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WordPress.com or WordPress.org ?

Yes, you read that right, there is a WordPress.com and a WordPress.org!

Most people don’t even realize there are two or that there is a difference between them.  It actually leads to a lot of confusion because the two platforms are extremely different.

So, how can they be so different and have the same name?  Are they related? Which is the official WordPress? 

My hope is this article will clarify the confusion for you and enable you to decide if you should use WordPress.com or WordPress.org.

WordPress.org is the self-hosted WordPress.  It’s home to the most popular content management system (CMS), WordPress.  It was founded by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little in 2003 as a blogging platform and has evolved into the most widely used website platform in the world.  When you hear people talking about WordPress, this is the one they are talking about.

By contrast, WordPress.com is a proprietary blog hosting solution owned by a company founded by Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress).  While it uses the same WordPress platform at its core, it has massive limitations in that you cannot upload plugins or use custom themes, unless you pay high premiums.  Often, people will start with WordPress.com and then move over to WordPress.org when they want more functionality, control and features.

So, despite having the same name, WordPress.com and WordPress.org are not directly related.

Now, let’s look at the major differences:

The major difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is who is hosting your website.

With WordPress.org YOU host your own website which is why it’s often referred to as self-hosted.  Now, of course you won’t actually host your own website, but you are responsible for finding a host.  Then you’ll install the free WordPress software.  Don’t let this intimidate you, almost all hosts have a one click install so it’s super easy.  For hosting, I highly recommend Siteground.

With WordPress.com the hosting is taken care of for you.  It’s all built in.  While that sounds simple and great and while it can also be done for free, there are major disadvantages to this as follows:

  • You can only place your site under a subdomain
  • You cannot remove WordPress.com’s ads and branding from your site
  • You get limited disk space
  • You cannot monetize your blog
  • You can’t install any themes or plugins that aren’t available on the platform by default

So which one is right for you? Should you choose WordPress.com or WordPress.org?  Here is a table outlining the major differences

.org                                                     .com

Full theme support                                Limited theme support

All plugins allowed                                No plugins allowed

Hosting cost                                            Free

Monetization freedom                          Limited monetization

Branding freedom                                 Pay to remove branding

All SEO features                                     Limited SEO control

Powerful analytics                                 Limited analytics

Ecommerce store                                   Cannot create an ecommerce store

Membership sites                                  Cannot create a membership site

Maintenance                                          No maintenance

You own your own website

Let’s discuss some of these differences by outlining the pros and cons of each option.

Pros of WordPress.org

Software is free

You own your website and all its data. You are in full control.

You can add free, paid and custom plugins to your website

You can customize your website design using any free, paid or custom theme and page builder

You can monetize your site by running ads

You can use powerful tools like Google Analytics

You can create an online store to sell products, accept payments and ship the goods directly from your website

You can create membership sites

Cons of WordPress.org

You’ll need web hosting and you’ll have to pay for that

You’re responsible for updates

You’re responsible for backups

As you can see, there are very few cons to using self-hosted WordPress

Pros of WordPress.com

Great choice for hobby bloggers

It’s free for up to 3GB of space and after that you have to switch to a paid plan

They take care of updates or backups

Cons of WordPress.com (free version)

They place ads on the websites.  Your visitors will see those ads and you won’t make any money from them.

You are not allowed to sell ads on your site

You cannot upload plugins

You cannot upload custom themes

You are restricted to the stats they give you and cannot use Google Analytics

You cannot have a custom domain name

They can delete your site at any time if they think it violates their terms of service

Your site will display their branding

The free version does not offer any ecommerce features or payment gateways

You cannot build membership sites

While many of the restrictions of WordPress.com will be removed if you opt for one of their paid plans, those plans often cost more than self-hosted hosting.  For example, Siteground offers hosting for as low as $7.00 per month.  If you’d like to find out more about Siteground, read this blog post.

I always recommend that my clients go with WordPress.org or self-hosted WordPress.  I want what’s best for my clients and, in my opinion, WordPress.org is the best option.

I hope you found this post outlining the differences between WordPress.com or WordPress.org helpful. If you did, please use the icons below to share it with others who may benefit from it.

If you’re interested in moving your website to WordPress.org please click here to fill out my contact form.

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