WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: What’s the Difference?
What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
When a new user discovers WordPress, it’s only a matter of time before this question pops up. It’s very easy to get confused since, at the core of it, both products are similar. However, while WordPress.org and WordPress.com may be built on the same core software, that’s where the similarities end.
When people ask me what WordPress is, I tell them that it’s an open-source blogging platform that can be used to create content online. In reality, I am only telling them half of the full story. WordPress is a software package that must be installed and setup before any of the content writing can really begin. Granted, most hosts will take of this for you, but even if there’s an installer or third party involved, someone has to set a (very) few options before the real fun can begin.
WordPress.com, on the other hand, is about as turn-key as you can get when it comes to WordPress. You simply sign up for an account and can start writing nearly immediately. Matt Mullenweg, the founder and creator of WordPress, founded Automattic – a company that supports all things WordPress. Automattic created WordPress.com as an answer to “hosted blogging” like Blogger or Typepad.
How are WordPress.com and WordPress.org Similar?
Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org, under the hood, look very similar. If you want to write a blog post, add a page, upload a photo, or any of the core “content creation” elements, then there’s basically 0 variation between the two services.
The user interface, barring a few custom items in WordPress.com, is also similar. In fact, WordPress.com will receive user interface updates before WordPress.org – usually – as a means to test it before it’s rolled out to the installable software.
Beyond that are where the differences really start to come in.
How are WordPress.com and WordPress.org Different?
WordPress.org requires two things to (effectively) function online: Hosting and a Domain Name. Hosting can run anywhere from a few dollars a month to hundreds, depending on what kind of server you want [hint: most typical bloggers can get away with a hosting setup that’s less than $10 a month]. A domain, the URL you enter to reach a website, typically costs between $10-$15 a month. WordPress.com does not require a hosting contract. You can purchase a domain, but it’s not required – your site will use a subdomain (such as blog.wordpress.com).
WordPress.org will always be free to use as a software. WordPress.com has a few plans that you can purchase if you need more than the free plan has to offer:
There are a few premium features that you can pay to unlock in WordPress.com, but beyond that you are basically using the system that is defined for you. WordPress.org, on the other hand, will allow you to install whatever theme and/or plugin that you choose, no matter the cost or consequence. There are some premium plugins and themes you pay for, but most of the popular plugins are free to download.
Freedom and Restrictions
With WordPress.org you can, in short, do whatever you want with their software. You can use whatever theme you want, whatever plugins you want, and serve whichever ads you want to – you are in full control of your website.
With WordPress.com, there are a few limitations:
- You can only display WordPress.com ads – and must pay to remove them
- Limited choice of plugins
- Limited choice of themes
- Limited storage space for images/video
- No FTP or Database Access
The main caveat to WordPress.org is that it’s not a “managed” service – basically, you are in charge of all updates and problems that arise in your service. WordPress.com will take care of any security, system, and patches that need to be done, and will do them on a system-wide basis.
So… Which One Should You Choose: WordPress.com, or WordPress.org
If you are a hobby blogger, or want something that’s quick to set up and easy to manage, then WordPress.com will be perfect for your needs. Anyone else, however, should more than likely choose WordPress.org by default – the ability to customize and the freedoms you get using it more than outweigh the costs you incur.
And, for reference, if you want to change your mind later, that’s totally fine – migrating from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is a very easy process – you can even pay Automattic to do it for you!