WordPress – A Brief Overview


By Scott Riley

WordPress was released on May 27, 2003 as a, “fork of b2/cafelog”1  by Matt Mullenweg, although he had been in the process of developing his idea of creating a high end, full featured personal publishing system since 2001.

According to WordPress.org, it started as a small bit of software designed to, “enhance the typography of everyday writing”2, and it has since grown to one of the largest online production tools in the entire world. Alexa.com, a subsidiary of Amazon and one the world’s largest and most respected website ranking services ranks WordPress.com as #18 in the world, and cites the product as used by 14.7% of the top one million websites, and 22% of all websites3.

WordPress is a free, “open source” system that originally gained popularity as a blogging site, but has now become a full service Content Management System and website development platform.   There are two online locations, WordPress.org and WordPress.com.  The .com site is a free, but limited hosting arena, while the .org site contains the full software and features needed to create individual sites hosted elsewhere.  The latest release as of this writing is WordPress 3.3.1.  It is now universally agreed that it is the largest self-hosting blog in the world.  Wikipedia describes a Content Management System as a means for a large number of people to share and store information.  WordPress applications are coded with PHP and MySQl is used for database storage and retrieval.

Some of its features include:

  • Free software,
  • An impressive arsenal of plugins and widgets,
  • Hundreds of open source developers,
  • Full compliance with WC3 standards,
  • Editable live code via an administrative tool called the “dashboard”,
  • Forums and mailing lists, posts, static pages (website design),
  • Thousands of templates called “themes”,
  • An internal blogrolls manager,
  • The latest technology, such as “trackback and pingback”,
  • Easily posted and editable comments via posts,
  • Full registration control, security, and password protection,
  • Seamless upgrading,
  • API and multiple author interfaces, and
  • Built in typography editing and formatting

WordPress publishes a weekly newsletter and tutorials via the wptuts+ platform covering hundreds of topics and aspects of the site and software.  They also sponsor “Word Camps” held throughout the world, where developers, users and fans congregate to exchange ideas and inspiration.  As an open source platform there are no licensing or fees of any kind, and there are literally hundreds of developers contributing upgrades, improvements and new features every day.

While WordPress is undisputedly the most popular system today for personal, and small to medium sized businesses, there are competitors, such as Joomla, Mambo, Drupal, Type Pad, Nucleus CMS, and B2Evolution.  The most popular of these are Joomla and Drupal, and their market is primarily larger sized companies requiring their more robust and complex systems.

Given that WordPress, like many other similar platforms is open source, there will naturally be occasional problems with particular widgets, plugins or themes that someone develops.    Often the complaints are by users who don’t understand the syntax, or logic of a piece of code and are frustrated by their inability to use a particular function.  By and large though, my research found very little substantial controversy.  The platform is well attended and supported.  Most problems occur to sites that haven’t been updated with the latest WordPress software.

I anticipate that WordPress will continue to evolve and lead the social media market with the introduction of more video based technology and mobile devices.  As our society continues to find better ways to connect, WordPress will be there.

I recently completed a CMS course at Highline focused on WordPress and I built a website using it.  It was easy to use as a consumer, yet challenging if approached as a developer.  The code is often complex and ambiguous owing to the number of different edits done prior to many of the final product releases.   I love the interconnectivity and community based design, and the ever-growing library of widgets and plugins enable the inclusion of complex and advanced applications with minimal time expense.


  1. http://www.mashable.com/follow/topics/wordpress
  2. http://www.wordPress.org/about
  3. http://www.alexa.com/topsites/global