WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: A Detailed Comparison

WordPress is the most popular open-source content management system (CMS) used to create and manage websites. The first WordPress website was created in 2003 by British developer Mike Little and American developer Matt Mullenweg. It started as a fork of a deprecated software called b2/cafelog. Initially, it was just a simple tool for creating blog posts. Since then, it has experienced tremendous growth. WordPress has become the most prominent platform for website creation. As of April 2024, WordPress powers more than 43% of all websites and 63% of all known cms in the world. It has grown to power the websites of NASA, the White house, CNN Press Room, The Rolling Stone magazine and other big name brands. WordPress is the number 1 choice for creating a website because it is free, open-source, and easy to use. The demand for WordPress websites is rising, and so is the ecosystem behind WordPress. It’s known for its flexibility, allowing users to build anything from simple blogs to complex websites. Moreover, WordPress offers a wide range of themes and plugins for customization, making it suitable for users with varying levels of technical expertise.

There are two main flavors of WordPress: WordPress.org, the open-source solution which you can use to host your website and have full customization control, and WordPress.com, a hosting service with different plans that simplifies website management. Both of them serve the purpose of website creation and management but differ in hosting, control, customization, and cost. Understanding these differences is crucial for anyone looking to establish an online presence, whether for blogging, business, or e-commerce projects. This post takes a closer look into the key aspects of WordPress.org and WordPress.com, providing a comprehensive comparison to help you make an informed decision.

The best way to understand the differences between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org is to take examine each of the 2 solutions and discuss their pros and cons.

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What is WordPress.org

WordPress.org, also called “the real WordPress,” is the popular platform for which you have heard all the good things about. WordPress.org is open-source software and 100% free for everyone. You have full access and control over your site. You can do absolutely everything, as long as you do not break the law. All you need to have a site is a hosting provider like HostArmada and a domain name.

Advantages of WordPress.org

  • User-friendly: The WordPress software is not only free and open-source but also intuitive to use. Given its simplicity, it’s not shocking that it runs more than 43% of all websites globally. Creating, configuring, and maintaining a WordPress site no longer requires developer skills.
  • Complete control: Your website and its data are entirely yours. There’s no concern about your site being closed due to violations of someone else’s terms of service. You hold all the control.
  • Limitless customization possibilities: The platform allows the integration of any WordPress plugin/app ever made, regardless of it being free, paid, or specially crafted.
  • Unbounded design choices: The look of your website is yours to decide. Select from any free or premium WordPress themes available, or go for fully custom designs and tweaks.
  • Freedom to monetize: You can display your advertisements, monetizing your site in any manner you prefer without having to split earnings with any third parties.
  • Sophisticated analytics: You have access to advanced analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, for detailed tracking and insights.
  • E-commerce readiness: With self-hosted WordPress, setting up an online store is straightforward.
  • Membership features: It’s possible to build sites with membership tiers, limit access to exclusive content, and create courses, forums, and more.

Disadvantages of WordPress.org

  • Like all websites, you need a web hosting and domain, which is not free of charge. You need a place to store your website files on the internet. For this, you need a hosting provider. The initial cost is around $3-$10 per month. You will also need a domain name. A typical domain name costs around $10 per year.
  • You will need to install WordPress. Luckily, quality hosting companies like HostArmada offer 1-click WordPress installation options, which makes installing and setting up a website feel like a breeze.

What is WordPress.com

WordPress.com, a hosting service by Automattic, the company that also develops WordPress, sometimes causes confusion with the open-source and widely utilized WordPress.org software.

WordPress.com offers hosting services across six pricing plans:

  • Free – Basic functionality included.
  • Personal – Costs $48 per year.
  • Premium – Priced at $96 annually.
  • Business – Available for an annual fee of $300.
  • Ecommerce – Costs $540 each year.
  • VIP – Begins at $5000 per month.

Now, let’s have a look at the pros and cons of using WordPress.com.

Advantages of WordPress.com:

  • Usage is free up to 3GB of space; beyond that, a paid plan is required.

Disadvantages of WordPress.com:

  • Ads will appear on your site without an upgrade, and you won’t profit from them.
  • Selling ads on your site is not permitted.
  • A custom domain name requires a plan upgrade, or you will be forced to use a default domain like myawesomesite.wordpress.com.
  • You are stuck with a limited amount of themes. Customization is limited to pre-existing options. Free users have a limited choice of themes and can’t apply additional CSS for customization.
  • You cannot add plugins. This means you cannot add additional functionalities. Plugins can be installed only on a Creator Entrepreneur, or Enterprise plan, starting at $30 a month.
  • Your site can be deleted by WordPress.com if it violates their terms of service.
  • A “Powered by WordPress.com” link remains visible on your site unless you opt for the Creator plan.
  • Support is not available on the Free plan. Email support is available on the Starter plan and above. Live chat support is available on the Explorer plan and above.
  • Selling products on your site requires an upgrade to the Creator plan.
  • Creating a membership website is not feasible.

The differences between WordPress.org vs WordPress.com – a table comparison

We have compiled the differences of both solutions into a table, so you can have a clear overview with the differences between the two platforms:

PriceFree software, but hosting and domain costs varyFree plan available, with paid upgrades for more features
Experience NeededSome technical knowledge for setup and maintenanceBeginner-friendly, with less technical handling required
HostingRequires external hostingHosting included
Speed & PerformanceDepends on the chosen hosting provider and configurationOptimized for speed and performance, especially on higher-tier plans
SecurityUser is responsible for updates and securityManaged security and updates
PluginsUnlimited plugin installations allowedLimited to certain plans, unrestricted only on Creator plan and above
ThemesAccess to thousands of free and premium themesFree access is limited; wider range of themes available on higher plans
SupportCommunity support, paid support from hosting providerEmail and live chat support (availability varies by plan)
Site OwnershipFull ownership and control of the siteWordPress.com can remove your site at any time, if they decide that it violates their terms of service.
E-commerceFull ownership and control of the siteNo eCommerce features or integrated payment gateways unless you switch to the Creator plan or above

WordPress.org or WordPress.com – What to choose?

As you can see, WordPress.org provides much more freedom and customization options compared to WordPress.com (where you need to pay for pretty much everything you decide to add later). If you are a beginner blogger on a tight budget and do not plan to monetize your site, then go with WordPress.com. In all other situations – choose WordPress.org. While the price for hosting and domain for a self-hosted WordPress website might seem daunting at first, it will likely become much more cost-effective in the long term. You avoid the higher-tiered plans of WordPress.com, which might be necessary for similar functionalities available on WordPress.org.