A student e-mails and asks whether you have to download any software to use WordPress. Good question! Here’s my semi-informed answer:

Short answer: No, there is nothing you have to download to use WordPress.

Detailed answer: There are two versions of WordPress available. WordPress.com is the online version, where you just log in to the Internet and do your thing. The WordPress.com software is all on the WordPress folks’ servers. The only thing you need to use it, as you have all semester for CIS 427, is a browser.

If you are an advanced user, you might consider using WordPress.org. I know, it sounds like a web address, but WordPress.org is also the name of the software the WordPress folks will sell you. You install WordPress.org on your own server and then have all your blog posts and comments and widgets and such stored right on your machine. Using WordPress.org on your own server gives you full control over your blog: customize your theme, make your own CSS, add code, etc.

Now if I were a teacher (K-12 or college) and I wanted to use WordPress, I would probably just use WordPress.com… unless the school filter blocked access to such online blogs. At that point, if I really wanted WordPress, I could talk to the tech guys and see if they would install WordPress.org on the school’s network. I could then use that software to create a classroom blog. That blog wouldn’t even have to be public; if the software is on our server, we could set it to allow access only in the school intranet.

Important practical difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org: bandwidth and storage space. If I’m using WordPress.com, I’m not using any storage space on my school server; everything is stored on the WordPress people’s servers. I can upload photos, slideshows, videos, and other multimedia files and not eat up space or even bandwidth allocation in-house: when folks in the public access my photos on WordPress.com, they’re using WordPress’s bandwidth. But that also means I’m limited: WordPress.com lets us put up to 3 GB (I think) of files in our “Media Library” on their servers.

If I install WordPress.org on my own server, my multimedia files are limited only by the size of my server. I can store all the files that I’m willing to buy equipment for. But when I run WordPress.org on my server, that means that every time someone accesses my blog, they’re eating up my bandwidth. Sometimes bloggers with WordPress.org installed on their own server have a really good week of hits, and then they lose blog access, since they max out their total bandwidth for the month and have to pay to upgrade their account before they (or any readers!) can get back in.

So if you use WordPress.com, your only capacity worry is whether you’re going to eat up your upload space. If you use WordPress.org, you need to know what plan you have with your ISP and how much traffic you expect on your blog.

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