There are two versions of WordPress, .COM and .ORG, so which one is right for you? This back to back comparison looks at WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. The names read similar, but the features, functions, and flexibility are quite different. The confusion ends here.
WordPress (WP) — a Brief History
The founders of WordPress originally designed the software to create blogs or weblogs. Those who build and manage blogs are called bloggers. They update the site’s content regularly to encourage visitor interaction with discussions.
37% of all Websites Use WordPress
WordPress’ software gained popularity because it was introduced as a free, open-source platform. Around 37% of all websites today run on WordPress. It’s no longer a sole blogging tool, either. Today, it’s possible to create any type of website with WP, including eCommerce. The main differences between .COM and .ORG are price, control, and ownership.
WordPress’ Building Blocks
Experts often use the house analogy to describe how WordPress works. The three components are land (hosting), property (website), and address (domain). The land is your web hosting. The house on the land is your website, and the house address is the domain name or web address. These are the basic WP building blocks of any self-hosted site.
About this Guide
The format and writing style of this guide makes it easy to follow and simple to grasp.
The sections covered on this page include:
- What is WordPress.com
- Notable restrictions
- Pros of WP.com
- Cons of WP.com
- What is WordPress.org
- Notable restrictions
- Pros of WP.org
- Cons of WP.org
- Quick comparison chart
- Closing thoughts
OK, let’s unpack the above to uncover the differences, starting with WordPress.COM.
What Is WordPress.COM
Public Release: 2005 | Founders: Matt Mullenweg | Owned by Automattic Inc.
WordPress.com is a simple, highly popular website builder complete with hosting. The free plan is for students or anyone who wants a trouble-free blog or site. You get all the basics with minimal fuss and no outlay. There are also paid plans for those who need more control, bells, and interactive whistles. Categories include Personal, Premium, Business, and eCommerce.
Free users get up to 3 gigabytes (GB) storage at the time of writing. Those who need more than 3GB must upgrade to one of the paid plans. Here are the company’s suggestions:
- Free Plans: Ideal for students
- Personal: Best option for hobbyists
- Premium: Good choice for freelancers
- Business: Small-scale business
- eCommerce: Package for online stores
WordPress also offers a VIP plan that starts at $1,700/Mo. Anyone who needs a VIP package most likely knows everything about WordPress.com and how to run a successful business.
Notable Restrictions of WordPress.com
You don’t own a WordPress.com website. You only borrow it with the free version or rent it with one of the paid plans. You can guess that there are certain restrictions to this. You have control over your content but little else with a website using WP.com (free). That means no access to advanced site customisation like themes or WP plugins.
The free WordPress domain looks like this: yoursite.wordpress.com. There’s a charge if you want to remove the .wordpress part so that your address reads mysite.com. To use a custom domain or web address on WP.com, you need the Domain Mapping Paid Upgrade.
Pros of the Fully-Hosted WordPress.COM
- Super-easy to set up even for raw beginners
- Simple to tweak with the built-in tools
- Basic plan is easier for novice users and 100% free
- com handles all site backups, updates, and server-side maintenance
- Option to upgrade to paid plans if or when you need more
Cons of WordPress.COM
- Free version displays distracting ads that cheapen your site
- Free version uses .wordpress.com in the site address (no unique identity)
- Not open source code
- Lots of customisation restrictions on the free plan
- Limited designs with built-in themes (templates); uploads not permitted
- Plugin uploads not available
- Limited ways to monetise (earn) from the site
- Third-party scripts not allowed
- com can delete your site if it violates User Guidelines.
Now for a closer look at WP.org to see what it offers that WP.com doesn’t.
What Is WordPress.ORG
Public Release: 2003 | Founders: Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little | Owned by WordPress Foundation
WordPress.org is the web address to get this free award-winning software. It’s quick to download and takes no time to install on the webserver or any hosting account. That means it’s you—not WordPress—who gets to host and therefore control your blog or website.
Notable restrictions of WordPress.org
The best thing about WP.org is that there are NO notable restrictions other than imagination. Yes, there are a few cons, but those who invest in this platform see them as par for the course. All the limits associated with WP.com vanish with WP.org. That’s the real power and potential of this world-beating site-building platform.
Pros of the Self-Hosted WP.org
- Open source code software; 100% free to download and use
- Unrestricted use of plugins, both official WP and third-parties
- Unrestricted use of themes, both official WP and third-parties
- User owns and has total control over their website and all its data
- 100% unique website name (domain) and emails
- Not restricted by rules and regulations set by the for-profit WP.com
- Unconstrained potential, limited only by the imagination
- Full control over search engine optimisation or SEO
- org sites tend to fare better in Google search results than WP.com
- You own and control all aspects of a WP.org project
- Control over site protection
Cons of WP.org
- org users must pay for hosting, including bandwidth and disk space
- Need to buy a custom domain (also a positive)
- User is responsible for the set up and installation
- No help with maintenance aside from tech support from the web host
The Cost of Growth
Small-scale WordPress.org websites are easy to manage, even for beginners. Projects that take off and start to receive high volumes of traffic are more of a challenge. Owners of busy WP websites and eCommerce stores usually need to invest in hired help at some point. It’s all relative, though. Part of the profits generated by larger sites should easily cover such costs.
Quick comparison chart
The quick comparison chart below compares WP.org with WP.com (free plan)
Needs separate hosting:
Needs separate WP account:
Can use a custom domain:
Third-party theme uploads:
Free themes available:
Third-party plugin uploads:
Backend control, e.g., CSS:
Via web host
Displays WordPress branding:
Database access and manipulation:
The restrictions of WordPress.com are plain to see. Even so, the free WP.com plan is perfectly okay for students and light use hobbyists.
Few webmasters control every aspect of a site that takes off and grows rapidly. That’s why the services of web developers and graphic designers are still very much in demand. Online projects that need professional help are usually paying for themselves anyway. That means site administrators pay for advanced upgrades and maintenance out of profits.
The WP.com free and basic paid plans keep site maintenance and customisation simple. However, WP.org is the best platform for those who demand 100% control and unrestricted modifications.