WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

January 3, 2017

What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? If you’re not sure about the difference and confused about which one is right for you, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explain each platform, the main difference between the two, and other important factors to consider when choosing between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

WordPress is a free open-source content management system that is incredibly easy to use. Essentially, WordPress comes in two different flavors:

  1. The fully hosted WordPress.com, and
  2. It’s self-hosted counterpart WordPress.org.

Without further ado, let us start by diving into the differences between the two.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a commercial site that allows you to host your website for free; however, while there are some attractive features included, there is also many limitations. WordPress.com operates on the open source WordPress platform co-created by Automattic, the development team behind WordPress. Whether you’re starting a blog or building a website, using the hosted version is very simple. All you need to do is:

  • Go to WordPress.com to sign up,
  • Choose your domain name, you’ll have to pay a premium if you want something other than a URL ending in wordpress.com,
  • Select a plan,
  • Enter the desired login credentials, and then
  • Start designing your site.

The upside is that there is little maintenance required with WordPress.com since the Automattic staff takes care of updates, backups, and some basic site optimization.

The downside to WordPress.com is that you have limited control over your website and will most likely end up paying for features that would have otherwise been free had you self-hosted your website. These upgrades are available for purchase in the WordPress.com store. You might find that some of the paid options are necessary, so the costs can quickly add up. For example, WordPress.com has default ads; however, you can pay an annual fee to have them removed. There are also costs associated with video hosting, uploading audio files, and additional storage space.

With WordPress.com, you are also limited in the ability to customize your website. You’ll have access to a limited number of pre-selected themes. You can purchase an upgrade that allows you the ability customize your site; however, you will not have access to install premium third-party themes or plugins.

In addition, a free WordPress.com site does not allow you monetize your website or blog through ads, which may be a critical deciding factor. There is an option to sell ads through your site, but you must apply and be approved by WordPress.com. You’ll also have to split revenues 50/50 with hosting company.

Finally, you don’t own your WordPress.com website. Otherwise put, if you violate their Terms of Service agreement, which can happen, they can delete your site. There isn’t a strong chance of this happening, but anything is possible.

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is the self-hosted version of WordPress and allows for greater flexibility and control over your site. The WordPress software is available to everyone for free and can be download from the WordPress.org website. WordPress.org does not host your website on the Internet for you. Therefore, you’ll need to pay for a separate hosting provider. Getting your site up and running is easy, all you need to do is install WordPress on your web hosting provider’s server.

Because WordPress is so popular, most hosting providers have now simplified the installation process through by offering a pre-configured “one-click install” feature that allows you to quickly install WordPress on your host’s server in less than 10 minutes. Once installed, you’re free to customize your self-hosted WordPress-powered website however you like, which includes two of the best features associated with self-hosting: installing premium custom themes and third-party plugins.

With WordPress.org, the number of available themes and customizable features is endless, so you have complete control over the look and feel of your website, colors, layouts, fonts, etc. But the killer feature of WordPress.org has to be the ability to add third-party plugins, which are not available with WordPress.com.

Plugins are add-ons that complement the open-source platform by extending and expanding the core functionality of WordPress. There is now over 45,000 plugins available from within the WordPress.org plugin directory. You also have access to countless third-party plugins which you can download and install on your WordPress accounts. If you’re looking for a certain solution that enhances the functionality of your website, there’s likely a plug-in to that meets your needs.

On a self-hosted WordPress site, you can decide whether to run ads or not, without having to pay a premium to turn off ads. You can also monetize your site by running ads and have full control over what kind of ads appear on your website. You can even manage your ads by simply installing third party advertising plug-ins. You won’t have to split revenues with anyone, so if you’re like us and want to keep 100% of the revenue you make, self-hosting your website is the best option.

Contrary to WordPress.com, you are in the driver seat should you choose to self-host your website. This means that you own your data, so as long as you’re not doing anything illegal, you don’t have to worry about your site being shut down because someone decided it violated their terms of service agreement.

If you want maximum flexibility and customizable features, or intend on optimizing your website by installing a custom theme or advanced third-party plugins, you’ll definitely want to use the self-hosted version of WordPress. Self-hosting WordPress is actually very simple. We walk you through the installation process step-by-step in our How-to-install WordPress video tutorial featured in this series.

Deciding Factors to Consider

At this point, you may have already recognized that the self-hosted version of WordPress, or WordPress.org, is the most popular choice as it provides maximum flexibility to create the ideal website you are looking for.

Let’s quickly go over the underlying factors to consider when deciding which option is best for you.

Using WordPress.com:

  • You get free web hosting with limited storage and a URL ending in wordpress.com
  • It’s very Easy to set up
  • It doesn’t require ongoing maintenance as this is handled for you
  • You’re limited in the ability to customize your site, and
  • You only have to access a limited number pre-selected themes and plugins
  • You’re limited in options for monetizing your site and, if you do qualify, you must share the revenues with WordPress.com

Alternatively, using WordPress.org:

  • You’ll need web hosting provider
  • You’ll have complete control over your site
  • It’s still very easy to install on your web hosting server, free of charge
  • It requires some ongoing site maintenance
  • You have unlimited options for customizing your site with access to a countless number of themes and third-party plugins
  • You have the freedom to monetize your site through paid advertisements however you want, and you’ll be able to keep 100% of what you earn from your site.

Ultimately, the most important factor to consider is the amount of control you want to have over your website. Naturally, WordPress.org requires more maintenance, and therefore more technical knowledge than WordPress.com. Nevertheless, we cover everything you need to know to manage and improve the self-hosted version of WordPress through our many resources. Our goal at Planet WP is to empower WordPress users to create, manage, and optimize their self-hosted WordPress website. Our detailed step-by-step guides and video training series will help you master the art of WordPress in no time.

Of course, we are keen on helping WordPress users maximize their site, so naturally, our pick is WordPress.org. Regardless of which route you choose, the guidance throughout our resources can still be applied to help you create, maintain, and optimize your WordPress site since the user interface of WordPress is very similar amongst both options. However, to take advantage of all the functions and features presented throughout, we encourage that you self-host your website with WordPress.org.

We hope you found this article helpful. If so, please like it on Facebook or leave us a comment below.

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