WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. It’s a debate that has raged on for years, and will likely continue long into the future.
But how are you supposed to make a decision between the two blogging platforms if they are seemingly so similar?
Neither option is entirely good or bad – they both have their pros and cons. The real question is which option is the best for you and your needs.
That’s why today we’re going to take a look at the differences between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, so you can make a data-driven decision and build your website on the right platform.
So, let’s get started.
WordPress Terms You Need to Know
When you hear about WordPress.com, the word “Automattic” may come up – and yes, that’s how it spelled.
Automattic is the company that was started by WordPress’ founding developer, Matt Mullenweg. It’s staffed by professional engineers, designers, and developers, all of whom contribute to the WordPress software.
2. Blog vs. Website
When talking about WordPress, you’ll hear the terms “blog” and “website” used a lot. You can have just a blog, which is a type of website. You can have just a website without a blog. And you can even have a website that includes a blog. For our purposes, though, the terms are interchangeable.
3. Content Management Systems and Publishing Platforms
Again, these terms are basically interchangeable. WordPress is a content management system (CMS) and a publishing platform, which essentially means that you can publish content on WordPress. The real differences are regarding how and what you can publish, who owns the data, and who can make decisions about the design and content.
The 3 Types of WordPress
Unfortunately, there’s the potential to get really confused when it comes to WordPress. That’s because there are three different types of WordPress websites you can have. And they all have their own features, pros, and cons.
Here they are:
- WordPress.com: This platform is fully-hosted by the WordPress.com team of developers. In other words, to use this free software, all you have to do is sign up for an account and start publishing content. Everything else is handled for you.
- Premium WordPress.com: There is an option to upgrade your free WordPress.com account. Plans range from $4/month to $45/month and come with a variety of different features.
- WordPress.org: This platform is self-hosted, meaning you’re in charge of buying a domain name and securing web hosting. It’s free to use, though the domain name and web hosting is not. You’re also in charge of all site maintenance including software updates, speed optimization, and site security.
But this is just the beginning. If you really want to know which choice is best for you, you’re going to need to know exactly what each type of WordPress has to offer. So, let’s take a closer look at each.
1. Free WordPress.com
With a free WordPress.com website, all you have to do is focus on publishing high-quality content, while everything else is taken care of for you.
Here’s what features come with a free WordPress.com website:
- Hosting, backups, and site security
- Hundreds of themes to choose from
- Social sharing capability
- Built-in contact forms, comment systems, image galleries, surveys and polls, and site statistics
- SEO optimization, so search engines can find and index your site in relevant search results and drive traffic your way
- Built-in XML sitemaps that give Google bots a better understanding of your website so you can rank higher in search results
- Limited customer service support and access to community forums
- Powered by WordPress.com link on your website
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of WordPress.com:
WordPress.com is free to use and gives beginner website owners or hobby bloggers a great starting point. It’s an affordable way to get a site up and running. Other benefits of WordPress.com include:
- It’s free for up to 3GB of storage space. After that, you’ll have to invest in a premium plan for more space (Personal plan gives you 6GB of space for $4/month, Premium plan gives you 13GB of space for $8/month, Business plan gives you 200GB of space for $25/month, and eCommerce plan gives you 200GB for $45/month).
- You’ll never have to worry about registering a domain name, paying for web hosting, or performing updates or site backups because WordPress.com does it for you.
Though a free WordPress.com website is highly affordable, there are many limitations:
- They place ads on all free websites that you don’t make money from. In fact, you aren’t allowed to monetize your website in any way and earn all the revenue. If you want to remove the ads, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan.
- You cannot upload WordPress themes or plugins. You are limited to whatever is provided to you, even if you pay for a premium WordPress.com plan.
- The company can delete your site at any time if they feel you’ve violated the Terms and Conditions you agreed to when you signed up.
- If you want to run an online shop, you’ll need to invest in the highest paid premium plan, which ends up being more expensive than using a self-hosted WordPress.org website with high-quality web hosting. Plus, you’ll still have design and functionality limitations in place.
As you can see, even with a premium WordPress.com plan, you are restricted in how your site looks and functions. This can be really limiting to an online business owner looking to grow and succeed.
2. Premium WordPress.com
If you decide you need more features, but want to stick with WordPress.com, there are several premium plans available that come with advanced features when compared to free WordPress.com.
In fact, premium WordPress.com is a sort of hybrid between the limited, free WordPress.com platform and the 100% flexible WordPress.org content management system.
For example, you can use a custom domain name, upload a theme, install plugins and choose your own host, but you still have to agree to terms of service.
Available features depend on which plan you choose.
Some of the most notable premium WordPress.com features include:
- Additional storage space
- Free custom domain for a year
- Access to free and premium themes and plugins
- Social media integrations
- Site monetization (revenue sharing with WordPress.com)
- Built-in SEO tools
- Removal of WordPress.com branding
- eCommerce functionality
With premium WordPress.com, you have access to a lot of customer support. You can even schedule a one-on-one session with an agent to get your website set up. After that, you’ll also have around-the-clock access to live chat and email support.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of premium WordPress.com:
Premium WordPress.com Benefits:
Premium WordPress.com extends the design and functionality of a WordPress.com site and does come with advantages:
- Access to additional storage space so your website can grow
- Low budget entry points
- Free custom domain name
- 24/7 customer support
- Integration of the popular Jetpack plugin
Premium WordPress.com Cons:
Despite being a step up from a free WordPress.com website, the premium WordPress.com plans still come with a number of limitations:
- Must abide by the Terms and Conditions or your site may be deleted
- Monthly plans can become costly, especially when compared to the self-hosted WordPress.org solution
- You’re limited to the plugins and themes you can upload
Again, using a premium WordPress.com website might work for some. However, for those looking for a flexible, affordable, and fully customizable solution, even the premium version of WordPress.com isn’t likely to have everything you need.
3. Self-Hosted WordPress.org
WordPress.org is a fully self-hosted platform, meaning you’ll need to secure a domain name and web hosting in order to use it. That said, the WordPress software is free to download.
Your web host is responsible for storing your site’s data and files and delivering your content to users when they visit your website. There are a lot of WordPress hosting companies to choose from, and many offer one-click WordPress.org software installations, which makes your life a lot easier.
Keep in mind, with a self-hosted WordPress.org website you’re also responsible for website backups and maintenance (though there are some exceptional managed WordPress hosting providers that will do that for you too).
You won’t have WordPress.org customer support like you get with WordPress.com. However, there’s a lot of help from the WordPress.org community and forums. Plus, your host should also offer customer support in the form of 24/7 phone, email, support tickets, or even live chat.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of self-hosted WordPress.org:
With WordPress.org, you have complete control over your entire website. Not to mention, you can customize it to look and function any way you want. Other great benefits of using self-hosted WordPress.org include:
- It’s free and vert beginner-friendly (even with paid domain name registration and hosting)
- You own your website and all its data. No one can take it away from you because they feel you’ve violated the Terms and Conditions. You can also create any type of website you want.
- You can monetize your website and keep 100% of the earnings – there is no revenue sharing requirement.
- You can add free, premium, and custom themes, plugins, and apps to your website.
- Powerful tools like Google Analytics can be added for advanced metrics tracking
Just like with everything in life, there are a few disadvantages to using the self-hosted WordPress.org platform:
- You’ll have to pay for a domain name and web hosting. That said, a domain name usually costs around $15/year and web hosting ranges between $3-$10/month.
- Things like site speed optimization, updates, site backups, and site security will be your responsibility.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Which WordPress Platform Is Right?
The type of WordPress platform you choose will depend on the functionality you need and your skill level. Here’s a helpful table outlining WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, so you can make an informed decision:
|WordPress.com is a hosted solution that lets you set up a blog or website that runs on WordPress.||WordPress.org is a self-hosted solution, meaning you must secure web hosting services and download the WordPress software.|
|Your domain name will be branded with a WordPress.com subdomain.||You will have a customized domain name.|
|You will not have to handle any website maintenance.||You’re responsible for all site maintenance, including backups, security, and updates.|
|Requires you to create an account whether you’re using the free or premium version.||Requires you to create a separate web hosting account and install the WordPress software to use it.|
|Must display ‘Powered by’ links on your site or pay to have them removed.||Do not have to display ‘Powered by’ links (unless you want to).|
|In order to access advanced features, you have to invest in a premium plan.||The WordPress software is entirely free and open-source, so you can change the design and functionality as you see fit.|
|Cannot upload plugins or themes; you are limited to themes and plugins available||Can upload free, premium, or custom themes and plugins to extend the design and functionality of your site.|
|You are limited to to the built-in analytics and statistics available.||You can install third-party analytics tools to better track your site’s metrics.|
|Though you can create an eCommerce store with the highest paid plan, even WordPress.com recommends you invest in a self-hosted solution.||You can easily create an online store with WordPress.org.|
In the end, there really is no right or wrong decision when it comes to the WordPress.com vs WordPress.org debate. After all, everyone will have their own unique set of needs. And what may work for one, may not work for another. However, in order to succeed you should do your research and ensure you’re making the most informed decision.
If you’ve decided that the self-hosted WordPress.org platform is the right choice for you, be sure to check out how to start a WordPress blog the right way.
Which side do you fall on in the WordPress.com vs WordPress.org debate? Why did you choose the platform you’re using? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!