WordPress is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. Nearly 20% of the top 10 million websites and over 60 million people have chosen WordPress to power the place on the web they call "home".
Last updated April 7, 2015. Please visit the official site for the most up-to-date information.
It all started out in June 2001 as a simple, open-source blogging engine known as b2/cafelog. A spark of an idea, b2/cafelog gave you the code to build your own blog, or build something better since its code was open-source. You could take the code and turn it into anything you wanted—and that's exactly what Matt Mullenweg did in 2003. He forked it—or, in other terms, made a copy with his own tweaks—and turned it into what we today know as WordPress.
WordPress is hard to avoid, and for good reason. It's the content management system that powers over 23% of the internet, including everything from personal blogs on WordPress.com to parts of the core infrastructure at the New York Times, Time Magazine, and other large organizations.
Staying true to its origins, WordPress is still 100% free to use. You can download the open-source version and run it on your own server, or tweak it to do anything you'd like. Or, you can use the hosted version at WordPress.com to start a free blog in a couple clicks or pay for advanced features. Either way, you'll get the same great power to make a blog or site that looks like you want.
When you first open a WordPress site's admin pages—whether you're running it on your own server or using WordPress.com—you'll quickly see that WordPress is still most focused on being a tool for blogging. There's a dashboard that shows statistics about your recent posts, a widget to publish a quick post, news about new WordPress features, and other similar items you can customize if you'd like. On the left side, you'll see a menu offering your posts, pages, media, settings and more.
In WordPress, posts are updates on your blog—things you write that'll show up on the top of your blog the day you publish them, and then will go down the list as you publish newer items. Posts, on the other hand, live on their own pages—you'll use them for, say, an About page, contact form, or other content that needs to live on its own. And, you can add more "post types", which let you add products for sale, photo galleries, forms and more. These will be often added by plugins, which you can install to add any range of features to WordPress. Popular plugins include WooCommerce to turn your blog into a store, Gravity Forms to add forms and simple database-like features to your site, and Jetpack to add spam filtering and other useful tweaks to your blog.
One of the more important things about your site is how it looks, and WordPress makes it easy to customize that as well. You can install free and paid themes that'll make your site look just like you want, and can tweak those themes to make your copy of the theme unique. Or, you can hand-code your theme to give you the most freedom over your site. Themes can even include extra features, as how the P2 theme turns WordPress into a social network-like blog for internal communications.
With a tool as versatile as WordPress, it's impossible to point to one feature and say this is the reason to use it. Instead, the reason to use it is its versatility. You can use WordPress to make anything you want—even an entirely new blogging system if you want to fork WordPress all over again. That's the power and beauty of open source projects.
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