valdrigi’s code was also simple, which was much appreciated by newcomers to the project whose own programming backgrounds were far from extensive.
The event that probably “made” WordPress more than any other was one with which Mullenweg, Little, and the WordPress team had nothing to do. At the time that WordPress launched, the leading blogging software on the web was called Movable Type, which, in early 2004, was behind an estimated 70% of all self-hosted blogs on the web. In May 2004, Six Apart, the company behind Movable Type, made one of those corporate decisions that are impossible to fathom: it decided to change its licensing agreement and to begin charging (steeply) for its software. The result was that Movable Type users flocked to WordPress, whose users welcomed the new arrivals with open arms and software solutions for converting their blogs to the new CMS. Downloads of the WordPress software actually doubled in the month following Movable Type’s decision to charge for their software. In contrast to the now-for-profit Movable Type, WordPress was open-source, free, and driven by a growing community of users who were determined to keep it faithful to the freedoms built into the GPL license.
Mullenweg, who had in the interim dropped out of college, decided to concentrate exclusively on WordPress-related activities starting in 2005. That was the year he founded Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com and, in effect, the business arm of the WordPress ecosystem. The company today is worth in excess of a billion dollars and has had Mullenweg—dubbed “the Blog Prince” by Power magazine—for CEO since 2014.
Each successive version of WordPress goes by the name of a different jazz luminary (the teenage Mullenweg had originally intended to become a musician.). Thus version 1.0 was named for Miles Davis, and subsequent versions have been named for personalities as varied as Ella Fitzgerald, George Gershwin, and Joséphine Baker. Probably the single most significant change to date in the development of WordPress was version 5.0 (named for Cuban pianist and bandleader Bebo Valdés), the version that introduced the Gutenberg “block editor” that drastically rethought the ways in which users could assemble their blogs, shifting from a Microsoft Word-like interface to one of “blocks” of different capabilities that could be assembled in whichever ways the user desired. Among many other things, the Gutenberg editor made it far easier to arrange pictures and text, although its capabilities go well beyond that and will expand further as WordPress phases in more aspects of the editor over the coming years. (For those wedded to what has become the old editor, a “classic” block remains available, at least for the time being.)
The WordPress community (i.e., the WordPress.org community) has remained vibrant as the software has taken up its leading position on the web. Although the pandemic put an end to live meetings for a while, WordCamps are held at various points in the year to allow those working on the project to meet and exchange ideas. Mullenweg also gives a State of the Word Address every year; an excellent barometer of the success (and probably less libertarian nature) of WordPress is the evolution of Mullenweg’s haircuts and wardrobe at these events.
WordPress has sought to internationalize itself, especially in recent years, as there is no shortage of non-English speakers who are interested in blogging. The movement began very early in the software’s history when a developer painstakingly went through the code to render the software into Japanese. With the release of version 1.2 (named for bassist Charlie Mingus), the code had been marked up to make translations more readily feasible, and French and Norwegian versions of WordPress followed in short measure. According to Mullenweg’s 2021 State of the Word Address, WordPress is now available in 71 languages. It has truly become a worldwide – as well as a web-wide – phenomenon.
Comparable Content Management Systems
WordPress is the CMS market leader by an enormous margin. August 2022 figures from W3 Techs put its share of sites with known CMS systems at 64.3%. WordPress’ next closest competitor, Shopify, holds only a 6.2% market share. Following Shopify, the next CMSs with significant market share are Wix, Squarespace, Joomla, and Drupal. Those four combined only account for 11.7% of the market. Other systems with some market share are Bitrix, TYPO3, and Duda, although, once past the first, the others have less than a one-percent share of the market.
Shopify, while a CMS, is the one of the group that didn’t begin life as blogging software but, rather, as a means of creating and administering online stores. Tobias Lütke, a programmer who was seeking to set up an online store for snowboarding equipment, used the Ruby on Rails framework to build Shopify, which now powers (by recent company estimates) 1.7 million businesses in 175 countries. Unlike WordPress.org, Shopify is a publicly traded company, and its software is neither open-source nor free.
Wix, an Israeli company founded in 2006, is essentially a purveyor of cloud-based web development services. It is best known for its free website builder software (which ceases to be free as one adds functionality to the site, not entirely unlike what happens with WordPress.com.) Wix’s website builder isn’t all that dissimilar to WordPress’ system of customizable templates, with the difference that the software is, like Shopify, neither open-source nor free. As a result, there was a famous licensing flap between Wix’s founder, Avishai Abrahami, and Matt Mullenweg over the former’s use of some of WordPress’s code. While WordPress’ GPL allows for anyone to use the code in any way, that permission comes with the proviso that any software developed using GPL-licensed code has to be released under the same agreement. The kerfuffle shows WordPress’ commitment to remaining open-source and the conflicts that can result when the open-source world comes into contact with the for-profit universe.
Squarespace entered the world in 2004 as blogging software. It remains primarily a website-building and hosting platform, with customizable templates and drag-and-drop technology to assist users in creating websites. It has considerable ease of use and has come to include ecommerce and SEO tools for its users. It also has gone into the business of selling domains and, more importantly, the business of ecommerce sites. The code is both closed and proprietary, and the company advertises heavily; it has even placed commercials during Super Bowls. According to W3 Techs in August 2021, Squarespace powers 1.9% of the leading ten million websites on the internet.
In contrast to the above, both Joomla and Drupal are open-source, GPL-licensed, free, and written in PHP, the language in which WordPress’ core code is written as well. The name Joomla (recte: Joomla!) is taken from the Swahili word for “all together”, and the software is designed for those who possess a certain level of skill with the construction of websites. At various points in its history, the Joomla community, despite its name, has been notoriously fractious. Drupal started out life a little earlier than WordPress and Joomla and was intended at first to power a message board. It has since developed into a full-fledged web application framework; no programming knowledge is necessary to operate its more basic functions.
Although Shopify is of great importance to the world of ecommerce, there is basically no CMS that compares to WordPress, be it in functionality, relative ease of use, or market share. While one could argue in favor of creating a personal website in a few hours using Squarespace or in powering an online store with Shopify, knowing how to use these technologies isn’t going to open up the kinds of possibilities that a firm grounding in WordPress can. And although Indeed does list jobs for Drupal or Shopify Developers, the openings in those fields do rather pale compared to what is available to WordPress Developers. Also, when it comes to Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace, the user will have to make a moral (or philosophical) decision whether to support the open-source movement by using software that makes itself available to everyone or whether to use proprietary software that makes money for its owners.
Learn WordPress with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop
A highly effective way of learning to make the most of WordPress would be to take a class in the subject at Noble Desktop, a leading purveyor of live in-person IT training in New York City. Noble teaches extensively online as well, which puts its classes within reach of anyone in the world with internet access. Noble Desktop prides itself on its hands-on learning model, small class sizes, experienced and talented instructors, and a free retake option that makes it possible to cement or refresh your knowledge of what you’ve learned within the space of a year. Noble Desktop offers a wide variety of WordPress classes and bootcamps, one of which is sure to further your goals in using the CMS.
Noble Desktop’s WordPress Bootcamp is designed for students with a background in HTML and CSS who are seeking to learn how to use the system whilst bringing their knowledge of coding to the WordPress table as well. The course of study runs for three weeks, two nights a week for three hours a session, and takes WordPress novices through to customizing a website in ways that aren’t possible if you are limited to communicating in English with the software.
- WordPress is a content management system with, as of August 2022, a 63.4% market share of all websites using a known CMS.
- It also powers some 43% of all sites on the web.
- Developed by Matt Mullenweg and Mark Little as a fork of earlier blogging software b2, WordPress has since developed into such different things as website building software, an ecommerce platform, and even a framework for creating web applications.
- WordPress is open-source and free software administered by the WordPress[.org] Foundation.
- Also available is WordPress.com, which offers a number of subscription plans that make it easier to use the software and spare the user the bother of seeking out such things as hosting options and domain name registration.