When you’re getting ready to create your first website or blog, it makes sense that you’ll go straight for WordPress. After all, a recent Forbes article estimated that there are more than 60 million websites around the world powered by WordPress.
But when you search for WordPress on Google, you’ll find WordPress.com and WordPress.org coming up as the top two results. What, then, is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, and how can you choose the right option to suit your needs?
First, Understand The Differences
A World of Limitations
When you choose WordPress.com, you will have access to a much more limited set of functionalities than with a custom WordPress.org installation. For example, while WordPress.org has thousands of free and premium WordPress themes for you to choose from, WordPress.com has a much more limited set of themes available. Yes, some of the available WordPress.com themes are mobile-friendly but you simply won’t have the same range to choose from.
It’s a similar story with plug-ins. WordPress.com has a limited range of plug-ins to choose from, but you won’t be able to install e-commerce plug-ins like free WooCommerce extensions, collect email addresses, or have access to extensive free WordPress plug-ins and tools.
You will also be limited with storage space, so you’ll need to go easy when hosting your own videos and high-quality images.
These limitations may not be of concern to you, if you’re planning on creating mainly text-based blog posts and wouldn’t have been interested in customizing your site to a large extent.
A potential trap and a factor that is very important to bear in mind is that content you post on a WordPress.com site is not owned by you – even if you wrote it. It sounds unbelievable, but there are plenty of case studies online that prove that WordPress.com – just like other free blogging platforms – can and will remove your content without warning if they feel it’s necessary.
This is one of the reasons why WordPress.com is free. They enforce strict rules about the type of content that’s allowed, and they will remove content – or an entire blog – if they feel it’s necessary.
If this type of content restriction or the potential for your blog to be deleted without warning causes you concern, you may be better off looking at WordPress.org.
WordPress.com is free, but only if you don’t plan to take up any of their paid extras. For example, if you want to use a custom domain rather than a subdomain like YourSiteName.WordPress.com, you’ll need to pay approximately $15 a year for a custom domain name. Similarly, if you want to set up a commercial website and remove WordPress.com’s ads, you’ll be paying about $8 a month. Add these together, and you’ll find that WordPress.com suddenly isn’t so “free” anymore.
Creating a WordPress.org site will require you to purchase and maintain your own web hosting and domain name. Depending on the host you choose, this could cost around $30-$35 a year.
All things considered, WordPress.com is only free if you don’t choose any paid add-ons. Once you start paying for WordPress.com, you may find that it would be more cost-effective to choose WordPress.org after all.
Next, Choose What’s Right For You
WordPress.com is inherently limited, but it can also be completely free and easy to use. In the end, the decision between WordPress.org and WordPress.com comes down to what you’re looking for in a blogging platform and what you intend to use it for.
If you’re creating a personal blog and have no plans to ever monetize it, WordPress.com can provide a free, easy blogging platform that you can set up in a matter of minutes without any technical knowledge.
If you’re creating a blog or website for a business, if you ever plan to make money from your site, if you want a custom domain, if you need the opportunity to be able to fully customize your site or collect email addresses, or if you simply want to portray a tone of professionalism to your audience, WordPress.com probably won’t suit your needs. Instead, a WordPress.org custom install will be necessary in order to create a website to suit your needs.
If you are looking to create a very simple blog or website with no bells and whistles, you want to create it in a matter of minutes, and you don’t want to have to worry about managing your own updates, WordPress.com could be the right choice for you. You need to feel okay with having ads running on your site in exchange for using the service completely for free.
However, if you’re looking to monetize your website by running your own ads or turning it into an e-commerce site with free WooCommerce extensions, customize it with premium themes, install free WordPress plug-ins and tools of your choosing, or keep it clean and ad-free, a self-hosted WordPress.org installation is the only choice.