The key difference between the two
WordPress.com is a commercial service provider company. WordPress.org (aka the real WordPress) is the non-profit foundation that develops WordPress. The main difference between the two is basically who hosts your website.
WordPress.com provides a complete out-of-the-box service to start a WordPress website. Once you pay for their service, you redirect your domain to their service and can start setting up the website and adding the content. WordPress.org develops WordPress. You can download the WordPress (the actual web application) from the website and then install it on a third party WordPress hosting provider.
It might seem like a no brainier to go for WordPress.com because everything is setup for you. However, there are pros and cons to both solutions. Let’s see what are the pros and cons of each solution so you can make an informed decision when making the choice.
WordPress.com pros & cons
This WordPress exclusive hosting service founded by Matt Mullenweg, who is also the co-founder of WordPress.
- They have a free plan which includes up to 3GB of space. You can upgrade the free plan to premium at a later stage.
- WordPress.com is a maintenance free solution. You do not have to worry about WordPress backups, plugin or theme updates.
- They place adverts on the free plan and you can only use a subdomain on the free plan (e.g. abc.wordpress.com).
- Links to promote the WordPress.com service are also placed on the website.
- You cannot use any plugin or theme. They have a list of approved plugins and themes that you can choose from.
- You cannot place any adverts on the website, which limits your monetization options.
- You can only use their in-house statistics. So you cannot use solutions such as Google Analytics.
- You are severely limited to what you can do with your website. For example;
- you cannot setup a membership website,
- if you want an eCommerce solution you have to upgrade to a specific package,
- you are limited to using only WooCommerce.
WordPress.org pros and cons
WordPress.org is the website of the foundation that develops and maintains WordPress. You can download WordPress from this website and use it as you please.
- WordPress is free and open-source. So once you download it you are free to modify it.
- You can install and use any plugin and theme you want, including custom ones.
- Your business or you own the content on your website.
- You can monetize the website as you please.
- You have the luxury tho choose from a myriad of WordPress web hosts where to host your website, so it is easier to find a service that meets your requirements and budget.
- It is possible to create a membership, eCommerce and any other type of website and choose whichever eCommerce or other solution you want.
The cons of self-hosting your own WordPress website are just two:
- You need to find a WordPress hosting solution.
- You need to manage your website – keep all the software up to date, make sure it is backed up, keep an activity log etc
Which is the best solution for your website?
The best way to understand the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com is by comparing it to renting vs owning a car, or a house. You are limited to what you can do when you rent a car or a house, especially when it comes to customization. However, when you own the house or the car, you are free to change and use them as you please.
So if you are starting a blog as a hobby, and do not mind adverts on your website from which you won’t profit, then most probably the free plan on WordPress.com is the best solution for you. It will also give you a feel of what it takes to run a website.
However, if you are starting your own business website, you should download WordPress from the WordPress.org website, and host it on a third party web host. This gives you the flexibility to do literally what you want with your own website, including customizing it or getting custom plugins and themes developed for your website to address your needs. You also have much more options when it comes to the number of plugins you can use, the number of web hosts to choose from, and the number of WordPress-tailored services you can use.
It might sound like a lot to manage your own website. However, it is not. You can setup a WordPress website with just one click when using a managed WordPress hosting provider. You also have a wide selection of WordPress security and admin plugins which you can use to ease the process of managing and securing your website.
Can I move my WordPress.com website to a self hosted solution?
It is very common for new users to start with the free WordPress.com plan because getting started with it is way easier. However, once they see the platform’s limitations they want to switch to having their own website. You can switch from the WordPress.com platform to a self hosted solution very easily. Search online for a guide to assist you with the move. You’ll find plenty of them. I recommend following the WPBeginner’s guide, which is the most detailed.