What is WordPress?

WordPress is a free and open-source content management system (CMS) written in the PHP programming language and paired with a MySQL or MariaDB database.

WordPress was originally created as a blog-publishing system but has evolved to support other web content types including complex websites, membership sites, learning management systems (LMS) and online stores.

WordPress is used by more than 60 million websites, including 39% of the top 10 million websites as of January 2021. WordPress is the most popular content management system solution on the planet!

The WordPress ecosystem includes a massive repository of “themes” (templates) and “plugins” (extensions) that can be used to extend the default WordPress functionality. It can also be infinitely customised using your own code to create unique web solutions.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com

When we refer to WordPress in this tutorial, we are referring to the open source package that can be found at WordPress.org.

New users will often get confused when looking for information about WordPress due to the online platform of the same name hosted on WordPress.com. We’ve outlined the differences below!


WordPress.org is free for everyone to use, and always will be. It is licensed under the GPLv2 (or later) license which guarantees end users the freedom to run, study, share, and modify the software however they wish.

Simply put, WordPress.org is a package of files supported by a repository of plugins and themes (also free) that is maintained and curated by the WordPress community. The package can be loaded onto any compatible server or computer and customised to create websites of all shapes and sizes.

To publish a website to the internet using WordPress.org, a hosting server and domain name are required.


WordPress.com is a platform for self-publishing that is popular for blogging and other works. It is owned and operated by Automattic, Inc. and it is run on a modified version of WordPress.

While WordPress.com can be used for hosting your website, it is fundamentally different from using the free & open source software.

WordPress.com is a product owned by the company Automattic that USES the WordPress.org package as its basis.

Choosing the right platform

If you are building a website for a business or organisation you will almost definitely want to be using WordPress.org. The open source WordPress.org package will always be what we mean when we use the terms “WordPress” or “WP” in this tutorial.

If you are simply looking to create a blog, you might find WordPress.com interesting - feel free to check it out but we won’t be covering how to use it in this tutorial.