Many individuals that are interested in starting a WordPress website discover there are two different versions. This often leads to choosing the wrong platform for their needs. So, what’s the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?
WordPress.com is a separate for-profit paid service that offers web hosting services and is powered by the WordPress.org software. It’s really easy to use, but a lot of the flexibility and control you get with WordPress.org is lost.
Understanding your business and website necessities and choosing the right platform from the start is a crucial step to online success.
In this beginner’s guide, the goal is to explain the differences between the two versions of WordPress and help those interested in starting a website make informed decisions about which version of WordPress is right for their needs.
If you’re not sure what WordPress is, we recommend reading What is WordPress.
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WordPress.org vs WordPress.com
To get a clear idea of the two versions, we’ll take a look at a comparison breakdown of both platforms and highlight the key differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
WordPress.org also referred to as “self-hosted WordPress” is the really popular website builder that you’ve probably heard about. This version of WordPress is the 100% free and open-source software available for anyone to use.
With WordPress.org, you’ll have 100% full control of your website. You are free to do anything with it and customize it however you want. The only thing needed to get started with this version is a domain name and web hosting.
Listed below are some of the benefits that you’ll have when choosing WordPress.org to build your website and reasons why it’s TarttWeb’s #1 pick as the best website builder.
- The WordPress.org software is free, open-source, and incredibly easy to use.
- You’ll have 100% ownership with 100% full control of your website and all its data.
- You’ll have full control to customize and modify your website with free, paid, or custom themes. Themes change the look and feel of your website.
- You’ll have the ability to add free, paid, or custom plugins to your website. Plugins give your website special features such as selling products, newsletter subscriptions, or a popup to display a sale.
- Make money from your website by running your own ads without having to share revenue.
- It’s not just for blogging. You can build an online store to sell physical or digital products, take payments, and ship right from your website.
- You can build just about any type of website such as membership sites, online communities, business websites, sell courses, and so much more.
There aren’t too many cons when it comes to using self-hosted WordPress.
- A domain name and web hosting account are required, which is also true for all websites on the internet.
- You will have to install and setup WordPress on your web host yourself. However, most reputable hosting company’s offer a one-click installation, which is ideal for beginners.
- You are responsible for updating your website. Fortunately, updating your WordPress site is as easy as clicking on a button.
- You are responsible for backing up your website. Thankfully, there are a ton of plugins that allow you to set up automatic backups.
- If you take and alter the software and something bad happens, there is no one responsible for damages and there are absolutely no warranties.
WordPress.org is the best option for anyone that wants to own a website and have 100% full control. The real cost of owning a WordPress.org website will vary on the type of website you’re trying to build. Other factors such as free templates vs premium templates and free plugins vs premium plugins will also play a part.
But for anyone on a low budget, then your only cost will be the domain name and web hosting to get started.
WordPress.com is a hosting service that uses the WordPress.org software. It was created by the co-founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, and is now managed by Automatic. This is why beginners often confuse WordPress.com with the popular WordPress.org software.
This service is comparable to other services such as Wix and Squarespace and offers many of the same types of features.
- Free – extremely limited
- Personnel – $4 per month, billed annually, $48 per year
- Premium – $8 per month, billed annually, $96 per year
- Business – $25 per month, billed annually, $300 per year
- eCommerce – $45 per month, billed annually, $540 per year
- VIP – starting at $2000 per month, depending on your needs
Listed below are the pros and cons of WordPress.com.
- There’s a free version with free hosting, free subdomain, and up to 3 GB of space. But after that, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan for more space.
- It has a low learning curve that makes it easy enough for anyone to use.
- Paid plans offer a free domain for one year.
- This is perfect for hobby bloggers and those interested in starting a family blog.
- Backups and updates are all done for you. WordPress.com takes care of that.
Although WordPress.com is great for many, there are some limitations to be aware of before choosing this option.
- Many of the features you get with the WordPress.org software are hidden behind their different monthly plans.
- Whether it’s a free or premium plan, you’ll never truly have 100% complete control over your website. WordPress.com owns your content since everything you create is hosted and maintained by their platform.
- With the free version, ads are placed on your site. Your users see those ads, and you don’t make any money. You are also not allowed to sell ads on your website, which limits ways to monetize your site. It is possible to upgrade to their WordAds where you can share your revenue with them.
- Free WordPress.com sites come with a WordPress.com branded domain (example: https://yourwebsite.wordpress.com). You’ll need a paid plan to get your own branded domain (example: https://www.yourwebsite.com).
- You must adhere to their community guidelines. This means nothing controversial including but not limited to gambling, adult content, CBD, etc.
- Your site can be deleted at any time if they believe it violates their terms of service.
- You are limited to the free and premium themes that they provide. This means, no custom themes.
- There are no options to install plugins unless you upgrade to the business plan. Then you’ll have the option to install from a selection of compatible plugins of their choosing ($300 / year). However, the VIP plan does allow you to install plugins and starts at $2000 per month.
- Only business plan users can install Google Analytics. This means that unless you have a business plan you cannot utilize powerful tracking software. You are restricted to their stats.
- It’s not possible to build membership websites with WordPress.com.
- You can’t build an eCommerce website unless you upgrade to their eCommerce plan. So, no selling products unless you are willing to pay $540 per year.
- WordPress.com does not support multisite, which is why free accounts get a subdomain (example: https://yourwebsite.wordpress.com).
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com Visual Comparison
We covered a lot of pros and cons that highlight the differences between the two versions. Below is a quick visual comparison, so you can see the different features of WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
Wrapping it Up!
WordPress.com is going to be best suited for the hobby blogger and for people just looking to play around or create a family blog. It would also be a good choice for an online resume or a small business just looking to create a basic online presence.
Now if you’re looking to create a successful online business, then the free and open-source WordPress.org software is going to be the best option. This option is going to give you complete authority and control over your online business. You’ll have control over your content, where you host, your income, and the freedom to grow as needed.
Hopefully, reading this guide has given you a better understanding, of the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, to make an informative decision when choosing how to start your website project.
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