WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: What's the Difference? – MUO – MakeUseOf

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Many bloggers and people who want a website often get confused between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, but both are somewhat different.
Starting a new website? From writing raw code to using content management systems like WordPress or website builders like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly, there are tons of ways to get your website up and running.
The most popular tool these days, however, is WordPress. Once you’ve settled on using WordPress, you’ll have another choice to make. Should you use WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
There isn’t a yes or no answer to this—but once you’ve read through this article, you’ll have the information you need to make an informed choice.
WordPress is a free, open-source Content Management System (CMS). The software primarily runs on PHP along with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and SQL databases. Together, they allow for the creation of beautiful dynamic websites such as blogs, e-commerce websites, forums, membership websites, and so on.
The software was initially designed, in 2003, as a tool for blogging—but has evolved over the years. Thanks to the huge community of developers who contribute to developing the WordPress core, you can now use WordPress software to create pretty much any kind of website.
If you have the skills, you can even create your own themes and plugins to complement or extend the WordPress core. Alternatively, you can simply use one of the thousands of free WordPress themes and plugins available on the WordPress repository, or paid themes and plugins from third-party providers.
If all of this is new to you, the next few sections will be useful.
For beginners, one of the first things that needs clearing up is the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
Essentially, WordPress.com is a commercial outfit that leverages the WordPress software to offer free and paid-for hosting plans. It is owned by Automattic, a company founded by one of the original creators of the WordPress software, Matt Mullenweg.
In contrast, WordPress.org is a non-profit run by the WordPress Foundation, which allows the software to be used for free. We’ll dive deeper into WordPress.org shortly—first, let’s take a quick look at the advantages of using WordPress.com.
WordPress.com has a lot of benefits, especially for beginners. Here are some of the main ones.
With a few clicks of a mouse, you can set up your website on WordPress.com. When compared to other hosting platforms, WordPress.com offers a clear advantage as the entire platform is built for WordPress.
You can get started for free if you would like to test the platform or publish a casual or hobby website. However, the free plan won’t allow you to use a custom domain—so this won’t be suitable for a professional website.
There are a few more things to be aware of before you settle on WordPress.com. When you use the free plan, WordPress.com will also display ads on your web pages, and you won’t make any money from them. The free plan is also quite limited as you will have limited access to third-party themes and plugins.
Website maintenance is a big part of running a WordPress website. If you aren’t very comfortable working in the backend of websites, you’re going to need some help with your website maintenance. WordPress.com will take care of all of this, making it one of the most convenient platforms for building websites.
Just as with maintenance, WordPress security is essential, and best left to the professionals. You can rest easy knowing that wordPress.com, with its sophisticated security infrastructure, will take care of most of your security needs. Of course, you still need to implement WordPress security best practices to keep your website safe.
If things go wrong at any point, knowing that you have a team of experts to rely on nearly round-the-clock will help set your mind at ease. With self-hosted WordPress, you’ll have to be comfortable figuring most things out on your own, with some help from the official, user-driven WordPress support forum.
With one of the higher tier plans, you’ll have access to tens of thousands of themes and plugins to help you customize and extend your website just as you would with WordPress.org. If you’re willing to pay $25 – $45 monthly for the business or enterprise plans respectively, WordPress.com is a great option.
WordPress.com’s Premium, Business, and Enterprise plans allow users to make additional income from ad revenue. This can be a nice way of earning some additional income.
When most people talk about WordPress these days, they’re usually referring to the self-hosted version of WordPress that is available for free from WordPress.org. The core software is essentially the same, however.
The real difference is that you have to pay for and manage your own hosting.
This offers a degree of flexibility and control that is ideal for advanced web developers, but it also comes with a higher degree of responsibility for things such as security, website maintenance, and so on.
If you’re set on using WordPress for your new website, here are some reasons why you might want to try self-hosted WordPress from WordPress.org.
WordPress.org has several benefits for people who want to build a scalable, customizable website. Below are some of the main pros.
As we’ve shown, there are quite a few benefits to using WordPress.com. However, you’ll always be somewhat limited in terms of how much you can customize your WordPress.com website unless you're using one of the more expensive plans.
With self-hosted WordPress, you can create your own custom themes and plugins, or modify third-party themes with child themes, and so on.
If you have a unique project in mind, self-hosted WordPress might be the better choice.
WordPress.com has terms of service clauses that do not permit certain kinds of content. With self-hosted WordPress, you’ll be free to publish whatever you’d like to. Of course, there may be other laws to keep in mind, but WordPress.org won’t impose any restrictions on you.
While WordPress.com does offer monetization options, self-hosted WordPress may be a better option here. This is because you can use it for pretty much any commercial activity and control your entire revenue.
Since self-hosted WordPress is free to use, it's a comparatively much more affordable solution than any paid WordPress.com plan. You'll still have to pay for hosting somewhere though, so that narrows the pricing gap a bit.
For comparison, the top tier plans at WordPress.org officially recommended hosting services, Siteground, Bluehost, and Dreamhost cost $10.69, $7.45, $16.95 respectively.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this. If you aren’t a technical user, WordPress.com takes away much of the hassle of setting up WordPress. This is especially true if you’re using one of the top-tier, premium plans.
On the other hand, you might not be that willing to part with $25 – $45 monthly. If you have a bit of skill or are willing to play a more active role in the installation and management of your website, then self-hosted WordPress software from WordPress.org might be a much more suitable solution.
Once you’ve decided on self-hosted WordPress and picked out a hosting service, the next task will be deciding what theme to use. WordPress is home to thousands of custom themes but multipurpose themes almost always work just as well.
David is a WordPress lover who is passionate about helping small businesses grow!
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