As Arduino.cc began developing new MCU boards based on non-AVR processors like the ARM/SAM MCU and used in the Arduino Due, they needed to modify the Arduino IDE so that it would be relatively easy to change the IDE to support alternate tool chains to allow Arduino C/C++ to be compiled down to these new processors. They did this with the introduction of the Board Manager and the SAM Core. A “core” is the collection of software components required by the Board Manager and the Arduino IDE to compile an Arduino C/C++ source file down to the target MCU’s machine language. Some creative ESP8266 enthusiasts have developed an Arduino core for the ESP8266 WiFi SoC that is available at the GitHub ESP8266 Core webpage. This is what is popularly called the “ESP8266 Core for the Arduino IDE” and it has become one of the leading software development platforms for the various ESP8266 based modules and development boards, including NodeMCUs. For more information on all things ESP8266, check out the ESP8266 Community Forum on GitHub.