You may initially think that the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com is a minor one. However, a quick glance at both options will make it immediately clear that their options and features differ extensively. Therefore, it’s important to know how WordPress.org is different from WordPress.com, and which option you should choose.
With WordPress.org, for example, you are the one hosting your website, and you have a lot more control over its appearance and functionality. With WordPress.com, on the other hand, hosting is taken care of for you, but your customization options are far more limited. The key distinctions don’t stop there.
In this article, we’ll examine why WordPress.com is commonly confused with WordPress.org, and then explore the crucial features of both. By the end, you’ll be empowered to choose the best platform for your needs. Let’s jump right in!
Table of Contents
- An Introduction to WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
- The Key Differences Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
- WordPress.com and WordPress.org Compared (7 Key Aspects)
- WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Which Platform Is Best For You?
An Introduction to WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
It’s easy to understand why WordPress.com is commonly confused with WordPress.org and vice versa. Despite sharing the WordPress name and registered trademark, both are actually separate entities. Mark Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, also founded the web development corporation Automattic in 2005. WordPress.com, a blog hosting service, is owned by Automattic. By comparison, WordPress.org is owned by the WordPress community.
WordPress.org’s origins can be traced back to the desire to build open-source software for website creation, under General Public License (GPL). On the other hand, WordPress.com was created to dramatically simplify the process of creating and hosting a WordPress site. The two are still connected since there is personnel at Automattic who contribute regularly to WordPress.org. However, there are plenty of major differences between them.
The Key Differences Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
Right off the bat, it’s clear that WordPress.org offers a great deal more than its counterpart does in terms of features, functionality, extendability, and customization. However, although WordPress.com is a lot more restricted, it can be argued that it is far easier to set up than WordPress.org, and dramatically simplifies the blogging process. Let’s have a look at the key features of each platform.
Among other things, WordPress.org:
- Makes it easy to extend the functionality of your WordPress site with useful plugins.
- Lets you create and run your own e-commerce site with few restrictions.
- Presents a virtually limitless array of themes to choose from.
- Gives you total creative freedom to tweak your site’s theme and branding, using custom CSS or other techniques.
- Lets you monetize your site and implement the advertisement service of your choice.
- Enables you to reap the benefits of advanced Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features.
- Gives you the option to add powerful analytics tools to your WordPress site (including Google Analytics).
On the other hand, the main potential drawback of creating a self-hosted WordPress.org site is that you are responsible for the maintenance and security of your site. Naturally, a good workaround for this is to choose a quality WordPress web host that will take care of those details for you.
As for WordPress.com, it:
- Offers few plugins in the Free plan, but the $20 per month Business plan gives you the option to install a limited variety of third-party plugins.
- Does not let you set up your own e-commerce store on the Free plan (while the business plan has limited e-commerce features that are well suited for small businesses).
- Lets you choose from a limited variety of themes.
- Requires you to pay for the Premium or Business plans in order to be able to customize theme layouts using CSS.
- Permits limited monetization and no advertisements with the Free plan. Premium and Business plan users have access to the WordAds program.
- Provides access to third-party SEO and advanced analytics plugins for Premium and Business plan users only.
With WordPress.com, you can relax knowing that most facets of your site’s maintenance (including backups, updates, and general optimization) will be taken care of for you. Despite this, if you want total control over the appearance and capabilities of your site, WordPress.com can prove stifling.
WordPress.com and WordPress.org Compared (7 Key Aspects)
Now that we have covered the major differences between WordPress.org vs WordPress.com, let’s take a closer look at the key aspects of each. Before you can decide which option is best suited to your site, it’s important to consider each of the following criteria carefully.
1. Pricing Options
Obviously, the budget you have to work with will play an important role in your choice of platform. Although there are free ways to run both WordPress.com and WordPress.org sites, you will have to part with some cash to get access to advanced features, functionality, and security.
A free WordPress.com site will provide you with 3 GB of storage space, access to a few themes, and the essential features of the Jetpack plugin. However, this version also has mandatory WordPress ads included. There are three additional plans:
- Personal ($4 per month). Gives you access to 6 GB of storage space, removes WordPress ads, and provides live chat support.
- Premium ($8 per month). Comes with 13 GB of storage space, monetization options, and a score of other advanced features.
- Business ($25 per month). Lets you access basic plugins and upload more themes, gives you unlimited storage space, offers more control over site monetization, and much more.
Of course, even the most advanced plan offered by WordPress.com doesn’t contain nearly the same scope of creative flexibility and functionality offered by WordPress.org. Although WordPress.org is free, you’ll still have some startup costs. These will typically include purchasing a hosting plan and domain name, both of which can be had for a low price.
Fortunately, 000webhost offers free web hosting that will enable you to reap the benefits of unlimited disc space, bandwidth, and email accounts, as well as a free domain name. If you need more features or resources, you can still find very affordable hosting and domain options. Hostinger, for example, is a provider that helps you maintain a secure, fast, and well-supported WordPress site, without putting a major dent in your budget.
Other costs associated with your WordPress.org site will depend on whether you wish to pay for a feature-rich theme (which can be found on sites like ThemeForest). You may also end up purchasing a few premium plugins, in order to add extra features to your site.
2. Website Setup
When weighing up whether to choose WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, you should also consider how much time you have at your disposal. WordPress.com is somewhat faster than its counterpart when it comes to getting your site up and running. All you need to do is fill in some essential details specifying what kind of site you want, and you’re good to go. What’s more, there’s no software to install.
The downside is that WordPress.com’s setup procedure is highly rigid, when compared to that of WordPress.org. As we touched on earlier, you are only given access to a limited number of blog themes, and you will be required to pay if you want to tweak the coding to make your site’s appearance tick all your boxes.
Setting up a WordPress.org site takes a little more consideration, although the process is still quick. In fact, it only takes 5 minutes, as long as you have a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) tool and know how to set up MySQL databases. If you aren’t familiar with those technologies, it may be comforting to know that 000webhost makes setting up a WordPress.org site incredibly easy. In addition to offering a convenient auto-installation option that uses the latest version of the platform, 000webhost also make it simple to migrate or set up your site using FTP.
Before we move on, it’s important to mention a crucial detail concerning the content you upload on each platform. Whereas WordPress.org grants you total freedom to build your blog your way, and you have complete ownership of your content, WordPress.com has certain restrictions in place. In fact, it reserves the right to shut your site down at any time.
To paraphrase WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg, the site you run on WordPress.org is like a home you own outright, whereas a site you run on WordPress.com is more like a rental. Although in the latter case more tasks are done for you, you do lose an element of control. The degree to which you value the ownership of your content should inform your choice.
3. User Interface and Plugin Availability
Since the User Interface (UI) is what you will use to actually build your website, it’s important to factor it into your decision. The main interface you will use on both WordPress.com and WordPress.org is the dashboard. This contains options for building posts and pages, adjusting settings, previewing your site, and more.
The WordPress.com interface is extremely easy to navigate. It presents an intuitive array of options for content creation and editing, viewing (limited) site statistics, previewing the site, customizing back end settings, and more. The WordPress.org dashboard interface is structured in a relatively similar fashion, with the principle difference being that it can be further added to and customized.
You should also consider if you will need any particular plugins. These are bits of software that you install on your site, in order to extend its functionality. There are thousands of plugins available, helping you enhance website security, improve your rankings in search engines, turn your site into an online store, and much more. Plugins can be installed, activated, and configured from the dashboard.
The free version of WordPress.com comes with 19 built-in plugins. These tools offer features such as anti-spam protection, backup and export capabilities, and more options for sharing your content on social media platforms. In order for your WordPress.com site to benefit from more advanced plugins (such as WooCommerce), you will need to invest in the Business plan.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, gives you potential access to any plugin you want (although you’ll still have to pay for some of them). There are further plugin options for enhancing SEO, adding contact forms, simplifying site maintenance, and so on. No matter what feature or functionality you want to add to your site, chances are there’s a plugin that can do it.
4. Theme Choices
Essentially, your WordPress theme dictates the aesthetics of your site and the way your content is displayed. There are specific themes for photography sites, e-commerce stores, travel blogs, and so on, as well as general-purpose themes. As you might expect, each platform offers different options.
WordPress.com provides a fair variety of themes on the free plan, although there aren’t nearly as many as are available to you on WordPress.org. The free plan will also not enable you to tweak the appearance of your content using custom CSS. To do that, and gain access to more advanced themes, you will need to invest in the Premium plan. The Business plan will give you access to third-party themes as well.
Just as with plugins, WordPress.org lets you install any theme you want on your site. Not only will you get access to a far greater variety of themes, but you will also be given a much broader scope for customizing them. There are hundreds of thousands of free and premium themes available, and you’re free to tweak their coding (or even create your own).
5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Analytics Features
In a nutshell, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to various techniques you can implement on your website to help it rank better in search engines like Google. For this reason, it’s important to consider the SEO capabilities of WordPress.com vs WordPress.org.
Despite boasting a built-in ‘essential SEO plugin’, the actual SEO capabilities of a free WordPress.com account are limited. You’ll have to pay for a Business plan in order to gain access to more feature-heavy SEO plugins. In comparison, WordPress.org gives you instant access to a huge variety of advanced SEO plugins and third-party tools. Yoast SEO, for example, features an incredibly easy-to-follow ‘traffic light’ system that lets you see if your website is doing well, and points out areas that need improvement.
Along with SEO, you’ll also want to consider each platform’s analytics options. Analytics tools provide data about your site, such as the number of visitors per month, your data usage, and so on. This gives you invaluable insights into your site’s effectiveness. The free version of WordPress.com comes with built-in stats for basic metrics, but WordPress.org is the better option if you want to incorporate more advanced tools for gauging the habits of your visitors, such as Google Analytics. In addition, by choosing 000webhost.com, you can reap the benefits of advanced analytics and SEO tools, without making a dent in your budget!
6. E-Commerce Capabilities
Many people want their WordPress site to also serve as the storefront of their businesses. If that’s the case, WordPress.org is, quite frankly, the better option by far. The free version of WordPress.com gives you no options for building an online store, and although the Business option does, there are strict sales policies you must adhere to. What’s more, running your e-commerce business with WordPress.com will mean you have to adhere to their limited WordAds system.
On the other hand, a WordPress.org site will give you the freedom to build your store your way. You can implement the theme of your choosing, and there is a huge variety of e-commerce specific plugins. What’s more, with WordPress.org, you have access to plugins and capabilities that allow you to monetize your site however you wish, without having to adhere to WordPress.com’s monetization policy.
Naturally, maintaining an e-commerce store on WordPress.org does require considerable effort if you want to ensure that it runs smoothly and safely. Fortunately, 000webhosting can take some of the hassle out of this venture, by offering extensive disc space, unlimited email accounts, multi-site support, and free domains.
7. Security and Support Considerations
It can be argued that security and support are the most critical aspects to consider when deciding between WordPress.org vs WordPress.com. Failing to maintain a secure site leaves you exposed to hackers, malware, and various types of attacks. Support is also crucial, as you need to feel confident that you’ll be able to have any technical issues resolved rapidly. So, before you make your choice, it’s important to see how both options stack up in terms of security and support.
WordPress.com offers a lot of security features, including a firewall, data backup and recovery services, regular monitoring of sites for suspicious activity, and more. Although this should deliver peace of mind, WordPress.com is not entirely hacker-proof, so it pays to be vigilant. The support offered by WordPress.com is also relatively robust, although the free version will still require your own self-directed research. Only the paid versions of WordPress.com offer live chat support for your inquiries.
WordPress.org also provides many default security features, although again, it is still not invulnerable. To help you out, there are many security plugins that you can install on your WordPress.org site, and there’s a wide community offering various types of support. Ultimately, however, the quality of your site’s security and support will largely come down to which hosting provider you choose.
000webhost will enable you to reap the benefits of reliable support when you need it, as well as excellent security. Our hosting service is powered by Hostinger, and includes an advanced security module which rapidly detects infections if they occur. We also provide access to live chat support, and our team is happy to field your inquiries at any hour of the day or night.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Which Platform Is Best For You?
Now that we’ve considered these seven key aspects in detail, your choice between the two platforms should be a lot clearer. Essentially, you may want to choose WordPress.com if you:
- Want to get your site set up quickly and easily.
- Don’t feel that you need access to a wide variety of themes, plugins, and customization options.
- Are looking to leave the nitty-gritty aspects of site maintenance to WordPress itself.
- Need to set up a small-scale personal blog or similar site.
- Aren’t concerned about WordPress.com featuring ads on your site.
Alternatively, WordPress.org should be your choice if you:
- Want total control over your WordPress site.
- Need access to the full spectrum of themes and plugins (as well as the means to customize them further).
- Are looking to build your site (or your e-commerce store) your way.
- Are interested in monetizing your site to meet your specific needs.
- Have time to invest in site maintenance and security.
Of course, when it comes to the last point, a solid hosting plan can take care of much of the work for you. With 000webhost, for example, you can free up more time to concentrate on making your site all it can be, and leave the mundane day-to-day tasks to us.
As we have seen, despite sharing the same name and registered trademark, WordPress.com and WordPress.org are not the same. Although they do share a limited amount of features, there are far more differences than similarities between the two. So which one is right for you?
WordPress.com is simpler to get started with, and works well if you’re looking to build a very basic site. You won’t need to worry about finding hosting or anything like that. WordPress.org is also surprisingly easy to use, however, and offers a lot more in terms of flexibility and customization options. Plus, with the right hosting plan, anyone can set up a WordPress.org site quickly.
Do you have any further questions about WordPress.com vs WordPress.org? Let us know in the comments section below!
This post was last modified on May 14, 2018 4:23 pm