I’m talking about three organizations in particular: WordPress.org, The WordPress Foundation, and Automattic, which are frequently written about in connection with another name, Matt Mullenweg. Let’s have a look at each of these in turn.
Matt Mullenweg is one of the founders of WordPress, which is now developed under the auspices of the WordPress.org community. Mullenweg is the CEO of Automattic. He’s the founder and principal officer of the WordPress Foundation. And he’s currently the lead developer of the WordPress project. As you might imagine from that list of positions, Mullenweg is the single most influential person in the WordPress world, which is natural since he created WordPress (along with co-founder Mike Little, who is less prominent in the community).
Automattic is a web services company, founded by Mullenweg to exploit the commercial potential of WordPress and related projects. WordPress itself is free and open source, but Automattic provides a number of services based on WordPress (like WordPress.com) and that serve the WordPress community, like the VaultPress backup service and the Jetpack plugin collection.
WordPress.org is the home of the open source WordPress project. It’s where the development of WordPress takes place, largely powered by volunteer contributors. It’s where WordPress users go to get free themes and plugins. It’s also the best source of WordPress support for self-hosted sites, because much of the WordPress community gathers around WordPress.org.
If you host WordPress with a web hosting company like Nexcess, you’ll interact with WordPress.org often because it’s the center of the WordPress project and the wider community.
It’s important not to confuse WordPress.org and WordPress.com. The latter is a commercial service offered by Automattic.
The WordPress Foundation
Most users of WordPress will have little to do with the WordPress Foundation, but it’s useful to understand what it is and the role it plays in the WordPress ecosystem.
The WordPress Foundation is a non-profit organization designed to oversee the development of WordPress and to ensure that WordPress and a few other projects remain free and open source.
The WordPress Foundation has another significant role in the community: it holds the trademarks for WordPress and other related trademarks. These were originally owned by Automattic, but were donated to The WordPress Foundation because Mullenweg felt that the WordPress project shouldn’t be entirely dependent on one individual or company.
It’s worth mentioning the WordPress Foundation is protective of its trademarks, and doesn’t let any other organization use “WordPress” in its domains or name. Unless you want to end up on the wrong side of the WordPress Foundation, avoid using the name “WordPress”. The Foundation encourages publishers and developers to use “WP” instead.
The average WordPress user doesn’t need to know about any of this, except perhaps WordPress.org, but hopefully we’ve answered some of your questions about the organizations you’ll see frequently mentioned in articles about WordPress.