As a new user, figuring out nuances in the variations WordPress comes in maybe one of the many things you may be facing. Well worry no more, today we’re going to demystify these differences to help you choose the best option for you.
While both options provide the developers’ favorite content management systems, certain striking differences exist between these two. Learning about these makes all the difference in which site you settle for in your website development.
Our goal here is to clarify the differences and highlight how each caters to different website builder’s needs.
Before we jump into detail, check out this video that explains how WordPress works:
What are WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
Let’s open up by explaining what these two are to get everyone on the same page. WordPress is one of the leading website development software, programmed to assist you in building blogs and e-sStores all alike. It’s a free, i.e. open source application that can be directed downloaded or set up with a hosting package separately.
Both options operate under the same software, but where WordPress.com is hosted on your behalf WordPress.org requires you to install it yourself and choose a hosting site. Most developers consider the latter as more superior since it lets you create without any restraint.
WordPress.org needs you to acquire your own domain name and hosting site to have total control of your building experience.
WordPress.com uses the open-source program from WordPress and functions as a pro-profit platform held by Automattic.
They both work in helping simplify the process of creating websites.
WordPress.org at a glance
This is considered “the real WordPress”, and is the one most people have seen or heard of when WordPress is talked about. It’s an open-source, self-hosted site that allows you ample creativity. All the content and themes on your website belong to you and you have complete control over how you want to set it up.
WordPress.org is a common choice with rookie and seasoned web designers, invested in detailed customization and stylesheet handling. Here, users are tasked with maintaining updates themselves, with a hands-on approach to downloads and installations.
- 100% free to download
- Connect to custom third party add-ons
- Choose any theme
- Boundless capacity for customization
- It allows you to earn money by managing your ads without splitting the profits.
- Permits premium membership
- Combining with platforms like Google Analytics allows you to customize data tracking and analysis
- You need to separately purchase a hosting site.
- Installing of the site occurs separately (not automatic login)
- The burden of supporting the site and server is on you.
- You’re responsible for the updates and backups
WordPress.com at a glance
WordPress.com functions as a hosting site where no additional downloads and installations are needed. All you have to do is log in, create an account, and sit back and let the software take care of the hosting for you.
At its simplest level, all you’ll have to do sign up for a free account, choose your theme, and commence publishing. This makes it a favorite among scholars, bloggers, and creatives who have no interest in exploring the freedom offered by WordPress.org.
- Simple to set up with no additional installations
- Easy to adapt specifically for your site
- Completely free
- Accessible to newbies
- No advanced coding skills needed.
- Virtually all the technical features are handled for you
- Upgrades are needed for advanced adaptation
- No plugins needed
- The freely available themes are limited
- The ads are posted on free webpages, so you can’t make any money from them
- Selling ads on your site isn’t permitted, thus hampering the profits you can make
- Only the limited provided themes are accessible, you can’t upload
- If anything you post is seen as a violation of their terms, your website can be taken down
Relevant: Tips to optimize your website speed
Now let’s get down to the differences that set them apart. Their disparities make them suited for different needs as a website developer. And the best part of it all is that if you discover your initial choice doesn’t match up to what you want, you can easily switch between the two.
Self-hosted vs. hosted sites
Self-hosting gives users total access and control over their site and content, allowing them to manipulate them as they please and customize the entire process.
Such webpages have their own domain addresses and are anchored by a choice of several hosting sites that provide server space for all types of self-hosting pages. The owners can make alterations as they please and add functions and tools to fully customize their websites.
If handling your own hosting and overseeing the server for your site doesn’t sound appealing to you, then WordPress.com may be the CMS for you. It’s accessible by all and effortlessly allows you to have your site up and running without sweating over the complicated features of running the site yourself.
However, for the hands-on developers that get a thrill from running everything in a full-system service resolution, then WordPress.org is for you! So, depending on your skills and the level of flexibility you’re after, the choice of sites is up to you.
All my fellow creatives gather around! This section questions the level of creative control that, as a web designer, you’ll want in setting up your site. Themes are one of the keys, defining features of website building sites. You’ll want a design and ‘feel’ that aligns with your brand, and choosing the right theme is the first step towards that.
If you go with WordPress.com, the option of themes you’ll have at your disposal, though large, will be limited to the ones provided. The feature to add external themes isn’t available unless under a premium account.
The open-source version WordPress.org is more flexible and permits uploading of themes to expand your theme bank, even without purchasing the premium subscription. With the tools on the admin control panel, even the less tech advanced designers can alter their sites efficiently.
An upgrade to premium only makes their already impressive theme library, an irresistible option.
The only people I see shying away from this maybe those who find the open-source set up overwhelming and cannot handle managing it themselves. Basic-tweaks enabled by WordPress.com in this case, maybe more appealing to you, though you’ll need to fork out a lot of money to make any significant changes.
Third-party add-ons allow you to incorporate useful functionalities like online marketing, improving your website’s performance.
Both platforms utilize the plugin directory, with features that allow you to view the rating users give you and the number of add-ons included.
WordPress.com comes with pre-installed blogging tools that, for the standard blogger and website developer, including everything they’ll need. These range from social platforms to expand your online presence and interactions and google analytics among others.
Outside these built-in features, no additional plugins can be included in WordPress.com.
As an entrepreneur, this is very limiting since you have a restricted number of add-ons you can make.
This is one of WordPress.com’s downfalls, it prioritizes simplicity over flexibility, sacrificing their users’ ability to customize their sites.
If you blog for leisure, then the tradeoff may not be a concern for you. However, if you value adaptability and control, then you’ll more likely find WordPress.org better suited for you.
A good way to evaluate the plugins you choose lies in the number of downloads.
Self-hosted WordPress.org is commended for its boundless options of plugins, free and premium. A more concrete understanding of tech workings is needed to handle this version, and the difference will definitely show in the presentation of your site, so it’s absolutely worth it.
Unlike its alternative, WordPress.org doesn’t require you to be subscribed to a premium account to access their useful plugin directory functions.
An essential aspect of your website is the domain address you’ll opt for. This is a defining aspect of your website’s singularity, and you’re better off owning your domain title in my opinion.
As a platform, WordPress has personalized domain titles that show that your website isn’t anchored by third-parties. With WordPress.com however, this adaptability is only available to premium users, the free version simply reads as “WordPress.com.”
The two variations differ in their utilization of the platform’s designing functionality. For the blog-focused, WordPress.com handles almost everything on your behalf, so your own task is to create content.
However, with WordPress.org, the software provides a stage for users, and the technicalities of how it’s designed are completely up to the customer. So which is the perfect one for you, you ask? Well, I can’t choose for you, but taking the time to think about your websites’ needs will reveal to you what your priorities are. And with that, you’ll be able to weigh which one best caters to your needs.
Ease of use
For starters, both platforms aim to ease your task of website development, the disparity now comes in how each of them chooses to do so. The control panel they both function under is the same.
WordPress.com is specifically tailored for bloggers, and thus, its tools and features are designed to help you manage and put content out. Its set up is arguably more simplified and even beginners won’t struggle to work with it.
Simply logging into WordPress.com and initiating your website allows you access to your page. As you go through all the prompts, they’ll guide you until you’re into your account and you can start working instantly.
With its counterpart though, familiarity with coding is essential in helping you take your website to the next level. More steps and prompts are involved in WordPress.org, and also more complex.
For starters, you can’t directly go onto the platform to log in, your journey begins on your chosen web host. Once you’re signed in there, you’ll be presented with a choice of two routes of installing your hosting tab.
A personal favorite is Bluehost, which gives you access to a single-click installer. Here, like WordPress.com, you only have to give your website title, complete a few details, and you’re done!
The marked difference between the two sites is the number of features each has, with WorsPress.com making it less confusing for newbies. But to be transparent, if simplicity is what you’re truly after, WordPress.com isn’t the most streamlined in the industry anyway, so this argument may not hold much water.
Unless you purchase the business plan, the limitations on your site with WordPress.com will hamper your success. With the free version, you’ll also have to deal with having their ads all over your site. The monthly plan is somewhat affordable and expands what you can do with your site.
If you’re willing to sacrifice functionality, then WordPress.com may work for you, though you’ll still need to purchase the domain. Here’s the cost break down of each:
E-commerce & monetization
Monetization options vary between the two, with WordPress.com only offering this feature under the premium business plan. Free plans cannot be monetized, but once signed up to their advanced plan, you’ll be able to trade in all sorts of items in over sixty countries and even collaborate with courier companies.
WordPress.org on the other hand, lets you monetize your page as you please. There are virtually no restrictions and all the ads displayed on your site are yours, tailored to make you money. Its open-source feature means you can incorporate any monetization software to run.
Goods selling isn’t the only means of making money off your website. Collaborating with ad networks means you share a percentage of their revenue, so earning your money. Funded partnerships and associate marketing are carried out significantly more efficiently on WordPress.com. So ultimately, it comes down to how you want to monetize your site.
If you want a fully-fledged e-store to trade goods in bulk, WordPress.org is your best option. It affords you total adaptability in handling payments, changing goods, and choosing shipment options. WordPress.org provides the easiest way to build an e-store website or select from various other WordPress eCommerce, membership, and LMS plugins.
I’m an avid blogger, so this feature for me often does act as a deal-breaker. Depending on the purpose of your site, this may either be a bonus feature you occasionally use, or the center of your entire site. Many bloggers agree that WordPress, regardless of the version, is one of the most powerful blogging platforms in the business.
Your blogging content acts as a handy means of creating traffic for your site by attracting people to your site. Words rank highly, so your ability to take advantage of the blogging features will impact how well your site does.
WordPress.com, for both personal and commercial writing purposes, is the commendable option. The writing features are presented to you ready for use, making your writing more streamlined.
If however, your website isn’t centered around blogging, and only utilizes the tool as a bonus feature, then WordPress.org will be good for that.
The process of configuring your website to help you rank better on Google and Bing is a crucial website feature to consider. Both versions provide the same top-quality features for this giving you an edge over most other sites.
WordPress sets up sitemaps that are linked to search engines and help locate and read your site, establishing what it’s about.
Like the monetization feature, plugins are necessary if you want to take your SEO to the next level. Tweak-able changes like metadata help you choose profitable key terms and linking connections.
Both options utilize the functions offered by the main platform WordPress, however, the extra freedom WordPress.org affords you permits making manual adaptations to improve your optimization techniques.
Keeping an eye on the progress of your website allows you to monitor how well it is doing, enabling you to make changes accordingly.
With WordPress.com, at its best, it lets you monitor your traffic and impact, but additional features need the business plan to be accessed. The trusted Google Analytics isn’t available here, so you’ll have to upgrade to install it.
WordPress.org on the other hand, allows you to monitor data like visitor traffic, bounce rates, the total time users spend on your site, and the conversion rate. This gives you a thorough account of the functionality of your page and highlights how the way you run your site impacts your success and profit and growth.
Security and maintenance
Ensuring the security of your site is elemental, especially if it’s more than just a hobby, but a sustainable business forum. Part of that is guaranteeing that the software is up to date. SSL certificates are crucial as they safeguard visitor information as they surf on your website.
These appear as tiny padlocks symbols adjacent to your URL. And as a bonus, when Google is ranking your site, that tiny icon makes all the difference since it tells them how secure your site is.
The certificates are incorporated in the monthly plan under WordPress.com but come as a complementary feature in WordPress.org, so you won’t have to renew separately.
Again, like most WordPress.com features, their security is arguably more streamlined, though not 100% guaranteed to be safer. Their plans are close-programs and this, according to some site builders, makes it safer by default. You’ll have to size it up yourself.
However, with WordPress.org, because it’s open to so many sources, it’s vulnerable to being breached. Thus, you have to be more vigilant in your control over your security, and with the right systems in place, you’ll be just as protected.
It’s a consequence you’ll have to deal with in exchange for limitless flexibility and to fasten your defense, you can set up supplementary security plugins. You’ll also be in charge of handling backups and updates.
Copyright & ownership
I know for me, this is crucial since I value having full ownership rights to all my content on my website.
One of the major differences between the two is the issue of website ownership.
When you use WordPress.com, then WordPress that essentially controls your site, not you. Since it owns your content, it has the autonomy to take down your website if they decide that some aspect is against their terms.
Though this isn’t common, that just means you need to be vigilant with your content so as not to violate their standards. And since the criteria for determining this is up to them, not you, you may lose a bit of your authenticity when conforming to the rules.
WordPress.org websites give you complete ownership and don’t interfere in your business. Since you purchase your host sites, security, and domain individually, you have the free will to do as you please. I’ll add here that obviously if your “freewill” violates laws beyond online terms, then you’ll be dealt with by the law officials.
If your website is for commercial purposes, then you may feel safer with WordPress.org, since everything you produce belongs to you and you don’t answer to anyone.
Help & support
For instance when some errors occur or you’re stuck and don’t know what to do, having a functional support center is crucial. While neither provides the top customer service featured in high-end website developer sites, there are other means to get assistance.
No additional help services are available with free WordPress.com, but you can seek help from the WordPress community platforms. This may be stressful since you’ll need to filter through the sea of data to get what applies to you. The blogger plan offers better services and gives you online correspondence assistance. This isn’t as handy and forthcoming as the personal subscription that has a 24-hours service every weekday.
With WordPress.org, because you stand as an independent entity, there are no pointed support services available. You’ll have to look into online platforms and other developers to find answers to any issues you encounter. That’s what you get for freedom right!
Think of it as baking a cake, WordPress.com suggests a recipe you could use, while WordPress.org leaves you to do it yourself or just order one from the bakery shop. Because of how daunting it may be to handle WordPress.org with no guide, most here opt for WordPress.com.
So, which one is better? Unfortunately, I can’t answer that for you, but if you assess what you hope to get out of your choice, you’ll be well on your way to selecting the perfect one for you.
If you’re not intimidated by the freedom, the more flexible WordPress.org is for you, and even established brands like Disney use it. For the less technologically experienced, who want an all-in-one solution, then WordPress.com is for you. In WordPress.org you’re a homeowner, in WordPress.com you’re a tenant at a rental. Each has its benefits, and your choice lies in what your plans for your “house” are.
I hope you found this comparison useful in outlining the disparities between the two sites, WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
If you liked this article, then go ahead and check out our other takes on various website building.
- Adding analytics in Woocommerce
- All you need to know about Bigcommerce
- Shopify or Wix? Which one should you choose?
Comment below and let us know what comparisons you want me to break down for your next!