WordPress.com vs WordPress.org are the two platforms available to new users to create a WordPress site. While both of these options provide access to the WordPress platform, understanding the differences between them will help you select the best WordPress host for your new site.
What Are WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
The question “What is WordPress?” may arise. The WordPress content management system (CMS) is used by over 30 million websites worldwide. Since it’s open source and free, any member of the WordPress community is welcome to use, modify, and distribute it. In addition to installing it as part of a hosting package from a web hosting provider, anyone can download the core WordPress software package from WordPress.org.
WordPress is a platform that is supported by WordPress.com as well. For commercial WordPress hosting, one of WordPress’s original developers founded Automattic. WordPress.com offers its users the platform without requiring them to download or install it separately.
When deciding between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, users should think about how much control they want over the site’s appearance and administration, as these are the primary differences between hosted and self-hosted websites, the origin of the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Self-Hosted and Hosted Sites
When a site is self-hosted, the user has complete control over the website’s files and code and can use it in any way they see fit. The term “self-hosted” refers to a website that is not part of a larger network but instead uses its own domain name and is hosted by one of the many companies that offer server space to individuals and businesses for the purpose of creating and maintaining websites. When a website is self-hosted, its owner has complete control over the look, feel, and functionality of the site.
If you want to publish a site quickly and easily without worrying about design, ongoing site maintenance, or any other technical issues, a hosted site is a good option because it uses web space provided by a hosting company. WordPress.com is a hosted service that runs the WordPress software, but WordPress.org is simply a repository where users can download the WordPress site package and host it themselves.
A Simple-to-Use Hosted Alternative to WordPress.com
WordPress.com gives all the capabilities for a hosted WordPress site. It offers users a WordPress platform for getting a site up and running with no coding experience needed, and WordPress.com takes care of all the continuing upkeep of the site. At its lowest level, all users need to do is sign up for a free account, pick a theme, and start publishing. This makes WordPress.com a popular alternative for students, bloggers, and creatives who don’t have a need—or have an interest in—the full range of customizing choices offered by WordPress.org.
WordPress.com offers numerous levels starting with the basic free account. For more features and options such as installing a custom theme, customers can move up to premium plans that include Personal, Premium, and Business. Each of these paid plans allows for greater flexibility and control over the site’s operations so that it more closely resembles a self-hosted WordPress site.
But the convenience and ease of use that makes a WordPress.com site so enticing can have its limitations. Unless a user switches to a paid plan that includes a custom domain name, a WordPress.com site will always contain the extension “WordPress.com,” in the site name—a sure clue that you’re using a hosted site. A domain name that contains the hosting provider in that way can signify a personal site or blog, not a professional site committed to doing business or selling a service.
WordPress.org: User-Friendly and Flexible
WordPress.org is the home of WordPress software files, which are a collection of PHP programming language templates that can be modified by any user. WordPress, with its extensive collection of customizable templates, plugins for additional functionality, and a visual text editor, can be used by both novice and experienced site designers, who can work directly with its files and stylesheet for precise customization. However, with this self-hosted version of WordPress, the user is responsible for maintaining the site outside of the features provided by the hosting provider, as well as installing plugins and other elements for customizing the site.
Comparing Features on WordPress.com and WordPress.org
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how WordPress.com and WordPress.org compare in terms of key WordPress features.
WordPress sites are distinguished by their themes. With a WordPress.com site, you can choose from a variety of premade free WordPress themes—all you need to do is add the content you want. However, unless you pay for a premium, you cannot add a theme from another source.
Users of the self-hosted version of WordPress can install and change themes at their leisure, and themes can come from any source. Premium and free themes can both be customized using tools in the site’s admin dashboard, or more experienced designers can work directly with the theme’s files to completely customize the site. In general, premium themes have more capabilities and customization features than free themes.
According to WordPress.com, users do not need to worry about installing plugins because the functions of many plugins come preloaded with every site plan. These include social media engagement plugins, Google Analytics, contact forms, and other tools. Other plugins, however, cannot generally be installed on a WordPress.com site, limiting the range of available options for professional users with specific needs.
Self-hosted WordPress is well-known for its extensive library of premium and free plugins—code written by WordPress developers to add specific functions that aren’t available in the default WordPress installation. Plugins can be used to add features to a website such as a contact form, an online store, or a gallery. Users can even close the analytics gap on their sites by installing the Jetpack plugin, a WordPress.com-designed “all in one” social sharing plugin.