What is WordPress?

published March 15, 2015

There are hundreds of articles about WordPress, but many are confusing to anyone not already familiar with what it is. That’s because the name, WordPress, is applied to more than one thing. It’s like a homonym. If you hear someone say simply “there” you can’t be sure they don’t mean they’re or their. You need to see it in print or hear the word in a sentence to understand what’s being said. When it comes to WordPress there’s only one word being used. It’s essentially a homonym with one spelling.

Here is an analogy I like to use to explain the different uses of “WordPress”

Use #1 : WordPress

WordPress is an engine. An infinite number of engines actually. Anyone who wants to build a vehicle that requires an engine can pick WordPress up for free and use it.

Use #2 : WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a single company that makes a fleet of vehicles that all use the WordPress engine. You can’t build your own vehicle at WordPress.com, but if you like the performance and reliability of the engine you can rent one of theirs.

It’s technically free, but only the “seat on a bus” version. The nicer the vehicle you’d like to travel in, the more you have to pay WordPress.com. You can choose from several vehicles, and within those vehicles you can have hundreds of design options, but you’re never allowed to drive.

The design options have lots of possibilities, but in many ways it’s an illusion of control. WordPress.com determines the options you get to choose from. You can’t bring your own ideas to the table. It’s rare, but you can also offend your driver. If WordPress.com doesn’t like what you have to say or how you’re saying it, they have the right to pull to the side of the road and kick you out.

If it sounds like I’m bashing WordPress.com I’m not. The design for the free engine, WordPress, was built and given to the world by the guy who founded and now runs WordPress.com. The limitations and fees mean users of WordPress.com have a secure, stable, and virtually trouble-free experience. Their customer service is also some of the best in the world. I’ve worked with a few of them and they are the friendliest people in the service industry, and they are damn good at their jobs. They also have a few good articles trying to clear up the WordPress confusion.

Use #3 : WordPress.org

WordPress.org is the place where you pick up your free WordPress engine. It’s also the place where thousands of users and developers contribute to improving the engine and adding functionality for everyone. There are forums to ask questions and there’s tons of documentation. If you use the WordPress engine for your vehicle though, you are on your own. You can’t contact the service ninjas at WordPress.com if your engine isn’t working right in your customized vehicle.

This is the WordPress most developers and designers are talking about. Anything you can imagine a website doing can probably be done with the WordPress engine. You can say what you want, sell what you want, and customize the look, feel, and functionality of your site in any way you imagine. You are the driver and you own the vehicle.

So in summary

  • WordPress is basically an application that runs a website
  • WordPress.com is a paid service that uses the WordPress application
  • WordPress.org is the place you can download the WordPress application to use how you wish

Still confused? Feel free to leave a question and I’ll answer it for you.

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