WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: What's the Difference & Which One Should I Use?

Business

Before deciding on having a WordPress site, the first step is deciding which of the two available, but very different, WordPress platforms to choose from; the ".com" or the ".org" version.

By Ahmed khalifa

**Note: Please note that this website does not run on WordPress anymore. But since I've been involved with the WordPress community for many years, I didn't want to delete any of the WordPress-related content on this site as I believe that they will still help you with your own WordPress site, hence why they are still available for you to view. Enjoy!**

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Even though there is a good chance that you have heard of WordPress, you might not be aware that there are two very different WordPress platforms to choose from:

WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Notice how it ends?

For such a small difference, they are actually very different in terms of how they operate, but the principle is the same – to enable you to have a website and a presence online. But at the same time, there are many questions to ask yourself before deciding which one to choose.

  • Is it a serious website or a basic hobby site which you don't want to maintain?
  • Do you want to customise everything or do you just want a simple yet effective site online?
  • Are you computer savvy or planning to learn how to look after your site and use WordPress?
  • Or would you rather have a hands-off approach and just focus on the content?
  • Do you plan to grow your online presence or are you happy to keep things simple and leave it as it is?

Even though they have been around for over a decade, many people are still confused between the two and which one they should use.

So this post will look the differences between WordPress .com and WordPress.org to help you to make a clearer decision.

Table of Content

1. What is WordPress? + TL;DR

2. What is WordPress.com?

2.1. Advantages of Using WordPress.com

2. 2. Disadvantages of Using WordPress.com

3. What is WordPress.org?

3. 1. Advantages of Using WordPress.org

3. 2. Disadvantages of Using WordPress.org

4. Overall Side-By-Side Comparison of .com vs .org

5. Which Version of WordPress Should I Use?

1. What is WordPress? + TL;DR

Let's talk about WordPress for a second, which is the most popular CMS (content management system), and powers over 30% of the world wide web. Much like the way Windows or Mac are to your computer or iOS or Android to your phone, the same can be said for WordPress which powers your website.

Many of the biggest brands in the world from various industries uses WordPress and naturally, this website is also powered by WordPress.

Related Article: Top 99 Brands Who Uses WordPress?

However, there are 2 completely separate entities of WordPress, the .com and the .org.

In short:

  • WordPress.com is a for-profit business that is owned by Automattic. It is a fully-hosted website and has the support of the Automattic staff and it allows you to build and own a website for free or you can pay annually for further flexibility and additional features. You do not have to get your hands dirty with the technical side of things.
  • WordPress.org is the more popular option. It is open-source software, which means you can do whatever you want with it after you download it to your server. It is also known as the self-hosted version because you will have to find your own hosting (I recommend a reputable managed WordPress hosting) and you will then have the flexibility to do whatever you want with it. However, there may be some technical work involved and you might have to get your hands dirty to get it up and running.

There are advantages and disadvantages of the two platforms so let's get straight into it.

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2. What is WordPress.com?

WordPress.com is a website and hosting service created by the co-founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, and it is run and maintained by the people of Automattic.

With the .com version, you do not have to worry about the technical side and there is nothing for you to download. Just leave to the staff to maintain it. Instead, you can focus on the content, which suits many people who want to keep things simple but effective.

You can even build a site for free, but if you want a bit more customisation, you can upgrade to a different package (visit their pricing plan page to understand more about the different packages they offer).

2.1. Advantages of Using WordPress.com

Let's break down the benefits of using the .com version of WordPress

  • there is the option of building a site for free
  • you can build a site very quickly in just a few clicks
  • it is very easy to use, even for those who don't have much website experience
  • useful for those smaller projects or blogs which does not require a lot of attention
  • it is cost-effective and uses up less of your time if you choose to use the smaller packages
  • you will have support at hand for anything if you are on a paid plan
  • there are no worries about hosting, security and other IT-related features
  • you don't have to worry about maintaining it

2. 2. Disadvantages of Using WordPress.com

And now for the negative sides of using the .com version of WordPress:

  • if you want to use the free version, you don't get a customised domain, e.g. yourwebsite.wordpress.com
  • the amount of flexibility you have is limited, particularly within the cheaper packages
  • you have limited space if you are choosing the free or lower paid options, so you may have to upgrade if you have grown your site
  • selling ads is not allowed on your website unless you upgrade to higher price plans
  • it is not possible to create membership or e-commerce sites
  • there are a limited number of themes and plugins to use unless you pay for the Business plan
  • there are restrictions to the stats available as you cannot add a tracking platform like Google Analytics
  • if you have violated any of the terms and conditions, your site will be deleted
  • difficult to grow your site unless you pay for the top packages

As you can see, there are a number of restrictions in place if you use .com, but if you pay for the Business package, it will unlock most of them.

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3. What is WordPress.org?

If you are using .org, you can download the software completely for free, it is open source and maintained by the community, which is supported by the WordPress Foundation, a charitable organisation which funds the open source project. You can do whatever you want with it and you will have full control and flexibility.

But of course, having full control will means that there are aspects which can confuse people, especially beginners. Things like organising your own hosting, finding the right plugins, customising themes and tweaking the codes (though you should get someone to do that for you if you don't know how to read the codes).

This site is an example of a site running the .org version and from a personal perspective, I have always preferred to use the .org version as I prefer to have full control of my site.

3. 1. Advantages of Using WordPress.org

  • having flexibility means that you can customise the site to how you want it
  • you will have full control of the features you want on the site
  • technical users will have access to the codes and other technical features
  • get to know the people who are contributing to .org (and you can contribute to WordPress too, even if you are not technical)
  • you have access to over 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository
  • it's easy to add new features to your site without the need for a developer
  • you have access to hundreds of thousands of themes in the repository as well as on 3rd party sites
  • you have full control over costing, e.g. the prices of hosting, pro version of themes and plugins

Related Article: How to Contribute to WordPress Even if You're Not Technical?

3.2. Disadvantages of Using WordPress.org

  • you need to organise your hosting (always go for a managed WordPress hosting with a reputable company where possible)
  • having flexibility could mean that you might create technical problems such as installing unsecure plugins or using poorly designed themes
  • you have to find your own support if you run into problems
  • it is up to you to keep the software, plugins and themes updated
  • you are responsible for the security of your site
  • there is a steep learning curve for those who are not not used to running their own websites
  • you may have to pay for expert developers and designers to carry out any technical maintenance or customisation

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4. Side-by-Side Comparisons of .com vs .org

 WP.orgWP.com (Free)WP.com (Personal)WP.com (Premium)WP.com (Business)CostFrom £100/$130 per year*Free£15/$20 per year£84/$110 per year£240/$315 per yearOption to Use Custom DomainYesNoYesYesYesFull Access to All PluginsYesNoNoNoYesFull Access to All ThemesYesNoNoNoYesWordPress Advertising BannerNoYesNoNoNoBranding Flexibility & CustomisationYesNoNoNoYesFull SEO FlexibilityYesNoNoNoYesIntegrate Analytics PlatformsYesNoNoNoYesPlugin SupportYesNoNoNoYesTheme SupportYesNoNoLimitedYesTechnical AccessYesNoNoNoNoFull ControlYesNoNoNoNo

*The cost varies on the cost of hosting and whether you are paying for any plugins and themes

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5. Which Version of WordPress Should I Use?

This is a tough one to answer as there isn't a right or wrong answer, so you won't like the answer: it depends.

Just like the questions I asked at the beginning of this post, there are too many factors to think about – these boil down to what you are looking for when it comes to running your own website.

Personally, I choose .org over .com but it may not be the right answer for you. The best thing to do is to look at the table above and understand which features are the most important to you.

That will help to guide you in the right direction. And whatever you decide, you are not "trapped" as you can still switch versions with ease if you decide to do so.

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It's unfortunate that beginners or those who are in the early stages of using WordPress are not aware of, or are confused by .com and .org. Even with the number of resources online, it can still be confusing.

Even though I personally prefer to use WordPress.org over .com, there are times where I have advised people to use .com if I believe that it suits them. And that's what it boils down to: the individual/s using the website.

Even though there seem to be more disadvantages for .com than .org, it's all relative as the few disadvantages for .org might be more overwhelming for some and the number of disadvantages in .com is actually small in comparison.

Again, that depends on you, what you are looking for and what are you planning to do.

So I'm curious: if you are already using WordPress, which version are you using and why did you pick that version?

If you are not using WordPress and you are thinking of using it, which version appeals to you more and why?

Let me know in the comment section below.