WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: What’s the Difference?

Are you 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.

However, the most popular tool these days is WordPress. Once you have decided to use WordPress, you will have another choice to make. Should you use WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

There is no yes or no answer, but once you read this article you will have the information you need to make an informed choice.


What is WordPress used for?

WordPress is a free and open source content management system (CMS). The software mainly works on PHP with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and SQL databases. Together, they enable the creation of beautiful, dynamic websites such as blogs, e-commerce sites, forums, membership websites, and more.

The software was originally designed, in 2003, as a blogging tool, but has evolved over the years. Thanks to the huge community of developers who contribute to the development of core WordPress, you can now use WordPress software to create just about any type of website.

If you have the skills, you can even create your own themes and plugins to complement or extend the core WordPress. 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 vendors.

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If this is all new to you, the next sections will be helpful.

What is WordPress.com?

For beginners, one of the first things to clarify is the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.

WordPress.com is essentially a commercial enterprise that leverages WordPress software to offer free and paid hosting plans. It is owned by Automattic, a company founded by one of the original creators of WordPress software, Matt Mullenweg.

In contrast, WordPress.org is a non-profit organization run by the WordPress Foundation, which allows the software to be used for free. We will dive deeper into WordPress.org soon. First, let’s take a quick look at the benefits of using WordPress.com.


Benefits of using WordPress.com


WordPress.com homepage

WordPress.com has many advantages, especially for beginners. Here are some of the main ones.

1. Getting started is easy

With just a few mouse clicks, you can set up your website on WordPress.com. Compared to other hosting platforms, WordPress.com offers a clear advantage because the entire platform is designed for WordPress.

You can start for free if you want to test the platform or publish a casual or hobby website. However, the free plan won’t let you use a custom domain, so it won’t be suitable for a business website.

There are a few other things to know before settling on WordPress.com. When you use the free plan, WordPress.com will also display advertisements on your web pages and you will not make any profit from them. The free plan is also quite limited as you will have limited access to third-party themes and plugins.


2. You don’t have to worry about website maintenance

Website maintenance is an important part of running a WordPress website. If you are not very comfortable working in the backend of websites, you will need help with maintaining your website. WordPress.com will take care of all that, making it one of the most convenient platforms for building websites.

3. The platform is highly secure

Just like 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 should always implement WordPress security best practices to keep your website secure.

4. Reliable customer support

If things go wrong at some point, knowing that you can count on a team of experts almost 24 hours a day will help you reassure yourself. With self-hosted WordPress, you’ll need to be comfortable figuring out most things on your own, with help from the official, user-focused WordPress support forum.

5. Access to themes and plugins on higher level plans

With one of the top-tier plans, you’ll have access to tens of thousands of themes and plugins to help you customize and extend your website just like you would with WordPress.org. If you’re willing to pay $25 to $45 per month for Business or Enterprise plans respectively, WordPress.com is a great option.

6. Monetize with paid ads

The Premium, Business, and Enterprise plans of WordPress.com allow users to generate additional revenue through advertising revenue. This can be a good way to earn extra income.

What is WordPress.org?

When most people talk about WordPress these days, they’re usually referring to the self-hosted version of WordPress available for free at 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 provides a degree of flexibility and control ideal for advanced web developers, but it also comes with a higher degree of responsibility for things like security, website maintenance, and more.

If you’re set on using WordPress for your new website, here are a few reasons why you might want to try self-hosted WordPress from WordPress.org.

Benefits of WordPress.org


WordPress.org homepage

WordPress.org has several advantages for people who want to create a scalable and customizable website. Here are some of the main benefits.

1. Extend your website the way you want

As we have shown, there are many advantages to using WordPress.com. However, you will still be somewhat limited in terms of customizing your WordPress.com website unless you are 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, etc.

If you have a unique project in mind, self-hosted WordPress might be the best choice.

2. Create any type of content

WordPress.com has terms of service clauses that disallow certain types of content. With self-hosted WordPress, you’ll be free to post whatever you want. Of course, there may be other laws to keep in mind, but WordPress.org won’t impose any restrictions on you.

3. Monetize your website the way you want

Although WordPress.com offers monetization options, self-hosted WordPress may be a better option here. Indeed, you can use it for just about any business activity and control all of your income.

4. Affordability

Since self-hosted WordPress is free, it’s a relatively much more affordable solution than any paid WordPress.com plan. However, you will still have to pay for hosting somewhere, which narrows the price gap a bit.

For comparison, WordPress.org’s top tier plans officially recommend hosting services, Siteground, Bluehost, and Dreamhost cost $10.69, $7.45, and $16.95 respectively.

There is no single answer to this question. If you’re not a technical user, WordPress.com saves you a lot of the hassle of setting up WordPress. This is especially true if you are using one of the leading premium plans.

On the other hand, you might not be so willing to part with $25-$45 per month. If you have a bit of a skill or are ready to take a more active role in setting up and managing your website, self-hosted WordPress software from WordPress.org might be a much more suitable solution.

Once you’ve chosen self-hosted WordPress and chosen a hosting service, the next task will be to decide which theme to use. WordPress is home to thousands of custom themes, but multipurpose themes almost always work just as well.


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