The major new version of WordPress scheduled for release today is a big deal, both anticipated and feared by those who rely on the world’s most popular web publishing platform.
WordPress is used by everyone from solo bloggers and small businesses to major publishers (including Forbes) and marketing organizations. Thomas Griffin has written here about How To Use WordPress As A SaaS Platform, the foundation of your own cloud software business. WordPress has a corporate backer, a private company called Automattic, but also benefits from open source code contributions from developers around the world.
Part of what makes WordPress popular is that its open source foundation means you can get started with it “for free” and, equally important, you can extend or tweak its functionality to make it serve your needs. Editing the core software code is not a good idea because then it becomes challenging to preserve those changes if you ever upgrade, but most of the core functionality can be modified with plugins and themes, software modules that hook into a fairly well documented set of function calls. That is what makes WordPress a software platform, not merely a software product.
Speaking as someone who once foolishly tried to write his own blogging software, I can tell you the advantage of starting with an established platform is you can let other, smarter people do all the hard parts, then add your own flourish. My RSVPMaker plugin, for example, allows you to use the standard blog editing tools for event content, with calendar and event registration added.
The drawback of relying on a platform is that when the platform changes, any customizations or extensions must keep up, or they may break. The flagship feature of WordPress 5.0 is a new editor, known as Gutenberg, which threatens to break some things.