When we talk about hosting platforms, we mean one of two things: either your hosting account’s operating system, or the kind of tool you used to build your website. In some ways, your hosting platform matters a whole lot because it makes significant impacts on the choices you have for your website. In other ways, your platform matters very little because they’ll all let you get some kind of website on the Internet.

Operating systems

This is the bedrock of every hosting account, which is on a hosting server. Because servers are just computers hooked up to the Internet, they have an operating system installed on them — just like the computer you’re using right now.

(However, the operating system of your hosting account has literally nothing to do with the operating system of your personal computer.)

Hosting companies typically offer two options for hosting accounts’ operating systems: Linux and Windows. For most people, it’s not a big deal whether you get one or the other. Linux supports some technologies that Windows doesn’t, and vice versa.

Both Linux and Windows support the things most commonly used for websites: HTML, PHP, and MySQL.

If those acronyms are foreign to you, it’s no big deal. Just know that when you purchase a hosting account, chances are, you’re fine with whatever.

Website-building tools

More exciting than operating systems are the tools you actually use to build your website — often referred to as “website platforms,” as well. For example, you might hear, “WordPress is a great publishing platform.” However, WordPress is not an operating system; it’s a tool for you to publish. People call it a platform because there are other options to do the same thing.

There are a few different types of website platforms you might use to build your website:

Development platforms are language-based. Examples include ASP or PHP. If you’re not familiar with any of these, just know that they’re all languages you can use to develop websites.

Content Management Systems are a really popular platform for building websites. They give you ways to get a website online and easy tools to manage your content. Examples include WordPress and Joomla!

Templated website builders are platforms developed by a company that typically incorporate hosting and design into one product. Most often, they use a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) designer that makes designing your site easy, and integrate publishing your site to the Internet.

If you’ve ever heard one of those tech people talking about “platform this or that,” understanding what they might mean can make a world of difference.