WordPress blog software has its origin in Michel Valdrighi’s b2 software. In 2003 b2 became the genesis of WordPress www.wordpress.org, a fork project using the b2 source code, which simply had fallen behind web standards and on which no further development was planned. Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, two bloggers, began developing WordPress and were soon joined by Valdrighi. It took a year, but WordPress’ versatility and open source nature, combined with a decision by the developers of Movable Type to radically raise prices for their software, led WordPress to be one of the frontrunners in blogging software.WordPress’ value lies in its easy customization. It seems like there is a plugin for everything: Akismet (akismet.com) catches spam, podPress (podpress.org) turns a WordPress installation into a podcasting platform, etc. And it only takes a little knowledge of PHP to write your own plugin. WordPress is routinely used as a content management system for websites not meant to act as blogs – it can be used to create a directory just as easily as it can be used to post updates to a blog.
There are some video-tutorials for WordPress 2.3, 2.5, 2.6 and 2.7 at the end of the full article. Check them out!
Just What WordPress Needs
To run WordPress, all you need is a server that supports PHP and MySQL. While the WordPress developers recommend Apache or Litespeed web servers for users who plan to subject their WordPress installation to more than typical abuse, it’s not necessary. If you’re planning to install WordPress, you don’t even need the most recent versions of either PHP or MySQL: PHP 4.2 or greater and MySQL 4.0 or greater will work just fine.
Getting WordPress Running
For those individuals without much technical savvy, WordPress can be an ideal CMS for a single simple reason: one-click install. Many web hosts have begun offering accounts with what is essentially an automatic installation process: users simply select WordPress as their CMS of choice and the host takes care of setting it up.
If you’re interested in handling the installation procedure yourself, it’s still not overly complicated – as long as you know a few basics about setting up a website: to start, download the installation package from WordPress (wordpress.org/download/) and unzip it. From there, you’ll need to create a database for WordPress on your web, along with a MySQL user with all privileges (for both accessing and modifying the database). Rename the file “wp-config-sample.php” to “wp-config.php” and open it in the text editor of your choice. Fill in your database details.
At this point, you’ll need to decide if you’d rather have WordPress on the root of your domain or on a subdirectory. To integrate WordPress into the root, move all the files contained in your unzipped installation package (excluding the directory itself) into the root directory of your web server. If you’d rather have your WordPress installation on a subdirectory, move the entire directory into the root directory of your web server (including the directory itself). You can rename the directory if you wish.
Lastly, you’ll need to access and run the WordPress installation script in a web browser. If you installed WordPress in the root directory, you should be able to access the installation script at http://yoursite.com/wp-admin/install.php, where ‘yoursite’ is your domain name. If WordPress is on a subdirectory instead, access the installation script at http://yoursite.com/wordpress/wp-admin/install.php. If you renamed the directory, you will need to use the new name in place of ‘wordpress.’ After running the script, WordPress should be installed.
WordPress in the Real World
The learning curve for WordPress is practically flat. It’s one of the simplest content management systems to install and use, and while it might take some searching to find the exact plugin you want for your personal installation, there are thousands available online – as well as many people who are willing to write custom plugins for a reasonable rate. While Movable Type (WordPress’ main competition) comes with some plugins pre-installed, there are just a wider variety of options available with WordPress.
Movable Type blogging platform is the key competition for WordPress. The most important difference is the support offered for Movable Type: there simply isn’t as robust of a community involved in Movable Type. At least not yet. There are far fewer plugins and even fewer forums where you might find help with a question, which essentially translates to far fewer uses to which you can put Movable Type. While both are free options, you can find more flexibility with a WordPress installation. Furthermore, while Movable Type is free, there are far more restrictions on its license. Lastly, Movable Type has more extensive requirements for installation – WordPress needs just PHP and MySQL, but Movable Type requires Perl and one of three server options, in addition to PHP and MySQL. Blogger has been suggested by some as an alternative to WordPress, but Blogger has minimal usability in comparison. It offers perhaps 20 percent of the functions WordPress offers before you start adding plugins – and there’s really no simple way to add plugins to Blogger.
Once you’ve passed the installation process, actually using WordPress is also fairly simple. Users must log in, as a basic security precaution, but are then presented with a dashboard of options, such as “Write a post.” There are plenty of forums and bloggers familiar with the use of WordPress who provide much more in-depth support than a company could purchase, as well.
WordPress in the Wild
A number of major blog networks, such as b5 media (b5media.com), run entirely on WordPress. b5, for instance, runs well over 300 blogs with WordPress. Other fans of WordPress include Stephanie Booth (climbtothestars.org), Karl Long (tcritic.com), Daniel Scocco (dailyblogtips.com) and Robert Scoble (scobleizer.com). Let’s not forget Techcrunch, Venturebeat, GigaOm and ReadWriteWeb blogs (ones of the biggest blogs outhere) which uses the same WordPress software. WordPress Multi-user (WordPress MU) is used on WordPress.com website (millions of blogs). Oh, and my mom – who’s age I’m not allowed to reveal – uses WordPress to update her website.
If you’re looking for a simple CMS (content management system), especially for blogging, I’d recommend using WordPress software. It’s easy to install and fast to use. And it’s got options for new bloggers and professionals alike – from one-click installs to writing your own plugins, WordPress is only as complicated as you need it to be. Even better, there’s a strong community able to provide advice and help far beyond what a commercial option might provide.
WordPress 2.5, the culmination of six months of work by the WordPress community, people just like you. The improvements in 2.5 are numerous, and almost entirely a result of your feedback: multi-file uploading, one-click plugin upgrades, built-in galleries, customizable dashboard, salted passwords and cookie encryption, media library, a WYSIWYG that doesn’t mess with your code, concurrent post editing protection, full-screen writing, and search that covers posts and pages.
For more details check their blog: http://wordpress.org/development/2008/03/wordpress-25-brecker/
Checkout also this video-tutorial and comparison between WordPress 2.3 and 2.5
WordPress 2.6 has just been released!
Version 2.6 “Tyner,” named for jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, contains a number of new features that make WordPress a more powerful CMS: you can now track changes to every post and page and easily post from wherever you are on the web, plus there are dozens of incremental improvements to the features introduced in version 2.5.
You can read more on WordPress blog (what’s new, what was improved) or watch the video.
WordPress 2.7 is here! More videos below…
Thursday Bram is a freelance writer and media consultant. She shares offices with a computer scientist and two cats, all of whom she hopes to train to take dictation.
Thursday graduated with a B.A. in Communications from the University of Tulsa and is currently pursuing her M.A. at the University of Baltimore.