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The ESP8266 is not an Arduino because it is not an Atmega or similar processor. It is like some other recent "bolt on" capabilities (Intel Quark, ARM, etc) to the Arduino environment (compilers and such).

The WiFi configuration consists of setting the SSID and the passcode. After that, it sets up a small web server at an IP address on your network and waits for you to attach to it, or start sending light data. It is very easy and allows the board to work with the light show annimation software like you find on the diychristmas.org site.

Bluetooth is good, but has its own problems one needs to work around. Wifi lets this just sit on your network waiting to operate and not need all of the connection hassles and problems with Bluetooth. You can still control it from your phone, you would just use a web browser instead of a custom app on Bluetooth. In theory, you could write a control app that would output sACN E.1.31 datat out the network interface instead of the bluetooth. Just a thought....