When you’re starting a new site, there’s a good chance you’ll host it on either WordPress.com or WordPress.org. While WordPress is the most popular website platform around, few people understand the difference between its two service offerings.
Surely WordPress is just WordPress, right?
Not as such. While any WordPress configuration is an easy and simple way to build your site, there are still a number of important differences. The thing is, WordPress is used by everyone from bloggers to major corporations.
Of course, all of these users need basic things like ease of use and reliability. However, this is where the similarities stop.
Let’s take a look at how WordPress accommodates its different user groups.
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WordPress.com or WordPress.org – Explained
As we’ve seen, WordPress offers their service from two different top level domains.
They both do very similar jobs but in extremely different ways. In this article, you’ll learn the differences between both of the WordPress web builders: WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Before we dive to the nitty gritty details, the basic difference is that WordPress.org is aimed at larger enterprises, or sites which need more flexibility and customisation. My contrast, WordPress.com is geared towards working as an out-of-the-box solution.
In other words, as a general rule, WordPress.com is easier to get up and running, whereas WordPress.org allows larger organisations to create the exact site for their needs.
WordPress.com or WordPress.org – The Differences
With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper into some of the core differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
One of the biggest differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org relates to hosting options.
If you choose to have a WordPress.com website or blog, you have access to free hosting from WordPress itself. Whereas WordPress.org is self-hosted, meaning that you’ll have to pay for a dedicated hosting service.
Which one is better? Ultimately it really depends on the situation you are in.
For a smaller blog or website, the better option WordPress.com. If it becomes more successful and it takes over the world, then you can consider moving your site to WordPress.org as you will have access to much more features.
This would also mean you will need to start to pay for your hosting.
With that being said larger sites, e-commerce stores and larger blogs can be made and hosted and hosted on WordPress.com, they may not just reach their full potential.
For larger sites, it’s generally better to use WordPress.org, which would mean you need to get your own hosting. There are plenty of hosting services out there and finding the perfect one for you may be a bit hard.
Have a look at our WordPress Hosting page to find the best hosting options for your site.
Along-side free hosting with WordPress.com, you’ll be given a free domain name. This will be subdomain of WordPress. Unfortunately, this means that the web address is not yours.
To combat this, you can purchase a domain from WordPress.com when purchasing your plan.
For instance if someone called James started a design blog, they might call it “James design blog”. They could then get the URL jamesdesigndotblog.wordpress.com for their web address. However, this is not great.
They might then choose to buy a domain such as jamesdesign.blog instead, and map it to their WordPress.com site.
On WordPress.org you will need to buy your own domain name before finding hosting. This domain name will be solely yours and it will not be part of a sub domain. There are many companies that offer domain names for sale.
Most of them offer a domain name alongside their hosting. And if you really wanted to, you could even have an emoji domain.
Site Ownership and Intellectual Property
One of the biggest questions when it comes to WordPress.com and WordPress.org is, ‘Who owns what?’
In theory you own everything, apart from the domain name WordPress.com gives you when you sign up for free.
Anything that you post to your site or blog that is hosted on WordPress.com is yours.
That means if you own a website that insults people or promotes illegal activities it can be taken down by WordPress themselves. But all the content is still yours.
If you want to move your site from WordPress.com to WordPress.org you can do so without running into any problems when transferring content. You made the content therefore it will always be yours.
This content can be lost if a site is taken down by WordPress, unless you have created a backup. You also get to keep the domain name if you have bought it.
When it comes to WordPress.org, the site is yours and every part of the site is also yours. This includes the domain name you have, the content and ultimately the hosting of the site.
A lot of people don’t realise this fact and then need to move to WordPress.org in the future.
On the business plan you have access to third party plugins However, this is quite expensive for a hobbyist blogger or website owner. At this point it may be worth looking into moving to WordPress.org.
On WordPress.org, you are allowed to install all sorts of plugins onto your dashboard. These can help your websites perform better, check your sites comments for spam and many other possibilities.
WordPress.com or WordPress.org: Comparing features:
|Ownership and Control
|Fully hosted by WordPress.com
|Self-hosted by the website owner
|Varies depending on the plan
|Free, but requires hosting costs
|Limited customization options
|Full customization options
|Managed by WordPress.com
|Managed by the website owner
|Limited monetization options
|Full monetization options
|Plugins and Themes
|Limited selection of plugins and themes
|Access to thousands of plugins and themes
|Minimal technical expertise required
|Requires some technical expertise
|Ideal for beginners and non-technical users
|Ideal for experienced users and website owners who want full control
WordPress.com offers a limited range of design templates and themes, while WordPress.org provides access to thousands of customizable themes, allowing for greater design freedom. WordPress.com also imposes restrictions on modifying theme code and adding third-party code, further limiting design flexibility.
WordPress.org offers full customization capabilities, enabling users to modify theme code, create custom CSS styles, and integrate third-party scripts and widgets. WordPress.com, on the other hand, restricts these customization options, making it less suitable for users who desire complete control over their website’s design and functionality.
Table Summarizing Differences:
|Limited templates and restricted theme modifications
|Access to thousands of customizable themes and full design control
|Limited code editing and third-party integrations
|Full code customization, CSS styling, and third-party script integration
|Limited selection of plugins
|Access to a vast repository of plugins for various functionalities
Comparison of the pricing models for WordPress.com and WordPress.org:
WordPress.com offers a variety of pricing plans to suit different needs and budgets. The Free plan provides limited features and storage, while the paid plans offer more flexibility, customization, and resources.
|Limited storage, basic themes and plugins, limited monetization options
|6GB storage, custom domain, more themes and plugins, basic monetization options
|13GB storage, premium themes and plugins, advanced monetization options, priority support
|25GB storage, unlimited themes and plugins, advanced monetization options, priority support, premium plugins included
|50GB storage, unlimited themes and plugins, advanced monetization options, priority support, premium plugins included, e-commerce tools and features
WordPress.org is a free open-source software, so there is no cost associated with using the software itself. However, users will need to pay for hosting costs, which can vary depending on the hosting provider and plan chosen. Hosting costs typically range from a few dollars per month to hundreds of dollars per month for high-performance hosting.
Pricing Comparison Table:
|Varies depending on the plan
|Required (additional cost)
|Managed by WordPress.com
|Managed by the website owner
|Full monetization options
|Priority support for paid plans
|Self-support or paid support from hosting provider
Free Plans vs. Monthly Subscriptions:
For beginners and hobbyists, the free WordPress.com plan may be sufficient to get started with a basic website. However, for those who need more flexibility, customization, and monetization options, a paid WordPress.com plan or a self-hosted WordPress.org solution is recommended.
Factors to Consider:
When choosing between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, consider the following factors:
- Budget: WordPress.com offers upfront pricing, while WordPress.org requires ongoing hosting costs.
- Technical Expertise: WordPress.com is a managed platform, while WordPress.org requires more technical expertise for setup and maintenance.
- Customization Needs: WordPress.org offers greater customization options, while WordPress.com imposes some restrictions.
- Scalability Needs: WordPress.org is more scalable for high-traffic websites.
- Monetization Goals: WordPress.com monetization options are limited, while WordPress.org offers full monetization freedom.
Limitations of WordPress.com and WordPress.org
One limitation that WordPress.com has compared to WordPress.org is its theme support.
On WordPress.com this is limited, so finding the right theme for you may be a bit difficult. By contrast, WordPress.org has full theme support and each of these can be fully customised.
Free WordPress.com sites only have upto 3GB of storage space, which could prove a problem for sites with videos and lots of images. Therefore a WordPress.org site may be more appropriate and it might be a little expensive for smaller users.
Your WordPress.com site is also not monetized which means you cannot promote adverts on your site. If your site reaches a user traffic of over 25,000 users you can sign up to revenue sharing for advertising on your site.
But if your site reaches this amount of traffic, why are you not on WordPress.org yet?
On WordPress.com you only can see the analytics already installed for your site. No third party plugins are allowed. These plugins can really help your sites traffic.
You also can’t have an online store on WordPress.com. It would just be easier on WordPress.org. There is also no maintenance on your WordPress.com site and you can’t gain members. Maintenance will have to be done by you.
The impact of SEO capabilities and the ability to edit source code on WordPress.com and WordPress.org:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Capabilities:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial for driving organic traffic to a website and improving its visibility in search results. Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org offer SEO features, but the level of control and flexibility varies significantly between the two platforms.
WordPress.com provides a set of built-in SEO tools and features, including:
- Basic optimization for meta titles, meta descriptions, and keyword usage.
- Sitemaps for search engines to crawl and index website content.
- Image optimization tools for improving image search rankings.
- Redirect management for handling URL changes and preventing broken links.
While these features provide a basic foundation for SEO, WordPress.com imposes certain limitations that can hinder SEO efforts:
- Limited access to advanced SEO plugins and tools.
- Restricted control over site structure and URL structure.
- Difficulty in implementing custom SEO strategies and code-level optimizations.
WordPress.org offers significantly greater SEO capabilities due to its open-source nature and full customization options. Users have access to:
- A vast repository of SEO plugins, including tools for keyword research, link building, site audits, and technical SEO optimization.
- Complete control over site structure, URL structure, and meta tags.
- The ability to implement custom SEO strategies and modify source code for advanced optimizations.
This level of control allows WordPress.org users to optimize their websites for a wider range of SEO factors and achieve better search engine rankings.
Impact of Source Code Editing:
The ability to edit source code is a critical factor for SEO, especially for advanced optimizations and implementing custom SEO strategies. WordPress.com restricts direct access to source code, limiting users’ ability to make granular changes that can significantly impact SEO performance.
On the other hand, WordPress.org provides full access to source code, allowing users to:
- Modify theme files for better code structure, semantic markup, and speed optimization.
- Implement custom SEO plugins or modify existing plugin code for tailored functionality.
This access to source code empowers WordPress.org users to take full control of their website’s SEO and implement strategies tailored to their specific needs and goals.
Addressing Common Queries: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Which platform is better for beginners?
A: WordPress.com is generally considered a more beginner-friendly option due to its managed hosting and user-friendly interface. WordPress.org requires more technical expertise, but it offers greater control and customization.
Q: How much does each platform cost?
A: WordPress.com offers a variety of pricing plans, ranging from a free plan with limited features to paid plans with more flexibility and customization. WordPress.org is free to download, but you will need to pay for hosting costs, which can vary depending on the provider and plan.
Q: Can I use WordPress plugins on both platforms?
A: Yes, you can use plugins on both WordPress.com and WordPress.org. However, WordPress.com has a limited selection of plugins, while WordPress.org offers access to a vast repository of plugins.
Q: Which platform is more secure?
A: Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org take security seriously. WordPress.com manages security updates and patches for its users, while WordPress.org users are responsible for maintaining their own security measures.
Final Verdict: WordPress.com or WordPress.org
The decision between WordPress.com and WordPress.org ultimately depends on your specific needs, technical expertise, and budget. If you prioritize ease of use, minimal technical involvement, and a managed hosting solution, WordPress.com is a suitable choice. Conversely, if you seek full control over your website, extensive customization options, and the flexibility to self-host, WordPress.org is the preferred option.
Regardless of your choice, both WordPress.com and WordPress.org offer robust and versatile platforms for creating and managing websites. Carefully consider your requirements and preferences to make an informed decision that empowers your online presence.
Realistically, WordPress.com and WordPress.org are each useful in different scenarios. For instance, if you want to quickly set up a blog which is easy to keep up to date, WordPress.com is perfect.
If you need more more customisation or to monetise your site, it’s worth going with WordPress.org
For a large company you will need a WordPress.org site. This is because you want and need the site to attract traffic, and the best ways of doing this is making it your own with a personal touch. This is much easier on WordPress.org.