WordPress is the most popular and powerful website-building platform in the Internet today. No wonder several newbies in the blogging industry prefer to use WordPress for their websites.
However, many beginners get confused about the two WordPress platforms available for them to use: WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Many beginners have this wrong notion that they are one and the same.
Not knowing the difference could be costly because you might end up realizing that you chose the wrong platform – that it doesn’t really fit your specific needs for website-building.
In this light, we will define what WordPress.com and WordPress.org is.
We’ll also look into their similarities and differences to help you decide which among these platforms is right for you.
What is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com is a hosting service platform which uses the WordPress software developed by Matt Mullenweg.
This platform is initially free to use, but comes with several limitations unless you upgrade to their paid plans. WordPress.com is operated by Automattic, a company owned by Mullenweg himself.
“Hosted” WordPress is another term used to denote WordPress.com.
This is because WordPress.com is similar to platforms like Blogger and Tumblr because they all let users create their own websites hosted on their platforms.
The servers of Automattic hosts and maintains the websites created under WordPress.com. The platform simply uses WordPress as its base software, hence its name.
What is WordPress.org?
When people talk about the “real WordPress”, it’s likely that it’s WordPress.org they’re referring to.
WordPress.org is the website that houses the free WordPress software.
The software is the open-sourced code one which nobody owns, and can be freely modified and updated by anyone on the Internet.
The website is overseen by a non-profit organization called WordPress Foundation.
WordPress.org is the place where people can download WordPress and start using it for free to create their own websites.
However, WordPress.org doesn’t allow its users to access their servers to create a site. You must get your own hosting and domain name before you can start using this platform.
Hence, WordPress.org is dubbed the “self-hosted” WordPress variant.
What Makes Them Related?
Aside from their names, WordPress.com and WordPress.org share the same similarities:
- Both platforms use the same WordPress software as their primary content management system (CMS).
- Matt Mullenweg is involved in both platforms. He is the co-founder of the WordPress software along with Mike Little. Mullenweg is also the founder of Automattic, the company running WordPress.com.
- Several employees of Mullenweg’s company Automattic are regular contributors to WordPress.org. This means that these employees keep the main WordPress software updated as they use it to power WordPress.com.
- The two platforms are initially free to use. This only differs when WordPress.com users choose to upgrade to their paid plans, which unlock more features for their websites. WordPress.org remains free to use all the time, without any conditions.
It is important to note that despite these shared characteristics, the two platforms are different projects, are not the same, and are not entirely related to each other.
What Sets Them Apart?
Now, we’ll look into the characteristics that make WordPress.com and WordPress.org unique from each other.
Hosting and Domain
WordPress.com lets its users create websites under their own hosting and maintenance servers. You simply have to sign up for an account on their website, then proceed to creating your blog and content right away.
While this may seem convenient, the downside is that you cannot register your own domain name with WordPress.com.
Your site’s address will look something like this: mynewbwesite.wordpress.com. You cannot remove the wordpress.com part on your site address.
On the other hand, WordPress.org needs you to find your own hosting provider and domain name before you can use the software.
This is actually easy, since there are several providers like Bluehost and Hostgator that offer WordPress.org plans and free WordPress software installation.
Once you’ve picked your hosting and domain provider, you can typically download WordPress software and install it in a few clicks. Then, you can freely start developing your website.
One tiny downside of WordPress.org is the cost you’ll pay for the hosting and domain up-front, unlike with WordPress.com.
But you’ll get your own domain name without any extensions, so that’s actually a deal.
Plans and Costs
WordPress.com starts off as a free service, but this has several limitations that push a user to upgrade to their paid plans. Here’s a list of WordPress.com’s hosting service paid plans, along with their annual costs:
- Personal – $36
- Premium – $99
- Business – $299
- VIP – starts at $5000 monthly
These plans progressively give upgrades such as higher storage, access to themes and plugins, ad removals, and wordpress.com link removal on your domain name.
All these might seem a bit too costly, given that WordPress.org can unlock most WordPress features for free.
Meanwhile, WordPress.org does let you pay for your own hosting and domain, which may cost around $3-$10 monthly at the very least.
You may also want to purchase paid themes or plugins as your website needs it, which also adds up to the costs of maintaining your website.
But if you’re fine with all the free themes and plugins, or if you know how to code and can create or modify themes and plugins as you wish, you can choose not to shell out your cash for paid ones.
If you are on a tight budget, you can create a low-cost website with WordPress.org for about $50 yearly. This is in contrast to WordPress.com which could take you up to $299 yearly.
Take into consideration the features you have to use on the WordPress software, and how much it would cost you if you have to upgrade to premium plans just to use them in WordPress.com.
Those features are typically free on WordPress.org.
Flexibility of Use
The initially free service of WordPress.com offers very little customization, limiting its users to only a small collection of free themes.
Installing plugins are also not allowed under the free WordPress.com plan. Free users only get pre-activated JetPack features.
You have to upgrade to Premium and Business plans to gain access to better themes, and upgrade to VIP plan to unlock plugins installation.
Storage is also a possible problem with WordPress.com. The free plan only offers 3GB of space. Upgrading to higher paid plans will unlock 6GB, 13GB, and unlimited storage spaces, accordingly.
You can use the free plan if you’re only starting off a personal blog or website that won’t demand too much space.
For WordPress.org, flexibility of use is never an issue. You can choose any theme you want and install all the plugins your site will ever need.
You can even modify the CSS codes of your themes or upload your own creations, all for free.
Your hosting provider will set the storage space limits of your WordPress sites. This is commonly included in the hosting and domain plan you previously bought.
Most providers start off with a 5GB space limit as part of their initial packages.
Backups and Updates
Updating and backing-up your sites comes easy in WordPress.com. The platform automatically performs updates and applies them right away on your site, sometimes even without you realizing it.
You can also quickly perform backups with a single button click.
WordPress.org also has updates and backups. However, you must be the one to initiate them.
You need to manually update your site’s themes and all the plugins you’re using, especially when a new WordPress software version comes out. Backups are also user-initiated and is usually done with a dedicated backup plugin.
Monetization and Tracking
WordPress.com doesn’t allow websites running on their platform for free or with the Personal plan to be monetized by their owners.
You cannot insert your own ads on your website, even if it’s a high-traffic site. This is one downside that frustrates most WordPress.com users.
Sites built under the free WordPress.com plan will display WordPress.com ads on them. Site visitors will see these ads, but site owners will never profit from them.
Only WordPress.com will. Upgrading to Personal plan or any higher plan removes these ads from a site.
WordPress.com has WordAds for users who want to monetize their sites.
There’s a catch, though. You can access WordAds only if you upgrade to Premium or Business plans, and you’d have to share your revenues with WordPress.com.
You might get a low return of investment with WordAds even if you have a high-traffic site.
If you plan on creating an online store or e-commerce site, you can’t do so on WordPress.com. The platform also lacks payment gateway integrations, hence making it difficult to create store-like websites.
Another downside of WordPress.com is that you can’t install tracking platforms such as Google Analytics, unless you upgrade to the pricy Business plan.
You have to rely on WordPress.com’s statistics tracker alone to check the performances of your websites.
Meanwhile, WordPress.org is the perfect platform to use for monetizing a site. You can run any ads you wish on your site. No one will share revenues with you; all the income is yours to keep.
You can also create e-commerce sites and online stores freely on the platform. Lastly, you can have your trusted tracking platform installed on your site to monitor your traffic and other site parameters.
If you’re using WordPress.com, there is a risk of them taking down your website if they think it violates their Terms of Service (granted you aren’t doing something illegal on your website).
You’re letting WordPress.com host your site, which means they claim ownership of your site and its contents. When the company decides to shut down, your website goes down as well.
Meanwhile, sites built with WordPress.org are fully owned by their respective creators.
They are not bound with a specific Terms of Service since the platform’s code is open-sourced and is free for everyone.
Which Blog Platform to Use? The Verdict is Out
To sum it all up, WordPress.org actually has several benefits over WordPress.com. WordPress.org is free to use without any limitations, unlike WordPress.com.
It is also great for users who want to earn from their websites. Site ownership will never be a problem with WordPress.org.
But there is a steep learning curve in using WordPress.org, as opposed to WordPress.com which lets you create your website easily right after signing up for an account.
However, this steep learning curve is actually worth it considering the costs and limitations you get from WordPress.com.
While WordPress.org has several advantages, choosing between WordPress.com and WordPress.org really depends on your website needs and user preferences.
- If you’re starting off a simple blog as a hobby, or creating a website without thinking of monetizing it, you can go for the free version of WordPress.com. You can go and purchase upgrades if you change your mind. However, be reminded that using upgrades in WordPress.com can be a bit costly. Proceed if you have your funds ready and you don’t mind the limitations each plan has set for your WordPress use.
- If you’re seriously starting a website for a living, such as an online store or a coaching website, then WordPress.org is a better choice for you. You’ll only consider the costs of yearly hosting and domain plus any additional plugins or themes you may want to add on your site. WordPress.org is also a good choice if you’re well-versed in coding and know how to navigate PHP, SQL, and CSS.
Now you know the clear difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. It’s time to choose which one suits your website-building needs the best.
Both platforms are great, but it’s up to you to see which one will serve your needs better.