WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: A Comprehensive Comparison & Which Should You Use?

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: A Comprehensive Comparison & Which Should You Use?

Confused as to what distinguishes WordPress.com from WordPress.org? Given that “WordPress” can be used to refer to two different entities, it happens frequently. WordPress.org is the home of the free open-source WordPress software, which you can install on your own server, as opposed to WordPress.com, which is a for-profit blog/website builder. Which one then ought to you pick for your website? Fear not—I’ll go over everything in this post! Let’s investigate this further so that you can decide with confidence.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: An Introduction:

Let’s start by outlining the main distinctions between these two popular blogging platforms.

The self-hosted WordPress content management system is available for free and open-source on WordPress.org. It functions as a non-profit organization and receives funding from all across the world.

WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a commercial service that provides a particular variation of the open-source WordPress software. Users can create websites more easily, but access to the underlying WordPress software is also restricted.

While most web providers allow one-click installations, WordPress.org gives you the freedom to download the WordPress software and install it on your own web hosting.

In contrast, neither manual installation nor self-hosting are necessary for WordPress.com. You can start producing material right away by creating a WordPress.com account.

It’s important to keep in mind that when people use the term “WordPress,” they typically refer to the free and open-source WordPress software (WordPress.org). This can cause misunderstanding because, rather than referring to WordPress.com, the astounding statistic that “37% of the web is built on WordPress” actually mostly refers to self-hosted WordPress sites.

Why Do They Use The Same Name? It’s Confusing:

Let’s go back to the beginning of WordPress to understand the source of the misunderstanding between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

The open-source WordPress software was first released in 2003 by Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg as WordPress.org, a publicly accessible platform that anybody could install and use.

Let’s go back to 2005, the year Matt Mullenweg established Automattic, the organization that runs WordPress.com. Here’s where the pieces start to come together: both WordPress.com and WordPress.org are run by the same person, but they have different goals. While WordPress.com is run as a for-profit service by Automattic, WordPress.org is still the headquarters of the open-source nonprofit.

The course of events makes the confusion’s cause clear. Open-source project WordPress.org was first. In order to monetise the open-source WordPress software, Matt later launched WordPress.com.

High-Level Differences Between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org:

WordPress.com and WordPress.org have different philosophies on a deeper level.

WordPress.com puts an emphasis on simplicity and offers the simplest way to build a website. This simplicity has a price, though, as it sacrifices some flexibility and gives you less control over the website’s features.

Depending on the WordPress.com plan you choose, you may have to sacrifice to a certain extent. You nearly entirely lose the freedom of self-hosted WordPress on the free or low-cost options. Although some self-hosted WordPress features are accessible through the more expensive WordPress.com Business plans, these options are still limited compared to the total freedom offered by self-hosted WordPress.

In conclusion, WordPress.com provides a remarkably simple user experience but at the expense of certain versatility seen in the open-source WordPress platform. As stated in the following section, the business strategy and above do provide some flexibility back.

Self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org), on the other hand, places more of an emphasis on flexibility. Even while it may not be as easy to use as WordPress.com, it is still accessible to non-technical users. The benefit is the vastly improved versatility in comparison to WordPress.com, especially when using the free or low-cost WordPress.com editions.

The most important thing to remember from this is that self-hosted WordPress gives you access to all of WordPress’s features, including all of its extensions and the source code for your website. Most web providers make it simple for non-technical people to install the open-source WordPress software, however it’s not quite as straightforward as WordPress.com.

Understanding the WordPress.com Business Plan:

WordPress.com launched a new Business plan in 2018, which complicates comparisons between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

The Business plan has a number of benefits over the free and inexpensive WordPress.com options. Notably, it offers customers the same ability to install unique themes and plugins as self-hosted WordPress. Users can also use phpMyAdmin to access their database and their server via FTP. As a result, the WordPress.com Business plan appears to be a condensed form of managed WordPress hosting. Despite these expansions in adaptability, it still falls short of the total freedom provided by the self-hosted WordPress option.

I’ll make clear which variations are applicable to all WordPress.com users and which are unique to those who are not on the Business plan as we continue to examine the variations below.

Practical Differences Between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org:

The most straightforward website construction platform is WordPress.com. Non-technical individuals can use WordPress.com and WordPress.org with ease even in 2020. WordPress.com is still a little bit simpler, though.

For WordPress.com:

  • Create a user account.
  • Create your website now.

With WordPress.org, an additional step is required:

  • Invest in web hosting.
  • Use the one-click installer provided by the host to install WordPress.
  • Start developing your website.

If you don’t upgrade, you can’t install themes and plugins on WordPress.com

WordPress themes and plugins are an enormous part of what makes WordPress so flexible:

Plugins and themes are essential components of WordPress websites. The website’s appearance can be changed with themes, and new features can be added with plugins. Simple components like contact forms and more substantial ones like turning your website into an eCommerce store can all be included.

The inability to install unique themes and plugins on WordPress.com used to be a key distinction between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

But in 2018, this changed, albeit with certain restrictions. The fact that installing custom themes and plugins is still not possible with free or discounted WordPress.com subscriptions can be a big negative given the abundance of free options available. You must choose the WordPress.com Business ($300 per year) or eCommerce ($540 per year) subscriptions, which provide you access to the option to install your own themes and plugins, to obtain additional flexibility comparable to WordPress.org. You’re getting closer to the WordPress.org site’s adaptability now.

Self-Hosted WordPress Is Usually Cheaper for Serious Websites (But Not Always):

The most cost-effective choice is WordPress.com if you’re launching a simple hobby blog. You can completely free start a blog with a WordPress.com sub-domain (such as yourblog.wordpress.com). The drawbacks include having WordPress.com adverts on your website and being unable to use your own domain name.

Self-hosted WordPress typically proves more cost-effective for serious blogs, company websites, or any website looking to make cash. The costs of maintaining a self-hosted WordPress website are quite low:

  • The cost of hosting for a year is about $50.
  • $10 will get you a domain name for a year.

You may have your own self-hosted WordPress installation with the option to install your chosen plugins and themes for just $60 per year. You can also create several WordPress sites for no additional charge.

Comparatively, using WordPress.com would cost at least $300 a year for just one site in order to have a similar level of freedom.

In summary, self-hosted WordPress offers a significantly cheaper alternative if you want the freedom to install unique themes and plugins (which is advised unless you’re starting a simple site).

WordPress.com Does NOT Give You Server Access Unless You Upgrade:

Technical users must be aware that unless they choose the Business plan or a higher tier, WordPress.com prohibits server access.

With the Business plan and higher, you have more server access rights, including the ability to use SFTP to connect to your website and phpMyAdmin to access your database. You won’t have full access though, not even on the Business plan. The ability to perform tasks like building your own databases or changing server configuration settings is still restricted.

Self-hosted WordPress, in contrast, gives users complete access over all files and configuration choices, albeit with some restrictions put in place by web providers. Technical users have unmatched control over the backend operations of their website thanks to the freedom to easily build staging environments, distinct databases, and more.

Self-Hosted WordPress Gives You 100% Control Over Monetization (WordPress.com Has Rules):

Self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) is the way to go if your goal is to monetise your website because WordPress.com places some restrictions on your ability to make money.

For instance, whether you’re on the Business plan or a higher tier, using AdSense or other display ad networks is not permitted on WordPress.com.

There are limitations even if WordPress.com allows paid content and affiliate links. For instance, you are allowed to include affiliate links as long as the main goal of your blog is to produce unique material. Writing sponsored pieces is also permitted, although there are restrictions — websites that primarily provide sponsored content are not permitted.

When preparing your monetization strategy for WordPress.com, you must give serious consideration to these guidelines. In contrast, self-hosted WordPress gives you complete freedom to monetize your website anyway you see fit, free from constraints imposed by outside parties (other than, of course, abiding by the law).

Should You Use WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

Most people should use WordPress.org, AKA self-hosted WordPress because:

Unparalleled flexibility is available with self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org), which enables you to quickly install themes and plugins and have simple access to your server. Additionally, it is inexpensive, allowing you to manage several WordPress sites for around $60 annually, as opposed to WordPress.com, which charges $300 for a single site with the ability to add themes and plugins. Due to your freedom from WordPress.com’s guidelines, self-hosted WordPress is a breeze to monetize. Despite being a little more complicated, it is still user-friendly because most web servers offer one-click installs. The advantages of using self-hosted WordPress outweigh the slight complexity increase for the majority of websites.

There are a few exceptions where WordPress.com might make a better choice, though:
  • WordPress.com can be a great, easy, and cost-free blogging platform if you’re making a hobby blog “just for fun” with no plans to make money from it.
  • The WordPress.com Business plan, on the other hand, offers a hands-off approach with maintenance handled by the platform and enables hassle-free theme and plugin installation.
  • However, for the majority of users, my preference leans toward self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org). It gives you more chances for monetization, flexibility, and control.

You can use my in-depth tutorial on installing WordPress on Bluehost to get started with self-hosted WordPress on my preferred host. It’s the route to building an effective, scalable website that is suited to your particular requirements.

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