It’s safe to say that WordPress is Internet’s favorite platform. Just take a look: more than 50% of 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, CMS. The platform is basically limitless – there thousands of different widgets, plugins, and themes out there that can transform your site into anything you want.
Before diving diving deeper into their differences 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
- There is available a WordPress app for both iOS and Android
If you’re a beginner, however, you might not be aware that there are, in fact, two different versions of the platform. As you can clearly see from the title, you have WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Are there any differences between two? Do those differences even matter? Which one is right for you?
If you want answers to these questions, we recommend you read along…
How to Tell the Two Platforms Apart?
We should start with the basics; now while these two may look like the same platform on the surface, there are some pretty noticeable differences. WordPress.com is a free, hosted version of the platform, while WordPress.org is self-hosted and requires some money.
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 its infrastructure required to host your site.
The lack of maintenance required is definitely the biggest benefit of WordPress.com. Moreover, this platform uses the same software like 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 system, you’re free to download it from WordPress’s website and use it to power your site. But if you want to use it, you need to have the technical know-how.
Since most bloggers and business people don’t have the knowledge required to properly install WordPress and maintain it on a regular basis, they hire a professional to help them out. So while this platform gives you more options, you need to invest more time/money in it.
Now that you have a general idea about the differences between the two, we should say see what are 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 a hang of it in a week or so. 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 upgrade it anytime you want. Some of the premium features include custom domain names, unlimited premium themes, more storage space, and a number of others.
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.
- If you don’t want any premium plugins or themes, the platform is completely free
- The site takes care of updates and spam control automatically instead of you
- Also, the site has regular automatic backups that guarantee the security of your data
- You don’t have to worry about submitting your 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 your domain name
- Even though you don’t have to pay for the service, you still have to display certain ads
- There is a “No-Ads Upgrade” however, it costs 30 dollars per year
- You don’t have the ability to customize the post link structure of your site
- While there are a lot of themes available you can’t do anything to customize them
- 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 terms of service, it can suspend your site
- You don’t have the ability to add custom plugins
- 3rd-party analytics, such Google Analytics aren’t allowed because they use custom code
- Even if you don’t own the domain name of your site, you still have to pay for it
- You only have 3 gigabytes of disk space for your site
- If you want to start a photography blog you’ll exceed the space available in a few months
- The users are not allowed to monetize their sites with their own ads
WordPress.org Pros and Cons
When talking about WordPress.org, you have to mention its flexibility. This is an open-source program, which means you can customize it according to your own liking. That’s why a vast majority of 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, a 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 many, many 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.
- 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 system, you don’t have to pay any additional fees
- You’re not limited to publishing posts, you can turn your site into an e-commerce platform
- Since you own the server, you can create your own custom email ID
- 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
- First things first, if you want to start a WordPress.org site, you need some money
- While the software is free, you have to pay for your domain name and hosting plan
- If you have no interest in technical aspects of running a site, it will take some time to learn
- Setting up a site takes just a few minutes, but maintaining 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/money
- 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
- 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 occasion
- Alternatively, you can pay a backup service to do it for you but naturally, it will cost you
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org Basic Features
In this section, 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 has more than 300 themes – some of them a free and some of them are premium. With a paid plan, you also have advanced automation options like full-access to CSS and ability to edit your Fonts. And while you have fewer customization options, it’s far easier and cheaper to create a WordPress.com site.
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 visual content – 3 gigabytes of space is more than enough to keep you satisfied. Also, with this version of the platform, storage space is not really an issue, since the company offers generous storage plans. So if you want to have more than 3 gigabytes of space, you only have to pay a small yearly fee.
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 make use of 3rd-party plugins for commenting.
And whether you’re using the services of 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. If you’re interested in the app, you can easily download it by clicking here.
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.
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
|How owns it?||Automattic Inc.||WordPress Foundation|
|How much does it cost?||Completely free||Starts at 50 dollars|
|How owns your site/blog?||The service provider||You 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?||No||No|
|Does it show any ads?||30 dollars a year to remove ads||No|
|Can you upgrade your site?||Yes (by visiting the store)||No upgrades necessary|
|Can you customize the theme?||No||Yes|
|Can you modify system files?||No||Yes|
|How many themes available?||More than 300||More than 3000|
|Can you use 3rd-party plugins?||No||Yes|
|Can you add custom codes?||No||Yes|
|Do you have access to FT?||No||Yes|
|Access to Google Analytics?||You only have WP Stats||Yes|
|Any maintenance required?||No maintenance required||You have to maintain manually|
|Can you use it for business?||You can with upgrades||Yes|
Could I switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org?
In short, yes, you can. However, while it’s fairly easy to switch from one to the other you will still need to follow certain steps if you want to do everything by the book. You will have to buy a hosting plan, install WordPress, export your WordPress.com website and then import it back into your new site, redirect the audience to the new address, and migrate all of your subscribers. You can also ask for a refund from WordPress.com if you changed your mind.
The Bottom Line
We’re back to the initial question – which one of these two is the right platform? 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’s completely free, so it’s perfect for individuals or small organizations that are working on a tight budget. The downside is, the users are not capable of uploading their own custom plugins; plus, the platform includes advertising.
On the other hand, WordPress.org allows you customize your site completely and is advertisement-free. It gives you a 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 the platform is not free.
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 with your choice.