The following information was compiled from the WordPress site.
WordPress started in 2003 with a single bit of code to enhance the typography of everyday writing and with fewer users than you can count on your fingers and toes. Since then it has grown to be the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world, used on hundreds of thousands of sites and seen by tens of millions of people every day.
Everything you see here, from the documentation to the code itself, was created by and for the community. WordPress is an Open Source project, which means there are hundreds of people all over the world working on it. (More than most commercial platforms.) It also means you are free to use it for anything from your cat’s home page to a Fortune 5 web site without paying anyone a license fee.
On this site you can download and install a software script called WordPress. To do this you need a web host who meets the minimum requirements and a little time. WordPress is completely customizable and can be used for almost anything. There is also a service called WordPress.com which lets you get started with a new and free WordPress-based blog in seconds, but varies in several ways and is less flexible than the WordPress you download and install yourself.
A Little History
WordPress was born out of a desire for an elegant, well-architectured personal publishing system built on PHP and MySQL and licensed under the GPL. It is the official successor of b2/cafelog. WordPress is fresh software, but its roots and development go back to 2001. It is a mature and stable product. We hope by focusing on user experience and web standards we can create a tool different from anything else out there.
2005 was a very exciting year for WordPress, as it saw the release of our 1.5 version (introduced themes) which was downloaded over 900,000 times, the start of hosted service WordPress.com to expand WP’s reach, the founding of Automattic by several core members of the WP team, and finally the release of version 2.0.
After 1.5 we seemed to have something people really liked and we’ve experienced some fairly rapid growth. Here are some metrics for 2006 and 2007.
In 2006 we had 1,545,703 downloads, in 2007 we had 3,816,965!
As for plugins we had 191,567 downloads of 371 unique plugins in 2006. In 2007 there were 2,845,884 downloads (15x growth) of 1,384 plugins.
2006 saw the introduction of the first WordCamp in San Francisco.
In 2007 we adopted a regular release schedule, putting out major feature releases roughly every 3-4 months, or three times a year.
Because of the number of improvements in version 2.5 we took an extra 3 months on it, but 2008 looks on track to do three major releases again. It will be a very exciting year.
There are now dozens of WordCamps around the world, from Vancouver to Dallas to Milan, Italy.
To run WordPress your host just needs a couple of things:
That’s really it. We recommend Apache or Litespeed as the most robust and featureful server for running WordPress, but any server that supports PHP and MySQL will do. That said, we can’t test every possible environment and each of the hosts on our hosting page supports the above and more with no problems.
We offer a feature set with WordPress on par or better than any other software of its kind. Also we are committed to making the latest blogging technology available to our users (such as Trackback) and taking it a step further (such as with Pingback). You can rest assured that with WordPress you will be on the cutting edge of the technology available.
The following is a list of some of the features that come standard with WordPress, however there are literally hundreds of plugins that extend what WordPress does, so the actual functionality is nearly limitless. You are also free to do whatever you like with the WordPress code, extend it or modify in any way or use it for commercial projects without any licensing fees. That is the beauty of free software, free meaning not only price but also the freedom to have complete control over it.
- Full standards compliance — We have gone to great lengths to make sure every bit of WordPress generated code is in full compliance with the standards of the W3C. This is important not only for interoperability with today’s browser but also for forward compatibility with the tools of the next generation. Your web site is a beautiful thing, and you should demand nothing less.
- No rebuilding — Changes you make to your templates or entries are reflected immediately on your site, with no need for regenerating static pages.
- WordPress Pages — Pages allow you to manage non-blog content easily, so for example you could have a static “About” page that you manage through WordPress. For an idea of how powerful this is, the entire WordPress.org site could be run off WordPress alone. (We don’t for technical mirroring reasons.)
- WordPress Links — Links allows you to create, maintain, and update any number of blogrolls through your administration interface. This is much faster than calling an external blogroll manager.
- WordPress Themes — WordPress comes with a full theme system which makes designing everything from the simplest blog to the most complicated webzine a piece of cake, and you can even have multiple themes with totally different looks that you switch with a single click. Have a new design every day.
- Cross-blog communication tools— WordPress fully supports both the Trackback and Pingback standards, and we are committed to supporting future standards as they develop.
- Comments — Visitors to your site can leave comments on individual entries, and through Trackback or Pingback can comment on their own site. You can enable or disable comments on a per-post basis.
- Spam protection — Out of the box WordPress comes with very robust tools such as an integrated blacklist and open proxy checker to manage and eliminate comment spam on your blog, and there is also a rich array of plugins that can take this functionality a step further.
- Full user registration — WordPress has a built-in user registration system that (if you choose) can allow people to register and maintain profiles and leave authenticated comments on your blog. You can optionally close comments for non-registered users. There are also plugins that hide posts from lower level users.
- Password Protected Posts — You can give passwords to individual posts to hide them from the public. You can also have private posts which are viewable only by their author.
- Easy installation and upgrades — Installing WordPress and upgrading from previous versions and other software is a piece of cake. Try it and you’ll wonder why all web software isn’t this easy.
- Easy Importing — We currently have importers for Movable Type, Textpattern, Greymatter, Blogger, and b2. Work on importers for Nucleus and pMachine are under way.
- XML-RPC interface — WordPress currently supports an extended version of the Blogger API, MetaWeblog API, and finally the MovableType API. You can even use clients designed for other platforms like Zempt.
- Workflow — You can have types of users that can only post drafts, not publish to the front page.
- Typographical niceties — WordPress uses the Texturize engine to intelligently convert plain ASCII into typographically correct XHTML entities. This includes quotes, apostrophes, ellipses, em and en dashes, multiplication symbols, and ampersands. For information about the proper use of such entities see Peter Sheerin’s article The Trouble With Em ’n En.
- Intelligent text formatting — If you’ve dealt with systems that convert new lines to line breaks before you know why they have a bad name: if you have any sort of HTML they butcher it by putting tags after every new line indiscriminately, breaking your formatting and validation. Our function for this intelligently avoids places where you already have breaks and block-level HTML tags, so you can leave it on without worrying about it breaking your code.
- Multiple authors — WordPress’ highly advanced user system allows up to 10 levels of users, with different levels having different (and configurable) privileges with regard to publishing, editing, options, and other users.
- Bookmarklets — Cross-browser bookmarklets make it easy to publish to your blog or add links to your blogroll with a minimum of effort.
- Ping away — WordPress supports pinging Ping-O-Matic, which means maximum exposure for your blog to search engines.
There’s much more, but these are the highlights. If there’s something that you really want, submit a request on the support forums and there’s a good chance someone will whip it up for you.