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WordPress, the household name that powers most websites, is indeed the favorite among many. But did you know that there are two WordPress platforms? WordPress.org and WordPress.com are entirely two different platforms by two different organizations. 

There aren’t many instances where a brand’s “.com” domain is separate from its “.org” domain. This is because a brand under every domain extension would usually refer to the same thing. That said, it’s different for WordPress.

WordPress.org and WordPress.com Explained

Setting the .org and .com aside, WordPress is the easiest and most popular way to create your own website. Technically speaking, it is an open-source content management system; a tool used to create and manage your website. As of current writing, WordPress powers more than 40% of websites in the world. 

So, be it the .org or the .com domain, the one you ultimately would go for, highly depends on your requirements.

WordPress.org

WordPress.org

Known as self-hosted WordPress, this is the actual open-source software that is managed by the non-profit WordPress Foundation. This is where you’ll find the free WordPress software that you can download and install on your own web server to create a website. With WordPress.org, yes, you host your own website. 

On its own, the software doesn’t cost you anything but you need to have a hosting account to use it, which often comes with a price tag. 

WordPress.com

wordpress.com

An all-in-one ‘website as a service’ platform that is built on the WordPress.org software, this is a for-profit business owned by Automattic. They host your website and handle everything for you. You don’t have to download software, worry about the hosting, or manage a web server. 

You will, however, need to create an account on WordPress.com. To get started, you can sign up for the free plan. All you have to do is go to WordPress.com, sign up for an account, and you’ll be able to start building your website immediately. Bear in mind that many website features are paid upgrades.

Biggest Differences Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com

It is crucial, especially for beginners to understand the key differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. If you don’t, you may end up choosing the wrong platform. It is pertinent to have the right platform from the beginning, as this will determine your online business route of success. 

Getting Started

To start on WordPress.org, you need a domain name (website address) and a WordPress hosting solution (where your website files are stored on the Internet). You’ll need to do extra homework when it comes to shopping for the right WordPress hosting solution. This depends on your budget, your needs, and your expectations as well.

Most web hosting solutions come together with a domain name and also a web hosting control panel (tool to manage your website, web hosting account, etc) such as PleskcPanel and SPanel. Once you have selected your web host, it is during the setup process at the web host’s platform that you’ll get access to one or more methods of installing WordPress on your hosting account. This may vary with different web hosts. 

Whereas with WordPress.com, getting started on creating a new website is as simple as just creating an account. You won’t need to look into domains or web hosting solutions, these are taken care of by them. The whole process takes only a few minutes, after which you can roll up your sleeves and get down to business.

Flexibility

WordPress.org gives you full control of your website. You can do anything you want and as much as you need since you’re the master of your website and all its data. Whereas for WordPress.com, they own your website which means they can decide to pull the plug on it at any time should they believe something is off.

Themes

Themes are essential to uplift the look of your WordPress website. With WordPress.org, what you can do with themes is pretty much limitless. You can pick from tons of free themes available from the official directory at WordPress.org. You can also install other free or premium themes that you can find on the Internet. 

For WordPress.com, the number of themes you can use depends on the specific plan you sign up for. While the Free and Personal plans give you access to around 100 over free themes, the Premium, Business, and eCommerce plans give you access to all free themes and premium themes as well.

Plugins

Plugins are used to help extend your WordPress website’s features, enhancing it. When it comes to a WordPress.org website, you can install any plugin you wish, no matter where you host your website. You not only have access to over 50,000 plugins, you can also install other free as well as premium plugins from elsewhere.

wp rocket banner

However, for WordPress.com, you are only allowed to install plugins if you’re on the Business or eCommerce plan, where you can use the same 50,000+ plugins as mentioned above. So, if you’re on the Personal or the Premium plans, you’re out of luck when it comes to plugins.

Customization

Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org run the same software – the native WordPress software. However, the key difference is that WordPress.com incorporates various other mechanisms, interfaces, and limitations on the top, to gain more control. In other words, your choices of customization for WordPress.com websites are much limited. 

Since WordPress.org is entirely open-source, you can literally do anything you want to fashion your website to your preference, including writing custom code on your own. To sum it up, you can only do what WordPress.com allows you to do but with WordPress.org, you can do whatever you want to do.

So, yes. WordPress.org takes the trophy in terms of creative control. Its customization is limitless. 

Monetize your Website

Since WordPress.org gives you freedom and flexibility, it is overall better to go for this platform if you’re wanting to make money from your website. You literally have zero restrictions when it comes to Ads and any other method of monetization you prefer.

However, when it comes to WordPress.com, you’re severely limited as they do not allow you to run Ads on the Free and Personal plans. Additionally, on the Free plan, you are not allowed to remove their Ads from being displayed on your website. Worse, you can’t even earn from them.

You can join their WordAds program (if your website garners high traffic) but you’ll need to share your Ad revenue with WordPress.com. Unless you subscribe to WordPress.com higher paid plans, you’re restricted in how you can make money from your website. 

Security & Maintenance

WordPress.com takes the load off you and looks into the security and maintenance for you. This includes automatic updates and SSL certificates. Since the whole system is a closed ecosystem, you can’t do anything. In short, you’re relying on WordPress.com’s internal security and all the mechanisms that they have built around it.

wordpress support plans

That said, you’ll get automated site backups and one-click restore, only if you’re on the Business or eCommerce plan. So, please carefully consider this, as having backup and restore functions is highly crucial to any website’s long-term success.

Whereas for WordPress.org, as the name suggests – self-hosted WordPress, this would mean that you’ll need to take care of the security and maintenance aspects of your website. This includes looking into your web hosting security

Although WordPress.org software is built to adhere to the security requirements and standards, it is best to further improve your website’s security. You want to ensure your website is safe at all times, which includes looking into any software and security updates. 

Since you’re the one sitting in the driver’s seat when using WordPress.org, you’re fully responsible for implementing the WordPress security best practices. In short, you’ll have to pay more attention to security on WordPress.org than WordPress.com; a tradeoff you have to pay for more flexibility.

Pricing

WordPress.com does offer both free and paid plans. The free plan is 100% free with no strings attached. You can create your website on WordPress.com’s subdomain (e.g. yourwebsite.wordpress.com) and you have up to 3GB of disk space. However, you’ll have to be fine with WordPress.com’s own Ads being displayed throughout your website.

WordPresscom_Pricing

Speaking of the paid plans, they range from $4 to $45 per month. Each comes with different features but they all provide you with a free domain for one year with unlimited email support. As you can see, each plan is catered for different purposes; the ‘Premium’ is best for freelancers, the ‘Business’ is meant for smaller businesses, and the ‘eCommerce’ targets online stores.

Whereas WordPress.org software itself is 100% free. Having said this, if you wish to make your online presence visible to the public, you’ll need to get a web hosting solution and a domain name which come at a price. This price tag varies with the web hosting solution you choose. 

So, if you just want to get started with a basic and small website with no concerns of wanting to monetize from it, WordPress.com could be the cheaper option, as you can rely on their free option to get things done.

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s more to WordPress than meets the eye. It’s separated into two different platforms, from two different entities. Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org have their ups and downs. That said, there are certain circumstances that will motivate you to choose one over the other.

If you wish to create a website with no express intention to monetize it, go for WordPress.com. You can get started for free, the setup is easy, and you don’t have to worry about security and maintenance at all. However, if you want to launch a business website that you want to have full control of, do it on WordPress.org. 

At the end of the day, it all depends on what type of website you want, your budget and last but not least, what you expect from it.

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