The SparkFun ESP8266 Thing Dev board with FTDI USB-Serial, trace antenna, voltage regulators and lots of I/O pins is designed to make ESP8266 development easy. This board is a WiFi 802.11 b/g/n device that you can program as an Arduino.
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SparkFun make two "Things".
Check out our guide for what is different here.
Both the Thing, and Thing Dev board have a whole range of neat features in common. The main chip on board is the popular ESP8266 SOC WiFi chip. This is same one as in the ESP8266 Module , SparkFun WiFi Shield and the Teensy. There is a big community of people doing all kinds of things with this chip.
The "Thing" can be programmed just like an Arduino and it has in built support for TCP/IP and works with WiFi 802.11 b/g/n found in homes, business and phones. This board is the easiest way to build you next IoT (Internet of Things) project. All of the modules pins are broken out so you can connect sensors for light, motion or temperature to the board and control devices like relays, lights and motors. All the while the "Thing" can stream data to the cloud with phant.io or Azure and it can even provide a simple web interface for device control via a browser.
With a USB plug on the board you only need to plug it into your computer & download board definitions to start programming it using the Arduino Software with the ESP8266 Arduino Addon.
Pins are arranged for use with a breadboard. On board regulators run the ESP8266 at 3.3V but you will need a level shifter for interfacing 5V components. A power switch makes it easy to turn on and off and there are LEDs for power, charge and status.
The Dev board has PCB footprints for a 2 pin JST plug, 2 pin 3.5mm screw terminal or 0.1" 2 pin header. It does not have a LiPo charger on board like the Thing board but it does have a nice trace antenna that will for many use cases. A U.FL connector is available if you need more antenna power.
SparkFun have a good hookup guide for these boards including good examples to get you started. Be sure to check it out.