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For all those newbies in WordPress, the small disparity in domain makes all the difference in the world between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. I remember my first introduction to WordPress, I was struggling to know which one is which, like those identical twins that only their family members can tell them apart.
The confusion regarding both platform has been around since quite some time. And for good reason so, they basically have the same name and the same founder. So the line might fall short.
But, in this article we are going to dissolve the confusion once and for all, providing you with clear and concise distinction between the two platforms.
What is the difference between the two platforms?
Although we are going to go in more details later on the article, let us give a sneak peak on the main difference of both platforms.
- WordPress.com – is a proprietary website provider, mainly for blogging, but also provides premium plans for varieties of websites. Creating a blog with WordPress.com is a simple as creating an account, all you need to do is sign up. They offer hosting and will handle everything for you, but at what cost?
- WordPress.org – this is the self-hosted version of WordPress. It operates as a open-source system management and is available for everyone to access. WordPress.org is entirely free, although it will cost you some bucks for hosting, domain or optionally a theme and plugins. Albeit, you are in complete control of your website.
We intend to present to you each platform individually, see in detail what they have got to offer and provide you with an infographic of the main factors that sets them appart.
WordPress.org - The self-hosted platform
As we have perpetually stated in our articles, WordPress is the fastest way to build your website. To make the distinction clearer, WordPress.org is an open content management system that allows access to all those who share knowledge to contribute to its core founding.
WordPress.org is free, you can install it directly from their main page and get started instantly. It was originally created for blogging, but as the platform grew, it expanded its capabilities and now you can build practically any kind of website you want, monetize it or use it as an online transaction platform, you own your website.
There are no limitations whatsoever in terms of functionality, design, or usage. Flexibility runs in WordPress.org, unlike any other website creator.
Though WordPress is free, there are still some on the sideline payments you will need to make, to have your website running with WordPress.
You will need hosting and domain to set up your site, which will cost you approximately 3 to 100 + dollars per month for hosting depending on the plan you choose. A new domain will cost around $10-20/year, while the price of a pre-registered domain will be more expensive, and vary depending on popularity.
You can always start low, with a simple hosting or domain provider, as your website grows and evolves so will you, most of the hosting providers base the price on-site popularity and visits.
WordPress has become the prodigy of website creation, many of the hosting providers will offer you a one-click WordPress installation, simplifying the process into tiny pieces. Host services like Bluehost will even have a domain included with their paid plans. You could kill two birds with one stone.
Flexibility in WordPress.org is the main reason why this platform is so popular and beloved by many. You are your own boss when working with WordPress and the possibilities are endless.
WordPress.org’s anatomy is made up of plugins and themes. Plugins are extensions that add functionality to your website, choose from thousands of plugins that exist in the WordPress ecosystem, all free, paid, or custom.
Themes, on the other hand, take care of your site’s design.
Creativity thrives in diversity, and that is exactly the case with themes from WordPress.org, there’s an array of a variety of themes, free and premium ones.
Fully customize your website and design it, even if you don’t have a designer’s degree, theme creators make it easy for everyone to craft beautiful masterpieces. You could opt from minimal themes, flashy themes, or extravagant themes, it’s like a candy store there. There is a theme for every type of website.
Installation of third-party plugins is unambiguous and straightforward, you can install any plugins available for WordPress and have it perform miracles on your site.
How does WordPress.org handles security?
WordPress.org has kept its end of the bargain with top-notch maintenance by professional developers who always keep an eye for security breaches or poorly constructed code.
However, we keep mentioning that you are your own boss in this self-hosted WordPress. While it might be all fun and games, creating content and designing your site’s layout, responsibilities will also follow.
WordPress developers take care that security revamp does not happen in the entire WordPress habitat, but for your website, you are el Padron that need to keep safe and secure its property. There are many tools and tips that can help you be on the safe side.
The same goes for updates as well. With the arrival of new updates to WordPress, you must make sure to take all precautions and perform updates yourself. Granting all this, still, the process will be simple and straightforward.
Possibility to monetize your WordPress.org website
One of the best features of freedom is that you are able to do anything you set your mind to. If entrepreneurship is your thing, WordPress.org offers the potential to make money while running your website with no shared revenue.
WordPress.com is a website server that provides hosting, and on the free plan, the best you can get is a subdomain, no custom domain. You would have to switch to paid plans for that. Let’s see the premium plans that WordPress.com offers
- Personal Plan – costs $48 per year, offers custom domain and basic live chat support
- Premium Plan – will cost you $96 per year. It gives you access to premium themes and some advanced design tools.
- Business Plan – comes at $300 per year and offers 24/7 live chat support, installation of themes and plugins, and support 200 GB storage.
- eCommerce – comes at $540, this is the only plan that offers online store capabilities
- VIP – starts at $5000 per month, suitable for large scale websites and enterprises.
WordPress.com is the perfect platform for those who are looking to create a blog as an afternoon hobby. It comes with an easy to use interface, all the tools for blogging, and everything is handled for you.
With the free version of WordPress.com, it’s as easy as opening an account, you will be set up on a free subdomain, meaning your website URL will look like this
You will be granted a free space of 3 GB, creating posts, and adding pages will be as simple as the latter opponent. You are very limited in terms of design and customization. To make your website more advanced you will have to buy your self up to other paid plans, although they also come with some limitations.
WordPress.com is rigid and firm, meaning there is only some room for flexibility. For the longest time, WordPress.com left no space for third-party installation, with recent changes, this possibility is still nebulous.
If you wish to extend your site’s functionality that comes at a high price, you would need to be upgraded to their business plan to have this opportunity. In terms of design, they do offer free themes and paid ones, that are accessible to premium plans and up, but they are shortages in capacity and design.
You can customize your main parts of the website but only to some extends. Search engine optimization is only available for business plans and up, therefore if you want to rank high in Google or other search engines, you would need at least to buy the business plan, to get the SEO build-in support or install advanced SEO plugins, which are added expense.
It would seem like a sweet deal to exchange flexibility with simplicity, but only to those who do not wish to bother to grow an advanced website, if you want to make your site your own, WordPress.org seems like the right choice.
How does WordPress.com handle security
This is where WordPress.com shines. Websites you build with this version of WordPress are more secure by default, due to their closed nature. WordPress.com handles all the security for you, they offer heavily encrypted sites and monitor suspicious activity around your website.
The system is locked down, there is no possibility to make any vulnerable changes to your website, thus you can sleep tight knowing your website is being well treated in terms of security.
At the start of the free version of WordPress.com, you will be equipped with a pre‑installed SSL Certificate. Worth mentioning all the maintenance work will be covered by the Automattic staff ( the company behind WordPress.com and WordPress.org). No need to fuss about backups, updates, or optimization of your website, it will all be included.
Possibility to monetize your WordPress.com website
You have little to control over your website, with the free version of WordPress.com there will be ads on your website that you cannot remove, unless you upgrade to their paid plans, even so with some limitations.
Unless you are on the business plan that gives you access to the WordAds program, you will not be able to sell ads on your website. Even on the business plan, you will be prone to some limitations, such as limited affiliate links to only “sites that exist primarily to drive traffic to affiliate links. or sponsored posts, but not in “sites where the vast majority of content is sponsored content”.
If you wish to create an online store, that would be made possible only with the paid business plan or the e-Commerce plan equipped with marketing tools, possibilities to accept payments in 60 + countries, and unlimited products and services.
With WordPress.org there are not limitation on how you can monetize your website, you could use all the means that will work best for you.
Table of Comparison
Below you will find a table of comparison that visually differentiates the to platforms and offers you the possibility to comprehend and make the distinction between the two.
Ease of Use
WordPress.org is beginner-friendly, being accessible to a broad audience to use. Offers a simple installation process, either through their official website or via the host providers
Setting up a website with WordPress.com all it will require is a signup account, either by email or other means. Just enter your email, a name for your site, and pick a design from the pre-made layouts.
With WordPress.org you will have thousands of theme options to choose from including both Free and Paid themes. Most of them come with advanced customization settings and exquisite design
WordPress.com offers limited theme options. With a free account, you can only opt from free themes offered. Limited powers in theme customization as well. Paid plans can choose from paid themes and add custom CSS. Only Business plans an upload third-party themes
WordPress.org is built around plugins, they extend functionality to WordPress. You can install third-party plugins easily from the WP Dashboard. In its repository, WordPress holds thousands of plugins both Free and Paid ones. You can even add custom plugins.
With WordPress.com plugin installation is NOT allowed from Free, Personal, Premium plans. Unless you pay $300 for Business plan, in that case, you can install third-party plugins or custom plugins. That gives you the same power as a WordPress.org user.
If you create a website with WordPress.org, you will need hosting and domain, those will be added expenses either monthly or yearly, although WordPress is free. If you grow a high traffic website, expenses will only grow. But once you get established with good hosting and a domain, you own your website.
WordPress.com offers hosting and domain. With the free version, you will obtain a subdomain and storage of 3 GB, when switching to paid plans you can establish your own domain and are provided with more storage space.
Ads and Branding
With WordPress.org you are not obliged to show ads on your website unless you want to. The “Power by” is a free choice to include in your website.
Free WordPress.com will have you put up ads on your website, you will only able to remove those ads if you upgrade to Personal Plan or up. The “Power by” brand will be evident even in premium plans, with exception to Business Plan. They offer the freedom to remove the label.
Monetize your Website
WordPress.org gives you the freedom to gain profit from your website since you are your own boss, you can make creative ways to capitalize on your website. Sell ads, or use any ads program you deem fit. Every profit you make will be your own. No shared revenue.
With the free version of WordPress.com is not possible to make a profit from your website, if you generate high traffic on your website you can apply for marketing but with shared revenue. Only Premium Plans and up can sell ads from the WordAds program, still with limitations to affiliate and sponsored advertising.
Build Online Stores
WordPress.org gives you the liberty to create online stores. With WooCommerce plugin installed and its highly functional tools, you will be able to build your online shop in no time and manage your entire store capital, complete payments, and give it a dash of design with the help of themes.
The only version in which you can build stores with WordPress.com would be to have a premium eCommerce plan arranged. It comes equipped with marketing tools, possibilities to accept payments in 60 + countries, and unlimited products and services.
WordPress.org is vigilant to security breaches and issues, although you will be in charge of your own website security. All the updates and backups and everything that includes maintenance will be one by you.
WordPress.com will take care of all maintenance on your website. The will include covering security issues, backups, or optimization. At the start of the free version of WordPress.com, you will be equipped with a pre‑installed SSL Certificate.
Google Analytics Integration
In WordPress.org, Google Analytics will e integrated by installing the plugin, you can view powerful insights on your page’s traffic and performance. You can even add other powerful plugins handing performance reports.
The free version of WordPress.com comes with some built-in statistics that show your site’s traffic but nothing compared to Google Analytics. For it to be integrated you must switch to Premium Plan, or opt for Business Plan to install powerful analytics plugins.
In WordPress.org, you can rank your website high up the the wheel on search engines. You can install powerful SEO plugins that come with built-in tools and recommendation for best SEO practices
In the free version of WordPress.com you do not have much control over your website’s SEO. And to install powerful third-party tools that help you in that direction you would need to get a Business Plan.
Our mission was to make clear the distinction between the two platforms, and we went o the full extend to provide you insights and information on both. As to the question what platform is the best? There might play a few factors to the definite answer.
But one thing is for clear, WordPress.org offers you extreme flexibility and allows you to create the website of your dreams. You can build your website all on your own, no strings attached.
We laid down all the powerful features WodPress.org offers, the choice should be yours only. Just make sure which ever platform you choose will be the one the fits your needs most.
If you want a laid-back settlement for your blog, go for WordPress.com, it will be easier to maintain and set up. You will just have to be cornered on the customization abilities, which might lack with the free version.