What is the difference between wordpress org and wordpress com

by | Feb 23, 2018 | Websites, Website Planning, WordPress | 0 comments

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

Nearly 27% of all websites on the internet is powered by WordPress, according to WordPress.com.  WordPress.com and WordPress.org are entirely different platforms and knowing which is which is one of the first steps to building a successful website.

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

‘WordPress’ is a commonly used term in the blogging world.  Rightly so, because whenever you’re surfing the internet, chances are you’ll visit one of the 75 million websites using WordPress as a Content Managing System.

The ‘real’ WordPress typically refers to WordPress.org, also called ‘self-hosted WordPress’.  To use this popular website platform, you’ll have to buy a domain and hosting from a trusted provider.  WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a free hosting service. They will let you build your website using WordPress.org software, and host it free of charge but on their own terms.

WordPress.org offers 100% free and open source software for building and developing websites.  WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a hosting service that offers free and paid hosting options for websites – and it’s not even half as popular as the ‘real’ WordPress.  Why?  Because the free hosting option is highly branded and for serious developers, this can hold a few disadvantages.

The 4 most important differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

  • A full domain on WordPress.org but a subdomain on WordPress.com
  • WordPress.com has more limitations than WordPress.org
  • WordPress.org users own the content of their site while WordPress.org owns the content of their sites
  • WordPress.org websites can be monetized but WordPress.com do not allow monetization

The question ‘Which is better?’ pops up almost every time the differences between the .com and .org versions of WordPress are discussed.  Instead of asking which is better, the more rewarding question would be which is more suitable for a specific situation.  Both versions serve a purpose but each is designed for different needs.

A full domain on WordPress.org but a subdomain on WordPress.com

WordPress.org allows users to use their own full domains with third-party hosting.  That means that domain and hosting costs will have to be paid but it also adds to the value of the website. 

WordPress.com websites include hosting and domains but the standard user will typically use a subdomain and not a full one.  This means that your website will only be part of a larger website – WordPress.com – and not be a complete website all on its own.  Your website address will, therefore, look something like mywebsite.wordpress.com instead of mywebsite.com.

Using a subdomain can save a little on costs but often distract value from the website.  Readers and prospective customers typically perceive a full domain as more trustworthy and relevant than subdomains. Buying a domain is not a great expenditure – you can expect to pay about $10 a year.  Using WordPress.com will save you that 10 bucks but you might have to work twice as hard to build a good reputation.

WordPress.com has more limitations than WordPress.org

When it comes to customization of a website, WordPress.org offers a lot more than WordPress.com.  With .org, you’ll have about 1500 free themes to choose from but anyone using .com will only be able to choose from about 100 different themes.  The same goes for plugins.

The size of WordPress.com websites are also limited – anyone planning to post lots of videos and images should opt for a WordPress.org website instead.

WordPress.org users own the content of their site while WordPress.org owns the content of their sites

This can be a major downfall.  WordPress.com retains all rights to the websites they host.  This means that they can shut down your website at any time.  The WordPress.com Terms of Service agreement clearly states that WordPress.com “may terminate your access to all or any part of the Website at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately.”

WordPress.org websites can be monetized but WordPress.com do not allow monetization

WordPress.com strictly prohibit the use of affiliate links in their websites with the only exceptions being linking to your own Etsy products and writing original book, movie or game reviews linking to Amazon. 

Failure to adhere to the no-affiliate linking rules may result in a) disabled links, b) a stern warning or c) complete shut-down and suspension of your account and website.

WordPress.com can allow users to set up ad networks on their websites but only once you reach 25,000 page-views a month.

What does WordPress.org offer?

WordPress.org offers a huge variety of software to build a unique and fully customized website.  There are more than 1500 free themes to choose from and premium themes can be used with ease.  When it comes to plug-ins, you’ll be able to use any of the 15,000+ plug-ins while WordPress.org users will be limited to 20 – 30 approved plug-ins on premium packages.

Storage will only be limited by your hosting company because WordPress.org sets no limitation on the content of your website.

WordPress.org offers users the opportunity to truly make their website their own by using personal domains and unlimited customisation, storage and monetization abilities.

The downside of WordPress.com is that you’ll have to pay domain and hosting fees to a third party hosting company.  A domain will cost in the vicinity of $10 a year while hosting will cost about $3 a month.

What does WordPress.com have to offer?

WordPress.com offers users the ability to build free websites easily.  Almost no technical knowledge is needed and a website can be up and running within 5 minutes.  WordPress.org websites take longer to build and some basic coding and CSS knowledge may be needed to customize the site.

WordPress.com websites are rather limited in their capabilities but it’s definitely the easiest option to use.  A WordPress.com premium membership will cost $99+ a year, offering users additional storage (13 Gigs instead of 3 Gig), advanced customization features and direct email support.

What do you need to use WordPress.org?

To build a WordPress.org website, you’ll have to buy a domain and sign up for hosting from a trusted third-party supplier.  Once you have those, you’ll be able to install the WordPress.org software on your website, a process which is fairly easy but a little technical knowledge may be needed with some hosting companies.

Before publishing your first post, you’ll have to install a theme to your website and customise it according to your preference.  WordPress.org allows a vast amount of free customization options and the ability to add premium themes and plugins. 

To take full advantage of WordPress.org’s functionality, you’ll have to know a little about coding and CSS.  It is completely possible to build a website without any coding at all but with a little coding knowledge, the full beast can be unleashed.

In addition to a bit of time and knowledge, you’ll also need a backup plan for your website.  While WordPress.com offers automatic backup for their sites, the owner of WordPress.org websites will have to set up backup functionality themselves. Don’t worry, there are plenty of plug-ins for that.

What do you need to use WordPress.com?

To build a WordPress.com website, you literally do not need anything besides 5 minutes of time and a little creative inspiration.  Even the creativity is optional, actually, since a simple ‘Hello World’ will also do as a first post.

When signing up with WordPress.com, you’ll be able to choose the name of your website during registration (of which the rest of the address will be .wordpress.com, of course) after which you can choose a theme for your site.  From there, you’ll be redirected straight to your dashboard where you can customize your site or start writing immediately.  The whole process takes less than five minutes and no special skills are needed.

Pros of using WordPress.org

  • A full personal domain
  • Unlimited customization options
  • Unlimited space for content
  • The content of the site belongs to the website owner
  • Websites can be monetized

Arguably the greatest advantage of using WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com is using a personal domain for your website.  The use of a full personal domain looks professional and breeds trusts among its users.  WordPress.org offers unlimited customization options with thousands of free themes and plugins and the ability to use premium themes.  With a little CSS, more or less anything can be changed on a WordPress.org website.

When it comes to content, WordPress.org does not limit their users on the amount of space that can be used.  Hosting providers often limit the storage of a website according to hosting plans but a simple upgrade will solve everything once your site grows too big for its initial shell.

Another major advantage of using WordPress.org is that websites can be monetized with advertisements and affiliate links. 

In short, the owner of WordPress.org websites are fully in charge of their websites and do whatever they please without being restrained.  WordPress.org provides the software to building just about any website a developer can imagine with minimal coding required.

Cons of using WordPress.org

  • Third party costs include buying a domain and hosting
  • Some coding and CSS knowledge may be needed
  • Developers are responsible for site backups

There are third-party costs involved in building a WordPress.org website

To fully enjoy WordPress.org capabilities, some coding knowledge may be required

Back-up of websites are not done automatically on WordPress.org

As with anything good in this life, even the best things come with a few disadvantages.  To build a website with WordPress.org, you’ll need a domain and hosting from a trusted third party provider.  A domain will typically cost about $10 a year and hosting will take more or less $3 out of your pocket each month.

To get the most out of your WordPress.org website, a little coding and CSS, as well as some technical knowledge may come in handy.  However, it should be mentioned that it is completely possible to build a WordPress.org website without any coding skills at all.  Coding will help but it’s not a requirement.

WordPress.org users are responsible for their own website backups – it’s not done automatically.  Hosting providers often offer backup solutions and WordPress.org have a multitude of plugins that can help with the process.  Still, it’s important to remember to set it up – sooner is always better than later.

Pros of using WordPress.com

  • Free hosting
  • Simple and fast setup
  • No skills or knowledge required
  • Automatic backups

WordPress.com is perfect for those wanting to build a simple informal website for personal use.  There are absolutely no costs involved with a WordPress.com site, with the option to upgrade to premium packages offering more customisation capabilities and storage.

The setup of a WordPress.com website is extremely easy and will only take a few minutes.  Anyone who can use a word processor will be able to build their own website within minutes.

An added advantage of using WordPress.com is that the content of their websites is automatically backed up.

Cons of using WordPress.com

  • You’ll only get a subdomain
  • The content of the website belongs to WordPress.com
  • The use of affiliate links are prohibited

Although WordPress.com is super easy to use and doesn’t cost a cent, the platform comes with a few disadvantages.  Instead of getting a full domain, WordPress.com users only get the use of a subdomain and the content of their site remains the property of WordPress.com. 

Because the contents of WordPress.com websites remains the host’s property, there are several limitations to what can be published and what not.  The use of affiliate links is strictly prohibited, with the exception of links to your own Etsy products and original reviews of some Amazon products.  Advertisements on WordPress.com websites are only allowed once the site generates traffic of more than 25,000 page-views a month.

Failure to comply with WordPress.com rules and regulations can result in a warning, temporary suspension or complete shut-down of the website.

Should you build a self-hosted or WordPress.com website?

The real question here is whether you should make use of a free hosting or opt for a self-hosted website.  Like we said, for serious website developers, free branded WordPress.com hosting is not really an option since their services are extremely limited.

WordPress.com websites are perfect for building informal personal websites and blogs such as class blogs.  It’s also a great way of finding your feet in the blogging world – it allows its users to learn about running a website without any financial responsibilities.

WordPress.org – the ‘real’ WordPress – is what the internet is really buzzing about.  Anyone serious about their website or blog will have to use WordPress.org with a full domain and hosting.  Nearly one in every three websites on the internet depends on WordPress.org – for good reason: it’s easy to use, offers near-unlimited possibilities and it works like a charm.

How to move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

So, halfway through this article, you’ve realized that you are stuck in WordPress.com while you should be using WordPress.org.  What now?

Don’t worry – changing from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is fairly easy.

First, buy a domain and register for hosting.  Most hosting providers offer a single click WordPress.org installation option, which makes things super easy.

Once you’ve installed WordPress.org on your new website, you can go to your dashboard and find the ‘TOOLS’ option.  In ‘TOOLS’, click on the ‘IMPORT’ button and select ‘WordPress’.

The WordPress Importer PlugIn will be installed on your new site and the contents of your WordPress.com website can be imported to your new domain with ease.

What is the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?  Well, basically the same as asking what the difference is between a pen and a varsity degree – they’re somehow related but absolutely not the same thing.  Choose wisely.




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About Karen Weider

I have been building strategic, marketing websites since 2011. I have supported many business as they get online and grow their business and I firmly believe that planning is crucial to online success.

I help women who are action takers and want to build their own website and I support established who are looking for a long term website strategic & technical partner.

I love working with change makers who are following their heart and have been called to share their message and make a huge impact in the world.

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