What’s the Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

Hi, Welcome to NFDWP. In this article, we’re going to discuss an age-old question: “What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? – and which is best for you?”. This is a surprisingly common question, and it’s something that our community needs to get worked out. But until then, I’m going to see if I can help you figure out which one is right for you.

what is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

So what is the difference? And why does it matter? For one thing, WordPress.com and WordPress.org serve different markets. They have totally different purposes. They have different costs — and by that, I don’t mean that they offer the same thing at two different prices — they have different things that cost money: on one side, something might be free, while on the other side, it costs money — and the reverse might be true for other things, and they vary in ease-of-use.

WordPress.com is designed to be really easy to use, while WordPress.org isn’t necessarily designed for that. Instead, it’s designed more for power. And they offer an array of services. They each offer things that the other does not — and so you should look at both of them to see which one has what you’re looking for.  So let’s figure out what’s right for you. It’s actually pretty simple. WordPress.com is a service, and WordPress.org is a tool.

What is WordPress.org?

So .com is a service with a very small amount of do-it-yourself: sort of like IKEA. With .com you get a few forms to fill out, you put in your name, your blog title, and things like that, and ten minutes later: poof you have a blog! Whereas .org is a little more like Home Depot: where they’re happy to give you all the raw materials you want, and you can go home and build either the most wonderful thing that no one has ever seen before, or you can build something kind of sad. That said Home Depot helps you learn: and you can build something really amazing.

What is WordPress.com?

Extending that idea a little bit more, WordPress.com is a service that offers limited things. In this example, it would make an MN table. You could paint it, you could cut the legs a little shorter, but at the end of the day, it’s the same thing for everybody. With org, you can make anything — really anything. It’s very very powerful and very very flexible.

WordPress.com and WordPress.org

So WordPress.com as a service is owned by a company called Automattic. They make their business around WordPress. They don’t own WordPress, they use it as a tool as if you would, and they build things with it, and they offer services with it. WordPress.org as a tool offers WordPress itself: the open source product. Because it’s open source, it’s freely available to everyone on earth.

Not only is it freely available, but you actually own it: the license dictates that every human on earth owns WordPress. WordPress.com is also a hosted platform, which means they take care of everything for you. It’s a little like owning a condo instead of a house: you don’t have to mow the lawn, you don’t have to water the flowers, you don’t have to worry about the roof, but you still get to paint the walls. Where .org is self-hosted. That means you need to have a server yourself, and you can make changes, and you can do more than paint the walls: you can actually knock them down! WordPress.com is a fixed system.

I referred to this with the end table. They offer a limited amount of things. Now those things are great, and they’re lovely, and if they’re what you need, then fantastic! But if they’re not what you need, you’re not going to get anything else. Whereas .org is fully customizable. When you download WordPress from WordPress.org, you can do anything with it. WordPress.com is guaranteed to work, and by that I mean your blog will be up, and you will be able to use it. If it goes down, somebody else jumps on it again: similar to owning a condo or an apartment.

If your plumbing breaks, somebody else comes and fixes it. With .org you are completely free to totally break it, and you’re responsible for fixing it. Or you hire somebody.

WordPress.com community

Again, like owning a home and hiring a plumber. WordPress.com has an online community around it — and I’d like to show you that a little bit. Once you log into WordPress.com and you have an account, you’ll see this page. This page shows posts from other blogs that I have decided to follow.

So I follow the NASA Image Of The Day, and Boing Boing, and ThinkGeek, and they’re free to follow me and see my posts. And my friends can follow me, and I can follow my friends, and you may be familiar with the idea of leaving comments on a WordPress site when you’re logged into wordpress.com. And here on somebody else’s site, you don’t need to log in to leave a comment, and you don’t need to fill in all your information. Because you’re already logged into that system, it makes it much easier for people to visit each other’s sites, leave comments, and form a community.

WordPress.org Community

WordPress.org provides support for your installation of WordPress. So I mentioned that if you break your plumbing, you might need to have a plumber come fix it: but the way the WordPress.org community works is that all the plumbers out there are willing to give you free support.

Let’s take a look at that. This is WordPress.org, and right here is support. If you click it, here’s a section about the forums, and documentation, and a handbook. And the forums are filled with other people just like you — who have experienced what you’re experiencing and are happy to tell you how to fix it, for free. That’s pretty amazing!

WordPress.com has a newsfeed — and I use the word news a little loosely, because it’s not news, it’s other people’s blog posts, which are sometimes news, but sometimes they’re cats… But I’d like to show that to you. Right here is a link called Discover, and these are curated blog posts. So there are people at Automattic reading the blogs, finding things that you like, and sending them your way. This is pretty slick because it helps you save time because you’re not all over the internet looking for the good stuff and trying to sift through all the garbage.

WordPress.org provides documentation. Now .com has some documentation on how to use their service, but .org has really deep documentation on how to do everything! If you go to explore documentation, there are all of these articles on how to use WordPress, and things like that, and then additionally there’s a handbook with chapters about how to use WordPress. It would be similar to having an e-book from Barnes & Noble or something, but for free: all written by other people just like you. And in some cases written by me!

WordPress.com and WordPress.org Comparison

WordPress.com has a free product. You can pay up to twenty-four ninety-two a month and buy some added features: some extra themes, your own domain name — things like that. But there is definitely a free model — and it’s a good one. WordPress.org is completely free. Up to hundreds of thousands of dollars — people make millions of dollars — using .org as a freely available tool.

So .com is best for the do-it-yourself blogger, as opposed to everybody else: and by everybody else, I mean people who want to build websites, who want to noodle around, customize themes, and change colors, and whatnot. If you want to blog, WordPress.com is probably for you. If you want to play with the internet, WordPress.org is great!

So let’s look at some examples of folk who might use .com — somebody with no web or HTML skills (and if you don’t know what HTML is, this is for you), somebody with a limited budget, you don’t want to spend a ton of money getting a super-fast server or paying a developer to build something custom, you just want a blog. A one-time event is good for .com. A car for sale, a wedding, a big anniversary, a family reunion: that sort of thing. Something that is going to get used once and nobody’s ever going to come back to it, and you can throw it away. Someone needs a quick solution. WordPress.com is very quick you can have a blog up in minutes.

A local artist, or musician (WordPress.com offers quite a lot of hard drive space and so it’s excellent for uploading music and video). And then .com is great for anyone with something to say, especially if what’s important to that person is what they have to say as opposed to building something cool on the Internet.

So who might use WordPress.org? A small business with a website budget, bloggers with monetized content — and that means usually having sponsors or ads, because you can’t do that on WordPress.com — publishers who need a great deal of control over the look and feel of their site, and want to own the content. Retail businesses — because WordPress has some really excellent e-commerce tools available, and you can’t run them on .com. You need to have your own setup with WordPress from .org to do e-commerce.

Nonprofits and churches for a similar reason — WordPress has some really excellent donation systems available, and they don’t work on .com. Anyone doing any kind of business online — WordPress.com has a usage agreement that you have to sign to say how you’re going to use your site, and there are times when a business doesn’t want to be involved with any kind of contract, even if it’s a great contract. Often businesses don’t want to be involved with another contract, and so they simply choose to set up their own site with WordPress that they downloaded from .org.

Conclusion

And lastly, anyone that needs a custom solution — if you just need something different, something that’s not a blog, then getting WordPress from .org is for you. So one last summary: WordPress.com is for people who are not technical, and don’t want to be technical, they just want to publish stuff on the internet. And WordPress.org is for people who have more specific needs or might want to build things on the internet, who might want to learn or do business and take donations. Thanks for reading this article, and I hope I helped you decide which to use: WordPress.com or WordPress.org.