WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: Same Name, Different Solutions


Dani Nolan


2019 September 6th

wordpress.org vs wordpress.com

When you’re just starting out with WordPress, you need to make a major decision: should you use WordPress.org or WordPress.com? But wait, these websites are for the same product, right?

Not exactly.

They have some fundamental differences. And if you’re not familiar with how WordPress works, it can be difficult to figure out which one's which. And especially which is better for your website needs.

In this article, I’ll walk you through a head-to-head comparison of WordPress.org vs WordPress.com so you can know which option is right for you.

WordPress.org - The Most Popular CMS In The World

WordPress.org is simply the home of the WordPress content management software. In some places online its called self-hosted WordPress.

From WordPress.org, you can download the latest version of the WordPress software (completely for free), find WordPress themes and plugins. You can also get help and tutorials for setting up your new WordPress site.

The most important thing to understand, unlike WordPress.com's fully hosted approach, WordPress.org is a tool to create and manage websites. It's a self-hosted WordPress, on its own it doesn't offer hosting or domain names, so you will have to take care of that yourself.

You will need to install WordPress on your own or choose a provider that offers to do it automatically.

WordPress.com - One Of The Best Places To Have A Blog

WordPress.com is a hosting provider that allows you to create a website based on WordPress software. It was first created as a blogging platform, that grew and evolved into a full hosting company with e-commerce solutions.

wordpress org vs wordpress com wordpress com homepage

So if WordPress.org was like a tool, then WordPress.com is clearly like a service. Everything is in one place and ready to use, but of course, you have to sacrifice the freedom that the CMS can offer you. All the features that are available in the CMS version get gradually unlocked with WordPress.com paid plans.

Blogs are not forgotten here too, you can create a blog with a free plan and host it with WordPress.com subdomain. While it doesn't give you a lot of resources, it's a great choice if you want to have a blog absolutely free.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com Pricing

WordPress.org is completely free CMS, so you will never have to pay for the software itself. WordPress.com, on the other hand, has 5 plans, ranging from free to $45 per month. With the free plan, you can get 3 GB of storage space and unlimited bandwidth.

While WordPress CMS is free, that doesn't mean you will be able to have a website for free. You will need to purchase a subscription with a hosting provider and a domain name in order to get your WordPress website up and running.

So the price of creating a website will depend on you and will be whatever you pay for your hosting and domain name. In a way, we can say that WordPress.org is as flexible as you.

But if you are using WordPress.com, you are paying for a hosting provider and domain name bundled with the software. If we choose a free plan here, then, in essence, we will have a completely free WordPress experience. Of course, if you don't mind a subdomain and a watermark on your website.

Paid ‘Personal’ plans on WordPress.com start at $5 per month and offer 6 GB, an ad-free website, and a custom domain name for one year. But, be warned, WordPess.com only allows you to pay for one year of their service, so forget about flexibility here.

Note that only the ‘Business’ plan, which costs $25 per month, allows you to install plugins and themes to your WordPress.com site.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com Plugins and Themes

Two things that are extremely important when choosing between the two, are plugins and themes. It's the core of every WordPress website.

WordPress.com severely limits your access to WordPress themes and plugins. Only ‘Premium’ and ‘Business’ users have access to more than a handful of basic themes, and even then you cannot import a theme from a third-party developer.

Equally, it is only the ‘Business’ subscribers that are able to install plugins on their website when using WordPress.com. So, to get the ultimate freedom, you'd have to pay around $300 a year!

WordPress.org gives you full control over your site to add any themes and plugins publicly available on WordPress. You can also install themes and plugins created by third-party developers or by yourself. A built-in editor allows you to further modify the code of your installed themes.

With all that said, the freedom of WordPress.org comes with a price. Since you can install whatever you want, there is a huge risk of crashes or bugs when combining different plugins and themes. Alternatively, with WordPress.com you are always guaranteed that everything offered to you will work.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com Feature Comparison

Most of the extra features are affected by the freedom of WordPress.org and restrictions of WordPress.com.

The ability to add custom plugins allows you to choose specific functions that you need for your site mostly for free. While the WordPress.com puts everything in one place but with a paywall.

Let's take a closer look at some of the most important features.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com Storage Space

Since WordPress.com is a hosting provider, it can limit the number of files you are allowed to store on your website’s server for each pricing plan.

The Free plan gives you 3 GB of storage space, 6 GB for ‘Personal’ plan users, and 13 GB storage for ‘Business’ users. The worst thing is that, even with the $45 a month ‘eCommerce’  plan, your storage space will still be limited to 200GB.

Storage for self-hosted WordPress.org websites depends on your host and the plan you have there. It can be a perfect option if you find a hosting provider with unlimited storage, so you could use WordPress without this restriction.

Take a look at our best web hosting provider list to see the storage limits of popular providers.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com SEO And Analytics

SEO is an important part of the evolution of your website. You want to have a decent SEO so that users would find your content easily. While SEO is mostly done with plugins, both websites do things a bit differently.

Control over your site’s SEO is only available using the ‘Business’ plan on WordPress.com. At this point, you can to install custom plugins and use specific tools. With that said, the SEO is easier to control and understand here, and it uses a suite of built-in tools.

SEO on WordPress.org requires you to add one or more plugins to optimize the SEO of your site. This gives you more free options to mix and choose, but again, you have to be careful not to cause problems to your website.

The ability to integrate your site with Google Analytics also differs between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

This is important because Google Analytics provides information about the number and type of visitors that are reaching your website. You can also get information about your visitor behavior and what content do they like the most.

With WordPress.com, only ‘Business’ plan users are able to integrate their sites with Google Analytics. With the free or ‘Personal’ plan you have very limited information that WordPress itself provides.

With a self-hosted WordPress.org site, you can easily use the information provided by your host to integrate your site with Google Analytics and add a tracking code to your website.

Note, that most plugins hide their most useful functions under a premium version that you have to pay for. So if you want to have the best features you will most likely have to pay with either of WordPress versions.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com eCommerce

If you want to launch an e-commerce store on your website, the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is similar to the case above.

With WordPress.com you can have an eCommerce website with the "business" plan for $25/mo. By installing the WooCommerce plugin you will have all the basic options that your store will need.

Mind the word basic, if you want security, unlimited products or more flexible payment options you will have to upgrade to the "eCommerce" plan. So, if you want to have a fully functional shop with WordPress.com it will cost you $45 a month.

With a self-hosted WordPress website, hosting an e-commerce site can be easily achieved. From the very start, you are able to install and start using plugins such as WooCommerce, WP eCommerce, Shopify, and others.

Depending on your host, you may have to upgrade to a more expensive plan to get the security features needed to conduct transactions on your website.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com Maintenance

Now, this is the part of the review when we have to say ‘but’. WordPress.org is great, with the features and freedom it gives you, but it has one flaw.

You are responsible for all back-end website maintenance. You need to make sure that all components of your website are updated with their latest versions. This is extremely important since failing to make updates could expose your website to security issues such as hacks.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.org Updates

However, simply making updates can be harder than it sounds. Any changes to the code of themes or plugins can cause them to become incompatible with your website and cause problems.

WordPress.com takes care of all back-end website maintenance for you. There is no need to update the WordPress software or your theme when updates are available since WordPress.com takes care of all of this for you.

So if you know exactly what you're doing WordPress.org CMS will be perfect for you. But, if you don't trust your coding skills and technical expertise, WordPress.com is the safer and more secure choice to have a website.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com Site Ownership

With WordPress.com, you don’t have control over your website and its content at the end of the day. Since WordPress.com is a hosting provider, the company can take your website down at any time if it feels your site violates the Terms of Service.

While you run the same risk with a third-party host when using WordPress.org, the problem is significantly less severe. Even if your site is taken down, you still retain control over your site’s content and you could easily migrate your site to a new host.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com Support

Since WordPress.org is a tool it doesn't have any active support. On the other hand, WordPress.com offers a 24/7 chat and email support for it's paid plans. Sadly, there is no phone support no matter how much you pay.

But they do offer one interesting alternative - one-on-one support sessions. With these, a person from the support team can solve your problems using screen sharing.

Not having support can be a bit frightening. But, if you choose to work with WordPress.org, just know that there are hundreds of forums, blogs, and tutorials online to help you out.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com Conclusion

After WordPress.org vs WordPress.com battle, what can I say about these two variations?

Choose WordPress.org if you want to do most of the work yourself:

It gives you full access to the open-source WordPress software, which allows you to modify your site using custom themes, plugins, and code. However, using WordPress.org comes with significantly greater responsibilities and a greater risk of your website experiencing issues.

Choose WordPress.com if you want a service where everything is optimized and in one place:

It's a more limited and expensive version of WordPress, it does have its benefits. WordPress.com wraps website hosting and WordPress together. And having everything in one place and already configured means that your site will run smoothly.

Did this guide help you understand the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? Let me know in the comments below!

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2020 February 6th

Thanks Dani. A clear comparison which makes it easy for me to decide.

Thanks Dani. A clear comparison which makes it easy for me to decide.