When you start working with WordPress, the first decision you have to make is which version you’re going to use — WordPress.com or WordPress.org.
In this article, I’ll explain the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each. By the time I’m done, you will have a better understanding of which version of WordPress best meets your needs.
What is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com may have started as a blog hosting service, but over the years it has evolved into much more. While you can still use WordPress.com to blog, the service is an excellent way to build any website.
If you’re merely curious about WordPress, the dot com version is the easiest way to figure out if WordPress is right for you. Setting up a WordPress.com account is a snap — and it’s free, so there’s no reason not to.
Even if you decide to use WordPress.org later on, you will need a WordPress.com account to use specific plugins and services like JetPack.
The Advantages of WordPress.com
If you want to publish a website without having to think much about the underlying technology, WordPress.com is a great solution.
WordPress.com is free. Perhaps the biggest advantage of WordPress.com is that it’s free to use. If you use only the basic WordPress.com service with none of the additional features, it won’t cost you a thing.
WordPress.com is reliable and secure.
One big benefit of using WordPress.com is that there is no ongoing maintenance for you to perform. You won’t ever have to worry about upgrading your site software. Likewise, your site is always backed up, so there’s no chance of data loss.
The Disadvantages of WordPress.com
While WordPress.com is free, low maintenance, web hosting service, you should also be aware of the limitations. If you’ve heard about all of the amazing things that WordPress can do, you should know that WordPress.com does not include everything WordPress has to offer.
These are the limitations of WordPress.com:
You can’t install plugins on your WordPress.com site.
Plugins are add-on programs that expand the capabilities of a WordPress site. There are tens of thousands of plugins available for pretty much every website feature you can imagine. But you can’t use those plugins on WordPress.com.
Themes (site designs) are limited to the ones pre-installed on WordPress.com.
As with plugins, there are thousands of WordPress themes available — many for free. But WordPress.com sites are limited to the themes that come pre-installed on the service (a few hundred). There are also a limited number of commercial themes that you can add to your WordPress.com site for an additional fee. But again, that number is much smaller than what’s available from the official WordPress theme directory and third party theme designers around the web.
Further, WordPress.com limits how you can modify the themes that are available. You won’t have the ability to create or modify theme templates, but you can modify the theme’s CSS file (for an additional fee).
WordPress.com is ad-supported. You will very likely have advertisements running on your WordPress.com website — unless you pay an additional fee to have those disabled. And don’t expect to see any of the ad revenue. These ads help offset the cost of the free WordPress hosting service.
Earlier, I mentioned that some WordPress.com services are available for an additional fee. For a small additional price, you can use your own domain name (something I highly recommend). Beyond that, there are currently three levels of premium service ranging from $3 to $25 per month.
The entry-level packages are a great deal for anyone looking for simple, low-maintenance, WordPress hosting. For just $3 a month, you get your own domain name, and you’ll have access to email and live chat support.
However, I have my doubts about the higher-end packages. At $25 per month, the Business package is about the same price as a managed web hosting account. Given the limitations of the WordPress.com hosting environment, it’s hard to recommend the WordPress.com business account.
That’s not to say it’s a bad deal for every business. If your needs are minimal and you don’t want to worry about maintenance and backups, the price may ultimately be worth it to you.
In general, I think WordPress.com is a great option for bloggers and novices who have no desire to take responsibility for the technical aspects of running a WordPress website.
What is WordPress.org?
WordPress.org is home to the open-source software project. Everything you need to get started with WordPress is on this WordPress.org site.
- You can download the latest version of WordPress for use on your own web hosting account.
- Find and download WordPress themes.
- Find and download WordPress plugins.
- Get help in the community support forums.
- Learn more about where to get WordPress help when you need it.
WordPress.org is home to all of the things you need to build an amazing website with WordPress. You just have to add a bit of elbow grease.
The Advantages of WordPress.org
The advantage of WordPress.org is that it’s completely customizable. You can build any kind of website with this version of WordPress — there are virtually no limits.
You are free to use any one of the thousands of pre-designed WordPress themes available.
And you can install any WordPress plugin you like.
Or you can make your own WordPress themes and plugins — provided you’re willing to put the time and effort into understanding how the system works.
There’s also no limitation on how you monetize your content. You can sell advertising on your site, or you can sell products and services from your website. That’s entirely up to you as the site owner.
The Disadvantages of WordPress.org
With great freedom comes great responsibility. And that may be the biggest disadvantage of using WordPress.org. You will have complete responsibility for your website.
WordPress.org requires a web hosting account.
It’s up to you to find a company to host your WordPress.org website. Expect to pay anywhere from $10 a month, up to $30 a month for a managed WordPress hosting solution like WPEngine.
Maintenance and Software Updates.
When you run your own WordPress.org website, you are responsible for your maintenance and software updates.
Fortunately, WordPress updates aren’t difficult to install. But many WordPress updates are security related, so you will want to install updates promptly.
It’s also up to you to make sure your website is backed up in case anything goes wrong. Backups are your responsibility unless you have a great web host that takes care of backups for you.
These are things to take into consideration when you choose to go to WordPress.org route.
Which is Better: WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org?
Now that you understand the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, it’s time to decide which option best meets your needs.
If you’re a hobbyist or blogger, WordPress.com is the best way to get started. I recommend spending a few extra dollars to buy a domain name. That way, if you decide to move to WordPress.org later, you can migrate your WordPress content and redirect your domain. Your visitors will never know you’ve made a move.
If you are a business owner or professional in need of a robust website, start with WordPress.org. The availability of thousands of themes and plugins will save both time and money over traditional web design. This is a big reason why WordPress the best way to build a business a website.
Hopefully, you now you have a better understanding of the differences between these two different versions of WordPress. And more importantly, I hope I’ve helped you determine which version of WordPress is right for your website.