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WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com – What’s the Difference?

WordPress is the most popular blogging platform out there. And over the years, it has become *THE* solution for non-blog websites as well. The data doesn’t lie.

But there are two sides to “WordPress,” and they can be quite confusing for someone not familiar with the topic.

There’s WordPress.com.

And there’s WordPress.org.

And they are different… Fundamentally.

The difference in a sentence

WordPress.com is an online platform where you can go, sign up, and create your website/blog all in one place.

(To give you a clever comparison, WordPress.com is your Google Docs (bear with me).)

WordPress.org is an open source software. To launch a website with it, you need to first download the software, and then install it on your own web server (or a web server you’re renting from a third-party).

(Continuing my “clever” comparisons, WordPress.org is your Open Office / MS Word.)


WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com – a more in-depth take

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: overall
WordPress.com WordPress.org
Offers free hosting, but limits your website space to 3GB. Doesn’t come with free hosting. You’ll have to look for a host yourself, and pay for it separately.
Gives you a free subdomain. Something like YOURSITE.wordpress.com. If you want a custom domain, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan.  You need to get a custom domain on your own (additional costs apply).
You get basic security and backups handled for you. There’s some level of security from your web host, but for the most part, you need to secure your website yourself (through third-party WordPress plugins). Same goes for backups – those you need to enable via plugins as well (one of the best ways to do so is with the “Personal” plan of the Jetpack plugin).
Everything about the technical performance of your website is handled by the team behind WordPress.com. If something doesn’t work at some point, you can’t do anything but wait for the team to fix the issue. You get to choose the plugins and the performance settings of your website. It requires some work, but you are in full control of what happens on your site.
Offers a limited number of themes for you to choose from. It comes with limited customization options as well. Lets you take and install any theme you want, and also do all the customization you want. You can also create your own themes if you know your way around PHP source code.
Doesn’t allow you to use any third-party plugins. You only get a narrow range of pre-built features. You can’t add extra features to your site that aren’t already provided by the default WordPress.com environment. WordPress.org offers you the freedom to install any free or premium plugin you want. This is vital if you want to customize your site to the point where it fits your needs hand-in-glove.
You can’t have your own ads on your site. However, WordPress.com displays *their* ads on your site – that’s the price you pay for having the platform for free. You can have as many ads and as many forms of monetization as you like (also, choose any ad service you want). The good news is that you keep 100% of your earnings.

Which is cheaper?

This is a tricky one. Although the basic account at WordPress.com is free, this doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be cheaper than WordPress.org.

First of all, if what you need is just a basic blog with limited customization possibility – like a personal blog – then yes, WordPress.com is the solution for you.

However, if you need the tiniest bit of customization, like when running a business site for example, WordPress.com will become quite expensive for you really quickly. Their Premium plan is actually $99 per year.

If you compare this to WordPress.org, the only price you pay is that of a hosting plan. As we’d reviewed here a while ago, you can get a high-quality hosting package for a WordPress site at around $47 per year (from SiteGround, for example, our top rated host; but you can go with another company and get similarly low prices as well, here are our readers’ preferred hosts based on a survey).

This makes the .org more than $50 cheaper than WordPress.com.

And, with WordPress.org, you have the freedom to do whatever you want, improve anything, and customize all you need about your site. WordPress.com will still only give you limited access to customizations, even if you agree to pay for their Premium plan.

Pros and cons

Instead of listing each individual set of pros and cons, I’m focusing just on the pros of one platform over the other. In other words, if you see something being a pro for one platform, it means that the other platform doesn’t have it.

PROS and CONS: WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
WordPress.com PROS WordPress.org PROS
It takes less time to set up a WordPress.com site than it takes to set up a WordPress.org site. It gives you much more customization options than WordPress.com.
Can be used by newbies. Even if it’s your first time launching a website, you will still be able to do everything yourself. It’s a free and open source platform.
Takes care of updating and backing up your site automatically, so you don’t have to worry about anything. You’re in full control of your website. You can do whatever you want with it.
It’s free for a simple and small site, and you get technical support. You can use custom themes and custom plugins.

In conclusion

In most situations, WordPress.org is meant for those of us who are not afraid to get our hands dirty, and those who want to have full control over their sites. It’s also the perfect platform for any type of business site and professional project.

WordPress.com on the other hand, is great for personal blogs, and sites with no commercial intent.

P.S. Need help with your WordPress work? Here’s how to find an outsourcer who will help you set up a WordPress.org site.

* This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and then purchase the product, we’ll receive a small fee. No worries though, you’ll still pay the standard amount so there’s no cost on your part.

Karol K: Creates content, manages CodeinWP's team of writers and makes sure that every piece of content you see on this blog looks great! / Author of "WordPress Complete" / Professional yerba mate drinker / @carlosinho
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