If you’re a blogger, it’s almost guaranteed you’ve heard of WordPress. You may be a user, a designer, or a friend of a WP blogger, but I think we can all agree that WordPress is a well-known platform. Despite its popularity, one aspect of the platform is still causing confusion among new and potential users: what’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
Only heard of one? Don’t worry, a lot of bloggers haven’t heard of one or the other depending on where they started. I think the biggest confusion comes from the shared name, because if it’s called the same thing, wouldn’t it be the same thing? Surprisingly, there are a lot of differences between the two, and I’m going to describe each platform in detail to help that line become more clear. My goal is to help any current or potential WordPress users decide which version fits with their blogging goals!
As taken from their website, “Focus on your beautiful content, and let us handle the rest”.
WordPress.com is a platform that takes care of almost all of the technical side of blogging, leaving you with only the most necessary features, like posting and sharing. Here are some key features of WordPress.com:
- Hosting, security, and backups are all done by WordPress, so you don’t have to go through a third-party service for any of these.
- You can use a custom domain (YourBlog.com) by upgrading.
- There are many free designs to choose from, as well as premium options.
- There are no plugins—some helpful ones are built in.
- Image ads and third-party advertising are NOT allowed on WordPress.com, so you can’t use services like Google AdSense.
There are three plans available: Free, Premium, and Business. For simplicity, I’ll be comparing only Free and Premium.
WordPress.com Free Plan
- It’s free, of course!
- You’ll have a YourBlog.wordpress.com domain.
- It includes 3GB of space.
- Ads MAY show up on your blog, meaning you have no control over whether WordPress places an ad on your site.
- You can use a pre-made design from their theme showcase, with limited edits to that design.
- There will be a WordPress advertisement in your footer, stating “Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com”, as well as a link to the design you’re using.
WordPress.com Premium Plan
- This upgrade costs $99 per year.
- It comes with a custom domain (YourBlog.com).
- You’ll have more design editing abilities, using Custom Design or the CSS editor.
- It includes 13GB of space.
- WordPress ads will be removed from your site.
Now we’ll move on to the other half of WordPress!
WordPress.org is the platform I use for my blog, and it’s often referred to as self-hosted WordPress. Almost all of the behind-the-scenes work is done by the blogger, rather than WordPress, so this platform requires a fairly big learning curve, but the benefits in my opinion are worth it for the right blogger! Here are the main things you should know about WordPress.org:
- All of the hosting, security, and backups must be maintained by the user, so you’ll have to find a host. I’m using Bluehost (my affiliate link), but there are several other hosts out there to choose from!
- You can use custom themes made by other designers, or create your own using CSS and PHP.
- Plugins allow you to add extra functionality to your site, like sidebar widgets or sharing capabilities.
- Design possibilities are essentially limitless!
- Installing WordPress onto your blog doesn’t cost anything, but you will have to pay for your hosting (around $5 a month) and a custom domain. You must have a custom domain to use the WordPress.org platform.
If you’re interested in starting your own self-hosted WordPress blog, I wrote a guide helping you through the whole process!
Which platform is right for you?
The answer really depends on where your blog is now, or where you want your blog to go. WordPress.com can be a good place to start your blog and grow it, while WordPress.org can take your blog further and allow for more functionality. That doesn’t mean you can’t start on WordPress.org though, and I’ve heard of many successful bloggers who have! If you’re a current WordPress user, I’d love to know which platform you’re using and why. And if you’re looking into using WordPress, which platform are you leaning towards?
If you have any other questions regarding the difference between these two platforms, let me know in the comments!