WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: what’s the difference between the two and which one is better? While it’s easy to think the two platforms are the same, the reality is that there are considerable differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

But what are those differences and do they even matter? If those are the questions running through your mind, keep reading as we’re going to answer them in this post.

Table of Contents
1. How to Tell the Two Platforms Apart?
2. WordPress.com Pros and Cons
3. WordPress.org Pros and Cons
4. Basic Features Overviews
5. Comparative Table
6. Could I Switch From WordPress.com to WordPress.org?
7. Final Thoughts

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: How to Tell the Two Platforms Apart?

When it comes to WordPress.com vs WordPress.org comparison, we should start with the basics. It’s safe to say that WordPress is the Internet’s favorite platform. Just take a look: more than 38% of the top million active websites are powered by WordPress. While you probably know what WordPress is, let’s explain it, just in case a few of you out there are not so familiar with it.

Originally, WordPress was conceived as a simple blogging platform. However, over time it evolved into a full-fledged Content Management System – or in short, a CMS. As its popularity grew, the company behind WordPress, Automattic, wanted to bring the WordPress experience to even more users. That’s how WordPress.com was born in 2005.

At first glance, the two platforms may look the same, but there are some pretty considerable differences.

WordPress.com is a hosted version of the platform with free and paid plans available. WordPress.org is self-hosted and completely free to download but it does it have its own set of costs associated with it.

Let’s look at the two in more detail…

What is WordPress.com?

This freemium service installs and even maintains a site on the behalf of the user. You don’t really need any technical skills to keep a site online. What’s more, with WordPress.com, you don’t have to worry about the infrastructure required to host your site.

WordPress.com homepage screenshot

The lack of maintenance required is definitely the biggest benefit of WordPress.com. Moreover, this platform uses the same software as its hosted counterpart. That means the user experience is almost the same, whether you’re using this platform or the self-hosted version of WordPress.

What is WordPress.org?

WordPress.org is actually WordPress’s official website. Now, since this is an open-source platform, you’re free to download it from the official website and use it to power your site. But if you want to use it, you need to have the technical know-how.

WordPress.org homepage screenshot

WordPress as a platform is basically limitless – there are thousands of different widgets, plugins, and themes out there that can transform your site into anything you want.

Here are a few interesting facts about WordPress:

  • It can be installed and run locally – which is a great solution for testing purposes
  • There are hundreds of plugins and themes specifically developed for all types of businesses
  • More and more popular websites are starting to use WordPress: Variety, MTV News, Bata, Walt Disney, Mercedes-Benz, and more
  • It offers a free e-commerce plugin
  • You can manage your WordPress website on the go thanks to the WordPress app available for both iOS and Android

It’s worth mentioning that most bloggers and business people don’t have the knowledge required to properly install WordPress and maintain it on a regular basis. As such, they often hire a professional to help them out. So while this platform gives you more options, you need to invest more time and money in it.

Now that you have a general idea about the differences between the two, let’s talk about some of the advantages and disadvantages of both platforms.

WordPress.com Pros and Cons

For starters, WordPress.com is perfect for inexperienced users who are trying to start their first personal/business website. That’s because you don’t need to download any additional software or plugins to use it. What’s more, you don’t need any actual coding skills to get a website up and running.

It may take some time to get used to the interface, however, even if you never used a platform like this before, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. WordPress.com is also great for young entrepreneurs who want to boost their personal brand and establish themselves as industry experts.

Possibly the best thing about WordPress.com is that you can get started for free and upgrade it anytime you want. Some of the premium features include custom domain names, unlimited premium themes, more storage space, and a number of other benefits.

WordPress.com plans screenshot

And if you join WordPress’s Word Ads network, you can monetize your site and make some money off your writing. With this additional income, you can invest in your business, improve your site, or simply boost your marketing efforts and increase exposure.

WordPress.com Pros

  • If you don’t want any premium plugins or themes, the platform is completely free.
  • WordPress.com takes care of the updates and spam control automatically.
  • You’ll also get regular automatic backups that guarantee the security of your data.
  • You don’t have to worry about submitting content to Google manually.
  • There are free plugins that ensure your content is Google-friendly.
  • You can always upgrade your features by upgrading your plan to “premium.”
  • In contrast, you can buy premium themes without upgrading to a premium plan.
  • The platform allows you to set social media posts in advance and streamline the whole process.
  • By purchasing the Domain Mapping Upgrade, you can map the domain name that you bought elsewhere and have it linked to your WordPress.com site.

WordPress.com Cons

  • While you don’t have to pay for the WordPress.com premium upgrade, keep in mind that certain ads will automatically be displayed on your site. 
  • You don’t have the ability to customize the post link structure, which can be bad for SEO.
  • While there are a lot of themes available you are limited in terms of customization.
  • The average user doesn’t have the ability to modify system or theme files.
  • Technically, you’re not the owner of your site.
  • If the company believes you’re violating its terms of service, it can suspend your site.
  • You don’t have the ability to add custom plugins unless you upgrade to the Business or Commerce plans.
  • If you want to use Google Analytics, you’ll have to upgrade to a premium plan.
  • Even if you don’t own the domain name for your site, you still have to pay for it.
  • You only have 3 gigabytes of disk space for your site, so if you want to start a photography blog or something media heavy, you’ll exceed the space available in a few months.
  • Users are not allowed to monetize their sites with their own ads.
  • You can’t accept payments on the free plan so if you plan on selling services and products, you’ll have to upgrade immediately.

WordPress.org Pros and Cons

When talking about WordPress.org, you have to mention its flexibility. This is an open-source platform, which means you can customize it according to your own liking. That’s why the vast majority of the top 100 blogs on the Internet are powered by it.

You just need a hosting plan and a domain name and you can actually install everything in less than five minutes – if you have the proper technical knowledge. Another option is to go to WordPress.org, download the software, and install it on your server manually. However, very few people do this.

We mentioned “technical skills” when talking about WordPress.org before; don’t get us wrong – you don’t have to be a tech-wiz to set up and operate a WordPress website. However, you still need some technical skills or some assistance to do it.

Running a WordPress.org site involves a few things, such as web hosting, manual backup, updates, domain names, spam control, maintenance, security, and more. There are tutorials online that can help you learn how to maintain it. But you need to be willing to put in some serious work.

WordPress.org Pros

  • You’re the sole owner of your site and you’re the only one responsible for its content.
  • You have the ability to customize the link and theme structure of your site.
  • You can monetize your site any way you want and there is no additional advertising.
  • Since you have FTP access, you can customize your theme and modify any system file.
  • You have the ability to upload your own themes or download 3rd-party ones.
  • Since this is an open-source platform, you don’t have to pay any additional fees other than your domain name and hosting fees.
  • You’re not limited to publishing posts, you can turn your site into an e-commerce platform, an online learning platform, a membership site, a directory, and more.
  • Since you own space on the server, you can create your own custom email address.
  • WordPress.org has a big community of users, so you can easily find professional support.
  • Your hosting company will also provide you with professional support.
  • There are hosting companies that can install the software on your server in less than 5 minutes and some even come with WordPress pre-installed in your hosting account.

WordPress.org Cons

  • First things first, if you want to start a WordPress.org site, you’ll need to pay upfront for a domain name and hosting.
  • If you have no interest in the technical aspects of running a site, you will need to hire someone to do this for you
  • Setting up a site takes just a few minutes, but maintaining it is an ongoing effort.
  • If you’re new to all of this, it will take a few months to get used to the whole ordeal.
  • You are fully responsible for the security of your site, which requires more time and money to handle.
  • You personally need to make sure that every aspect of your site is updated at any given time.
  • If you fail to update your site regularly it will become vulnerable to a number of attacks.
  • As your site grows, you will need more resources, which means your costs will increase as you’ll need to invest in a better hosting plan.
  • Comment spam is a huge problem and you’ll be forced to fight it all on your own.
  • You have to back up your site manually on a regular basis.
  • Alternatively, you can pay a backup service to do it for you but naturally, it will cost you money.

WordPress.com and WordPress.org Basic Features Overview

In this part of our WordPress.com vs WordPress.org comparison, we’re going to examine the basic features of both versions of WordPress. You can use this section to decide which one caters to your needs more.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Overall Design

The self-hosted version of WordPress has just a few limitations when it comes to design. That’s why so many established business people and companies use it. With that being said, we need to point out that building a theme from scratch has a steep learning curve. For instance, you definitely need to know HTML/CSS and JavaScript to build one.

WordPress.com has more than 300 themes – some of them are free and some of them are premium. With a paid plan, you also have advanced customization options like full-access to CSS and ability to edit your Fonts but still not as many customization options as you get using the WordPress.org version. Despite that, it’s far easier and cheaper to create a WordPress.com site.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Storage Space

If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, your storage is only limited by your hosting provider. That means, for the right amount of money, you can have all the space you need. Conversely, WordPress.com starts you off with 3 gigabytes of space. However, if you upgrade your service, you’ll be able to get more storage space.

But we have to point out – if you don’t want to post a lot of images or other visual content – 3 gigabytes of space is more than enough to keep you satisfied. Also, with WordPress.com, storage space is not really an issue, since the company offers generous storage plans on premium plans.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Mobile and Social Capabilities

Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org support comments on pages and posts and have large communities that can comment on all sites. In addition, WordPress.com platform is well integrated with social networking services and allows you to create polls and questionnaires on your site. The self-hosted version can also make use of 3rd-party plugins, like Disqus, for commenting.

And whether you’re using WordPress.com or you’re hosting the site on your own, it’s equally easy to manage your site from a mobile device. As a matter of fact, the users of both platforms use the exact same app to operate their sites from a smartphone or tablet.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Maintenance and Security

When you’re operating a WordPress.com site, you don’t have to worry about updating it when a new version of the software is released – this includes both general and security updates. Every update is automatically applied to all sites on the platform. But when you’re managing a self-hosted site, you’re the only person responsible for updating it when a new version is released.

As we said earlier, spam is a huge problem for self-hosted sites. Of course, you can always disable comments on your site or use a 3rd-party plugin to handle the problem. Akismet, for example, is a popular software for this problem. However, you need to register for an Akismet key to use it.

If you come across a problem on WordPress.com, you have free support, even with the basic plan. Paid plans come with live chat support and some additional security features. The self-hosted users are basically all on their own to handle issues. There are, however, multiple WordPress.org communities and forums that can help you with any possible issue.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Search Engine Optimization

When it comes to SEO, both WordPress platforms have a lot of advantages over their competitors. The software allows you to fully customize your page URLs, titles, and more. These features give users a strong foundation on which to drive more natural traffic to their sites.

If you want to have more options, or if you already have an SEO strategy in place, you may want to go with the self-hosted version of WordPress for advanced SEO plugins. All-in-One SEO pack, for example, is only available on the self-hosted version of WordPress.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: A Comparative Table

Category Wordpress.com WordPress.org
How owns it?Automattic Inc.WordPress Foundation
How much does it cost?Offers a free plan with paid plans starting at $4/moCompletely free to download and use
How owns your site/blog?The service providerYou own all the rights
How much storage do you get?Up to 3 gigabytes Only limited by your plan
Is there a page size limit?NoNo
Does it show any ads?Yes, upgrade to a premium plan required to get rid of adsNo
Can you upgrade your site?Yes (by visiting the store)No upgrades necessary
Can you customize the theme?Limited customization optionsYes
Can you modify system files?NoYes
How many themes available?More than 300More than 3000
Can you use 3rd-party plugins?Yes, on Business and Commerce PlansYes
Can you add custom codes?NoYes
Do you have access to FT?NoYes
Access to Google Analytics?You only have WP Stats on the free plan, Google Analytics is availble on premium plansYes
Any maintenance required?No maintenance requiredYou have to maintain manually
Can you use it for business?You can with upgradesYes

Could I Switch From WordPress.com to WordPress.org?

In short, yes you can. However, while it’s fairly easy to switch from one platform to the other you will still need to follow certain steps if you want to do everything by the book.

For starters, you will have to buy a hosting plan and install WordPress. You’ll then need to export your WordPress.com website and import it back into your new site. 

Once your WordPress.com site has been migrated, you’ll need to redirect your audience to the new one and migrate all of your subscribers. 

And in case you’ve changed your mind completely, you can ask WordPress.com for a refund on your plan.

Final Thoughts

We’re back to the initial question – when it comes to WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, which one of these two is the right platform for you? Even though this might sound like a cop-out answer – it really depends on your personal needs and plans for your website.

On one hand, you have WordPress.com, a no-fuss platform that requires little to no maintenance at all. In addition, it offers a free plan, so it’s perfect for individuals or small organizations that are working on a tight budget. The downside is, you’ll have to upgrade to a premium plan to get advanced features such as advanced theme customization and the ability to install plugins; plus, the platform includes advertising.

On the other hand, WordPress.org allows you to customize your site completely and is advertisement-free. It gives you complete control of your site and content, which can be beneficial if you have a specific branding strategy. Of course, you also need to maintain the site – or pay someone to do it for you. And while the platform is free it does have its own set of costs associated with it.

Those are the basic differences between the two. If you’re still not sure which one to pick, WPMUDEV has a great little quiz that might help you make your final decision.