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What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

One of the first choices that aspiring bloggers need to make at the start of their career is whether to use WordPress.com or WordPress.org.

It is possible to migrate a hosted WordPress.com website to a self hosted WordPress.org website. It is possible to move a self hosted WordPress website to WordPress.com too. Therefore, you need not worry too much if you later feel you made the wrong choice, as moving a website from one option to the other is straight forward. That being said, I feel it is better to get things right from the start (particularly as WordPress.com charge for redirecting a URL – more on that later).

In order to make an informed decision, let us take a closer look at what WordPress.com and WordPress.org offer.

Self Hosting with WordPress.org

WordPress is an open source blogging script and content management system (CMS) that is free to download. It has the prestigious title of being the most used website platform on the internet.

The software allows bloggers and other website owners to change the look of their website using a WordPress theme (also known as a WordPress design or WordPress template). The functionality of WordPress can also be extended significantly by activating a WordPress plugin; which is a set of functions that can be inserted into your website at the touch of a button.

WordPress can be downloaded free from WordPress.org. While there is a discussion forum in which users can ask other WordPress users questions, you are essentially on your own and need to handle everything yourself. You are not provided with support and you need to purchase a domain and web hosting in order to build a website using WordPress.

This can be a little daunting to non-technical users who have never owned a website before, however it means that you have full control over your website. There are no limitations on what you can and cannot do.

WordPress.org Home Page

WordPress powers a large percentage of websites on the internet.

Hosting a Website with WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a hosting service that is powered by the self hosted WordPress.org software (it uses a modified version of WordPress Multisite). Although many people believe that WordPress.com is only for bloggers, the service can be used to create any type of website.

What attracts many people to the WordPress.com service is that it requires no technical knowledge. WordPress will host the service for you. This allows you to create a website and publish it online in just a few minutes.

Using WordPress.com means that you do not have to worry about configuring your web host. Nor do you have to concern yourself with optimizing your website using cache plugins or installing security plugins to make it more secure. WordPress.com takes care of all of that.

WordPress.com Home Page

The WordPress.com service is known for being secure and reliable.

The Cost of Hosting a Website with WordPress.com

A basic plan for WordPress.com is 100% free and allows you to publish a website at the wordpress.com sub domain e.g. upthemes.wordpress.com. Be aware, however, that the free option is quite limited. You cannot use your own domain and WordPress.com will display ads on your website. You are also restricted to 3GB of storage and basic customization options.

Their premium plan retails at $99 per year and includes a custom domain name, font and CSS editing options, 13GB of storage and priority email support. Advertising banners are also removed and WordPress’s VideoPress feature is included as part of the plan.

Upgrading to the business option at $299 per year allows you to build an eCommerce website and store unlimited videos and images. It also offers live chat support and includes 50 premium themes.

WordPress.com Plans

WordPress.com plans offer a mixture of feature upgrades.

WordPress.com users can purchase upgrades individually and cater features to their own needs. The three plans that are mentioned above are essentially bundles of existing upgrades. If you prefer, you can purchase upgrades individually, but as you can see from the list below, the cost of using WordPress can quickly increase.

  • Domain Registration ($18 Per Year) – Most domain name companies charge $10 per year to register a domain, however WordPress.com charge $18. To discourage people from using their own domain elsewhere, they charge $13 per year to use a domain you already own. They also charge $8 per year to hide your domain registration information.
  • Site Redirect ($13 Per Year) – Moving a website from WordPress.com to a self hosted WordPress installation is easy, but if you do not want to lose all of that traffic you generated, you need to pay $13 per year to redirect traffic from your old domain to your new domain.
  • No Ads ($30 Per Year) – Removing ads from a free WordPress.com account will set you back $30 per year.
  • VideoPress ($60 Per Year) – VideoPress allows you to upload mobile friendly videos to your website. You can load videos up to 1GB in size and define privacy settings for visitors.
  • Additional Storage (From $20 per year) – If you find the 3GB of storage that WordPress.com provides free to be a bit limiting, then you will need to upgrade. $20 per year will give you an additional 10GB of storage, $50 will get you 25GB, and $90 will get you 50GB. Upgrading allows you to upload audio files and zip files (free users are restricted to image uploads).
  • Unlimited Premium Themes ($120 Per Year) – There are many free and premium themes available to WordPress.com users. It will cost you $120 per year to get access to all themes. If you change your theme a few times a year, this could be a worthwhile upgrade.

I believe some of the above upgrades are too expensive, but on the whole, hosting a website through WordPress.com will only be marginally more expensive than self hosting a website yourself as even a small self hosted WordPress website will cost between $50 and $100 to self host every year.

However, it’s worth remembering that WordPress.com will not cost you a penny if you do not need any of the above upgrades πŸ™‚

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Pros and Cons

The big difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is control. When you self host a WordPress website, you have 100% control over everything. For most website owners, having full control over their website is vital. However, for others, this additional responsibility is a headache as it means they need to backup regularly and deal with security issues. WordPress.com’s greatest asset is that it deals with technical issues so that you can focus on your website.

Unfortunately, profiting from a WordPress.com website can be difficult. Even if you pay $30 per year to remove advertisements, you are not permitted to display banners advertisements on your website or integrate advertising solutions such as Google Adsense.

You are, however, permitted to integrate affiliate links into your content, therefore it is possible to generate income through a WordPress.com website and still adhere to their terms and conditions (note that large companies who use the WordPress.com VIP hosting service are permitted to display their own ads and selected WordPress.com customers can earn income through WordPress’s own advertising network WordAds – but they take a 50% cut!).

Here are what I consider to be the main pros and cons of using WordPress.com and self hosting using the software from WordPress.org.

WordPress.com

Pros of WordPress.com

  • No need to spend time with technical website issues – WordPress.com handles everything
  • They backup your website every day
  • WordPress.com is well known for having reliable hosting and good security
  • They have a good collection of free and premium themes

Cons of WordPress.com

  • You do not have full control of your website
  • Very difficult to build a profitable commercial website with WordPress.com due to the restriction on banner use
  • Limited to the themes that are available on WordPress.com
  • Limited to the plugins that are available to WordPress.com users, which restricts how you customize your website as you cannot use most WordPress plugins
  • Cannot use WordPress.com to build an eCommerce website unless you upgrade to their business plan
  • The WordPress.com free plan only provides 3GB of storage
  • Website can be deleted at any time (if they believe you violated their Terms of Service)
  • You cannot remove the “Blog at WordPress.com” message

WordPress.org

Pros of WordPress.org

  • You have full control over everything
  • Like for like, self hosting a WordPress website yourself will be cheaper
  • You can upload files, edit files, install applications, and use any domain registrar and hosting company you want
  • You can place your own advertisements on your website
  • You can customize your website with custom WordPress themes and plugins
  • You can expand your website beyond WordPress, such as adding a discussion forum, a job board, or any other custom software
  • No one can ever delete or modify your website without your approval (except for nasty hackers and spammers!)

Cons of WordPress.org

  • You need to have a basic understanding of how to develop and maintain a website in order to run the website efficiently
  • You are responsible for making your website secure and ensuring that any errors are resolved
  • You need to deal with spam and other time consuming issues
  • Time spent dealing with technical issues could be better spent working on your website

Overview

If you are only looking for a personal blog to share your thoughts online, I recommend using WordPress.com. It is reliably hosted and backed up, and if you do not need any upgrades, it is 100% free to use. Likewise, if you do not want to have to spend time dealing with security and technical issues, you may prefer to have this handled by WordPress.com.

Unfortunately, the benefits of WordPress.com come at a price. If you use WordPress.com, you do not have full control over your content, which means that a WordPress.com administrator can change your content or delete your website entirely if they believe it is not suitable. You cannot integrate other software into your website and you cannot display advertisements on your website either. This really restricts how you profit from your website.

I believe the decision is simple. If you want to profit from your website, self host using the software available at WordPress.org. It is the only way to guarantee that you have full control over your online property.

If, however, you are only looking for a place to share your thoughts, WordPress.com is a great solution as they take care of the boring technical side of things.

Remember that whatever option you choose, the WordPress admin interface is almost identical. Therefore, users of WordPress.com will feel right at home with a self hosted WordPress website, and vice-versa. And if you feel you have made the wrong choice, remember that you can switch from one to the other at any time πŸ™‚

Good luck.

Kevin

8 Comments

  1. Pingback: WordPress.com vs WordPress.org | Auckland WordCamp

  2. Eva says:

    Hi! I’ve recently started my first WordPress.com page. And I am a total technical imbecile, I’m afraid. I’m trying out my Free plan for now, with my own domain, and I’ve been browsing around for plugins. What however I absolutely can’t find anywhere is this: Do I need a Premium plan or a Business plan with WordPress.com to be able to use plugins? I’m sorry if this is a stupid question, I just can’t find this anywhere. Thank you!

    • Syed basha says:

      For someone who started in the WP.com sphere, and later moved his assets to WP.org, its important that the differences between platforms is understood. There is no denying the power that WP.com has, especially with its solid infrastructure and the simple fact that you have its brand backing your own…

  3. John says:

    When I started my blogging journey then my first question was, Why I should choose WordPress.org and not other CMS softwares.

    I searched a lot about it on Google at that time and I found that everybody is recommending to use WordPress.org and I started doing the same.

    Now today I know that why people should choose WordPress.org . Because WordPress is an independent and easy to use content management system.

    The best thing about it is, We can bring any feature in our website with just using a single plugin. That’s really good. πŸ˜€

    I am using WordPress.org since last 3 years and I loved it. πŸ˜€

  4. arm dass says:

    Great to see a solid comparison between WP.com and WP.org. For someone who started in the WP.com sphere, and later moved his assets to WP.org, its important that the differences between platforms is understood. There is no denying the power that WP.com has, especially with its solid infrastructure and the simple fact that you have its brand backing your own, but WP.org just offers unlimited possibilities, assuming people are willing to explore and experiment.

  5. sunil reddy says:

    I searched a lot about it on Google at that time and I found that everybody is recommending to use WordPress.org and I started doing the same.

    Now today I know that why people should choose WordPress.org . Because WordPress is an independent and easy to use content management system.There is no denying the power that WP.com has, especially with its solid infrastructure and the simple fact that you have its brand backing your own, but WP.org just offers unlimited possibilities, assuming people are willing to explore and experiment.

  6. shekar says:

    So for someone who just wants a blog that friends can read and does not want to make money from it, I would be OK with WordPress.com? I understand from your notes above that the free version will show adverts but if I pay, I can elect not to have these. However, you quote the cost as dollars. I am in the UK, so if I set up my blog, will I get an option to pay in Sterling? Thanks

  7. e aadhar in says:

    I searched a lot about it on Google at that time and I found that everybody is recommending to use WordPress.org and I started doing the same.

    Now today I know that why people should choose WordPress.org . Because WordPress is an independent and easy to use content management system.

    The best thing about it is, We can bring any feature in our website with just using a single plugin. That’s really good. ????

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