WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: What’s the difference?

What is the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?

WordPress.org is the home of the free, open-source blogging platform, while WordPress.com is the commercial version. The difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is like owning or renting a house.

This difference causes some confusion for newbie bloggers. This WordPress.com vs WordPress.org comparison has all the facts you need to make an informed choice.

Self-hosted WordPress vs hosted WordPress: At a glance

The guide is too long for you to read? Here’s the TL;DR:

Hosted WordPress.com has fewer design and functionality features but everything is taken care of for you. Best for those who want something simple and easy to use to write on straight away or for those who don’t mind paying up to $25/month for the full package.

Self-hosted WordPress.org requires more attention in terms of setting up great design, features and security, has a medium learning curve but gives you full control. It’s best for those who want to build an extensive and unique blog or business all for about $3 per month.

How to start a WordPress blog

In the question of WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, I recommend you go for an open-source platform like WordPress.org and self-host your blog on your own domain name and your own hosting space.

Self-hosting platforms are more author-centric and more robust. Then and only then you would have the full flexibility, control and ownership over your blog and your content.

You will be the boss and will be able to decide how you want to run your blog. I love WordPress.org and definitely recommend it for new and more advanced bloggers alike. I run all my projects on WordPress.org and so do more than 75 million of other bloggers and brands.

What’s WordPress?

WordPress is a free and open-source CMS (content management system). It was founded and initially released in May 2003 and has since grown to be the largest and most used CMS in the world.

WordPress was founded by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little. The mission of WordPress is to democratize content publishing one website at a time.

Even though it originally started as a blogging platform, WordPress is now used by everyone from personal diary bloggers to large Fortune 500 companies.

WordPress is continuously developed by the large community of thousands of developers who contribute and make the software better for free.

How do I use WordPress?

WordPress admin dashboard is where all the magic happens. There is a medium-sized learning curve to get used to it so do take some time to explore the opportunities and possibilities now open to you.

Here’s a brief introduction to the different sections of the WordPress admin and how to use them:

  • “Dashboard” features all the announcements such as the latest updates to the WordPress software and blogging statistics. You can edit the elements to suit your needs.
  • In “Posts” you can write your first blog article. Posts are the main content of your blog. Posts traditionally feature a published on date in the byline and are placed in a reverse chronological order on a traditional blog homepage.
  • In “Posts > Categories” you can group your posts into topics and allow users to find your content easier. A category page lists all the posts from that category. These pages are very useful to give your visitors an access point to dig deeper into your content.
  • “Posts > Tags” are similar to categories but they are just used more specifically. While I might have a category called ”Celebrity style” I might put a celebrity’s name as a tag to a post. A tag page showcases all the posts that are tagged with that specific keyword.
  • In “Media” you can upload your multimedia and get a list of all the imagery and videos you have uploaded.
  • “Pages” are more strategic than posts and are not updated daily. They are traditionally placed in the navigation menu and contain more static information such as an “About page” or a contact form.
  • In “Comments” you see all the comments posted by your visitors. You can reply to the comments and moderate the conversation.
  • In “Appearance > Themes” you can discover beautiful design themes that can make your blog look pretty. There are thousands of them.
  • In “Appearance > Customize” you can edit your chosen theme to make your blog look any way that you want in terms of fonts, colors and more.
  • In “Appearance > Menus” you can set up your navigation menu.
  • In “Appearance > Widgets” you can set up the look and features of your sidebar.
  • In “Plugins” you can find and activate powerful plugins to extend the functionality of WordPress. There’s a plugin for anything.
  • In “Users” you can edit your user profile or add other people who will be your collaborators.
  • In “Tools” you can import content from other platforms that you used to host your blog on.
  • In “Settings” you can change the name of your blog, add the tagline and do other useful tweaks.

What are the best WordPress themes?

There are literally thousands of WordPress themes available for you to choose from. And it literally takes seconds to test them out on your own blog without any risks.

Most WordPress themes are free to use while there are some premium paid themes too. Take a look at my guide how to design a WordPress blog guide for further details.

Here’s a list of all the best WordPress themes.

WordPress.com summary: All-inclusive with all the basics covered

Here’s the summary:

  • WordPress.com uses the software which you can download at WordPress.org
  • Simple and easy to use with all the basic features and services included for free
  • You get your web space and can start your blog within minutes
  • All-inclusive so you don’t need to worry about a hosting server, software updates or security maintenance
  • You get URL like myblog.wordpress.com but there is a paid upgrade to have your own domain name for $18 per year
  • You get 3GBs of space for storing your files and images but additional space costs $160 for a year for 100GB
  • It has a limited selection of free design themes
  • It does not permit uploading of additional design themes and plugins (unless you upgrade to a Business Plan)
  • You cannot edit HTML, PHP code, or content of a theme which makes it difficult to create something unique in the look and feel (unless you upgrade to a Premium Plan)
  • FTP access to your blog is not included either
  • Having access to customize your CSS design costs $30 for a year
  • You don’t have full control over monetization of your blog. Adsense, affiliate links and other external banners are not allowed
  • It displays advertisements on your blog unless you buy an Ad-free Upgrade which costs $30 for a year
  • Has a community so you might get visitors straight away without doing too much marketing thanks to the network effect

All in all .com version of WordPress is a nice place for any beginner blogger. It’s a great way to get you introduced to publishing online.

It’s a good job done by the people behind the company but you won’t have too much flexibility there and you won’t be able to monetize your blog unless you choose the WordAds platform.

For all the more interesting aspects of WordPress, you will need to upgrade to one of the paid plans.

  • Do you want to use your own domain name and remove the WordPress banner advertising? That would be $4 per month.
  • How about the ability to edit your blog design and monetize your content with ads? That’s $8 per month.
  • How about the ability to install custom design themes and plugins? The price is $24.92 per month.

Due to their nature (all-inclusive and simple to use for anyone) hosted platforms are limited when considering flexibility and extensibility of a blog. This can become a problem.

Depending on your ambitions, working on hosted platforms will eventually lead to issues that will limit the potential and opportunities you have with your blog.

You will see some of the similar problems on other hosted platforms such as Blogger, Wix and Squarespace. I have gone into further details on these in the WordPress vs Wix comparison guide, my guide to difference between Blogger or WordPress and the WordPress vs Squarespace.

You may not worry about these issues in the early days, but on your way to building an online presence you will outgrow the hosted platform.

Your prospects in terms of growing your blog and achieving something more with it are not too good at a hosted service like this.

WordPress.org summary: Full control and ownership

Self-hosting is considered a preferable method for these reasons:

  • You have the complete control, ownership and flexibility over your blog
  • You can run any ads that you want. You decide if you want to monetize your blog and how you want to monetize your content
  • You can edit the database and change different CSS and PHP files and codes
  • Having full control over your work means having freedom to set your own rules and limits. You can completely decide the look, feel and functionality of your blog
  • You can decide what to post, in what format, what words to use and which images and videos to use. Nobody is monitoring you and nobody places any rules or restrictions on your work
  • There are no risks in getting your blog shut down because of external decisions
  • Nobody but yourself can use your content to promote a service or a product, or to make money. Your content is yours. You own it, not a corporation
  • You own your blog and your domain name for as long as you continue renewing it and you can move between providers as much as you wish
  • It is a permanent home that always works and that you can depend on

The brilliant thing about it is the large community of people modifying it and adding on to the software. Open source software thrives on ideas from the community and so does WordPress.

You gain from the community by having access to a large number of free design themes and thousands of plugins that can add advanced features and new functionality to your blog without you needing to spend a lot of money or having technical and design knowledge.

You gain on great innovation too such as the new WordPress Gutenberg editor that many in the community have contributed to.

It is best to get off on the right foot and not need to make drastic changes later on when your blog is more established as that could negatively impact the work you have done with regards to search engine rankings and audience.

In any case I have also included full step-by-step process you need to move your blog from WordPress.com to the self-hosted version without losing any traffic and search rankings.

If you’re looking for a flexible blogging solution with lots of different design and functionality options, room to grow and expand your blog, self-hosted WordPress is the way to go.

WordPress.org is free and allows you complete control and flexibility. There is a community of thousands of volunteers who create free designs and plugins that allow you to create a blog that you want.

You completely control everything about it, you can run any ads, you can edit all the files and you can end up create a unique looking design. It’s a great piece of software and definitely recommended.

That’s it! Your have an answer to the WordPress.com vs WordPress.org question. Happy blogging!

Categorized as Posts

By Marko Saric

I’m on a mission to help you share what you love, get discovered by people who love the same things too and make the web a better place at the same time. Find me on Twitter and Mastodon too.