WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org – The Differences & Which To Choose

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – The Differences & Which To Choose header image

Are WordPress.com and WordPress.org the same? It’s a question that on the surface seems so obvious, that many people don’t even think to ask it, let alone consider the answer. The truth is that those three little letters after the period make a huge difference, and could impact the success of your website in the future.

So, what are the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? Besides sharing the name ‘WordPress’ there are a number of significant differences to be aware of when choosing the platform you want to use for your website. 

In this post, we’ll dive deep into their backgrounds & how they’re different. 

What Is The Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? 

To make things as clear as possible, we’re going to cover all differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, starting with:

The Fundamental Difference

This is where people typically get confused. Both are called WordPress, yet aren’t the same. 

The non-profit WordPress Foundation manages WordPress.org which is a self-hosted content management system (meaning that you can install it anywhere and buy your own domain to set up a site). Not only is it a self-hosted content management system, but it’s also the world’s leading content management system. 

WordPress.com, on the other hand, is essentially the largest WaaS platform owned by Automattic, the company run by WordPress co-founder, Matt Mullenweg. It is powered by the WordPress.org open-source software. 

TL;DR – WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org Differences

In short, WordPress.com is a limited version of WordPress.org that has been intentionally simplified for a completely different demographic. 

WordPress.org is open-source meaning that the main difference is: 

  • Hosting – you can either set up a server with a cloud provider like DigitalOcean, Linode or Vultr with the help of RunCloud (highly recommended, of course 😉) or using a shared hosting service (which we would not recommend due to the limited resource availability and sluggish performance). 

While some of the most notable limitations of WordPress.com include: 

  • No monetization through ads is possible (you are locked in to using the “official” WordPress.com advertising program)
  • No plugin installation or updates on the free plan — bigger plans also have these limitations, just lighter
  • You only get to choose one out of a few free themes if you’re on a free plan
  • Customization of the appearance, features, and overall site is heavily limited
  • The free plan doesn’t let you use Google Analytics
  • You have to upgrade from the free plan if you want to use your domain without the WordPress.com subdomain
  • No eCommerce features or integrated payment on the free plan
  • No membership websites

Verdict

There are plenty more limitations with WordPress.com, however, you have more responsibility with WordPress.org as a result. This should affect your decision on whether you should go with WordPress.com or WordPress.org.

Pricing and Cost Differences

Budget is always one of the first things you have to figure out when you’re building something. In this case, there are big differences between the pricing and costs of WordPress.com and WordPress.org, so to help you plan your budget better, we have broken down both solutions.

WordPress.com offers four different pricing plans that can be paid annually, upfront, or monthly.

Here’s a detailed pricing breakdown for WordPress.com

wordpress.com pricing

Besides these, WordPress.com does offer a free plan, and all you have to do is buy the domain. However, you will have their subdomain displayed e.g www.yourwebsite.wordpress.com

When it comes to WordPress.org, it’s completely free to use. However, there are other costs that WordPress.org doesn’t cover, which WordPress.com covers for you. The costs that WordPress.org doesn’t cover are: 

  • Hosting — you will have to choose where you will host your WordPress website. You can check out some of our solutions here!
  • Security — Depending on your hosting, you might need some premium security features or plugins that can cost up to $250 per year.
  • Premium themes — there are free ones, but to get the most out of WordPress.org, you’ll probably want to go with premium themes. They usually cost up to $150 per year.
  • Premium plugins — another optional thing, but if you’re serious about scaling your website fast, you will probably want to go with some premium plugins like Rank Math for SEO.

Verdict

The cheapest way to create a website with WordPress is to buy a domain and go with the WordPress.com free plan. However, how desirable the free plan is will depend on the nature of your site, as WordPress.com has greater limitations. If you go with WordPress.org, you may end up incurring more costs on what it doesn’t cover, spending more than you wanted.  

Ease of Use

Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org have a learning curve, but which one is easier to overcome?

Since WordPress.org offers you a lot more freedom, you might frequently get lost if you’re a beginner. Whereas WordPress.com doesn’t have this issue. Their setup is more robust as you’re solely dependent on the plan you chose.

On the other hand, if you are a more advanced user, you’ll probably find your way faster with WordPress.org, as you’ll know exactly what you need to set up your intended site.

Setting up WordPress.com is a bit easier as it’s designed for blogging. Also, since it has far more limitations and doesn’t allow you to change many things you would normally be able to change on WordPress.org, fewer options mean it is easier to use.

Verdict

Considering WordPress.com has more limitations, it’s a lot easier to find your way around with their streamlined setup process. Therefore, WordPress.com wins this battle!

Hosting

Hosting is your own home in the internet realm. Without hosting, your site pretty much doesn’t have a place to live, and therefore no one can find it. 

WordPress.com and WordPress.org differ when it comes to hosting options, and these differences are important to know.

With WordPress.com, you are already getting the hosting regardless of the plan you pick, since the service is self-hosted (free or premium). Effectively, hosting isn’t something to worry about if you decide to go with WordPress.com.

However, since WordPress.org is just software, you will need hosting with your WordPress site. 

There are dozens of hosting providers out there offering you your new virtual house, and it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes to review all of them, especially if you’re not that tech-savvy.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an expert — we’re certain that here at RunCloud, we can provide you with everything you need to get your site up and running with ultra-fast speed, maximum security, and features that will help you scale it sky-high. Make sure to check our plans here!

Verdict

Since WordPress.com will take care of all hosting-related stuff, it’s fair to say that WordPress.com is the simpler option to go with here. However, if you’re a more advanced user who wants more control, you’ll definitely want to host your website by yourself.

Theme Design & Customization

Themes are there so you can get your WordPress site to look exactly the way you want. 

When speaking solely about themes, you have plenty of choice on both WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

However, here are some things worth mentioning:

With WordPress.com you:

  • Can’t upload any premium themes without the Business plan
  • Can choose from dozens of free themes 
  • Are heavily limited with customizing themes

With WordPress.org you:

  • Can choose from plenty of free themes
  • Can upload whichever premium theme you want 
  • Can edit absolutely everything if you know how to code

Customization is also a big part of deciding which of the two options is better in terms of design. Unfortunately, customization is impossible on WordPress.com which makes WordPress.org win this race by some margin. 

This flexibility is a benefit if you’re an advanced user who already knows how things work and what exactly it is you need.

On the other hand, if you’re a beginner, you might be perfectly fine with the limitations of WordPress.com, as you are yet to develop your experience and are still learning what you actually need. 

Verdict

WordPress.org wins hands down in terms of options and possibilities with your website design. It practically has no limits and you can do whatever you want to as long as you know how to do it properly. But once again, it all comes down to what you actually need out of your website, and WordPress.com is more beneficial if you are newer to the process.

Plugins

Plugins are coded programs that serve the purpose of performing certain functions on your website, and they can be anything from payment integrations to a simple table of contents.

There are major differences in handling plugins on WordPress.com and WordPress.org so you must familiarize yourself with these to make your choice better.

WordPress.com doesn’t allow you to use any plugin upload or installation unless you’re on the Business plan ($300) even though the majority of plugins from WordPress databases (over 50,000) are free.

This again represents a huge limitation in controlling your website, but the benefit is that WordPress.com pretty much handles a lot of things for you. Whereas you’d need to install more plugins yourself on WordPress.org.

Speaking of WordPress.org, you have zero limitations when it comes to playing with plugins. You can install any plugin you want, free or premium, and configure it however you want. 

Verdict

Both platforms use the same plugin directory, but the fact that you can’t modify your plugins on WordPress.com without paying $300 per year, gives a huge advantage to WordPress.org. The advantage of WordPress.com is again for those with less experience and who prefer things being handled for them. 

Blogging

If you’re looking to build a site for blogging, then both options can be great. It all depends on what you need.

If you have never previously had a blog, want to start one without planning to scale it sky-high, and don’t have much blogging experience, then in terms of structured SEO writing and setting the blog up WordPress.com is an amazing option for you.

You will learn a lot and it can be free (which we suggest). There’s no harm in trying new things out and as you don’t have to spend a dime (except on the optional domain of course) to tackle that learning curve, it’s a great option!

There are many blogs on the WordPress.com free plan, and we’re sure it will satisfy your needs as a beginner. 

However, if you’re an experienced blogger, then WordPress.com probably won’t work for you. 

WordPress.org is a much better option for experienced bloggers as you probably have WordPress knowledge and you know exactly what you need. There is likely to be an issue with WordPress.com because of its limitations.

Also, if you’re planning to scale your blog and make it a six-figure business, then WordPress.org might be a better solution as it gives you more options from the beginning.

Verdict

Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org are great options for blogging. WordPress.com is great for beginners, but if you’re planning to grow your blog rapidly then WordPress.org will be a better solution.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

SEO plays an important role if you’re planning to grow your site’s traffic organically.

WordPress is generally one of the best (if not the best) platforms when it comes to SEO, and both services will provide you with high-quality tools. Both will make sitemaps and send them to Google.

Both will leave you plenty of options for creating content no one can compete with.

The only difference here is with plugins.

As you already know, WordPress.com will not let you upload or install any plugins, which means no SEO plugins as well. Only if you go with a Business plan will you be able to install SEO plugins.

On WordPress.org, things are much easier, and for that purpose, we recommend Rank Math. It’s currently the best SEO plugin out there and we’re certain it will help you immensely with your SEO game.

Verdict

Both services offer a great SEO-friendly environment for creating top-notch content. But the advantage goes to WordPress.org as there are no limitations to boosting your SEO game with SEO plugins.

Analytics

Analytics also play an important role in growing your website. How else would you know what your readers want unless looking at analytics, stats, and data?

WordPress in general doesn’t have its own analytics. All you can track is site traffic, but that doesn’t tell you much, meaning you’ll need some plugins or hard-coded integrations.

Google Analytics is definitely the best analytics tool out there, but unfortunately, you can only have Google Analytics on your WordPress.com website site if you upgrade to the Premium Plan.  

Besides that, Google Analytics isn’t the only analytics you might want. Depending on your site’s nature you might want to install a heatmap or some other form of the data collection system. Unfortunately, all this is unavailable with WordPress.com if you don’t go with their Business plan.

On the other hand, if you go with WordPress.org, you can install whatever you want, including Google Analytics. You can install Google Analytics through a hard-coded API, or use some of the other plugins like Rank Math, Jetpack, or others. Effectively all options are at your disposal!

Verdict

WordPress.org is a far better platform for tracking down data and getting insights into your audience, as you can use any plugin. 

Maintenance

Technical maintenance of your website usually comes down to three things:

  • Web hosting maintenance
  • Security maintenance
  • Plugins maintenance

The benefit of having a website on WordPress.com is that they take care of everything for you. You don’t have to worry about hosting as WordPress.com is self-hosted. You don’t have to think about security as they keep everything together. Additionally, since you don’t have any plugins besides the ones they install for you, you don’t have to pay attention to them either.

On the other hand, you will need to take care of all these things if you decide to go with WordPress.org.

Most web hosting companies keep a very close eye on every upcoming WordPress update, making sure that the support is there should you need it.

With RunCloud this process is made considerably easier, as you have access to a server management control panel that allows you to monitor and update multiple WordPress installations much more quickly. This makes the process of keeping multiple sites secure significantly more practical.

When it comes to security, depending on the hosting provider you’re working with, you may need to install a security plugin. The Wordfence plugin is often recommended, which has a free option, but if you want to upgrade your security they have multiple plans available.

Also, WordPress.com provides you with a free SSL certificate which is a super important security requirement, as well as an increasingly important SEO metric. If you decide to go with WordPress.org you will have to take care of SSL yourself. Luckily most hosting providers have free SSL included in their plans.

Last but not least: plugins. You probably have heard of plugins crashing sites. How do you prevent that from happening to your site? Always keep everything updated! Yes, even though there might be a risk of your website experiencing issues after a plugin update, the chances are much higher of issues occurring when they’re not updated. Also, make sure not to use too many plugins!

Verdict

There are almost no differences between the two except that you will have to work a bit more on maintenance with WordPress.org.

Customer Support

If you’re a beginner, then support might come in handy, especially if you’re setting up your website for the first time.

WordPress.com doesn’t offer any support on a free plan, but if you upgrade to the Personal plan, you will get email support, although it might take several days for them to reply.

If you upgrade to the Business plan, however, you will get their live chat support which is far more responsive than email support.

WordPress.org doesn’t offer any type of support as there’s no need for them to provide it. The service is free and you have all the freedom to create whatever you want. However, they do offer documentation that you can use and gain a lot of useful information.

Speaking of support, for both platforms, you can actually find a lot of useful information on the WordPress forum, as issues you’re experiencing are likely issues other people have been experiencing as well.

Verdict

There is no support at WordPress.org as your websites are more your own. WordPress.com does offer some sort of support, which makes it more user-friendly in this case.

We have covered the main differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, so now we’ll answer some key common questions, before concluding. 

How To Install WordPress With RunCloud

Installing WordPress on RunCloud is super simple, and we have a detailed guide here to help you with it!

Is WordPress.com or WordPress.org Better?

It all depends on your needs and what you want your website to be. If you are a beginner looking to build a small personal blog, then WordPress.com is a good option. However, if you’re looking to scale your website as an online business, WordPress.org offers much better solutions as it has fewer limitations.

Can You Switch From WordPress.com to WordPress.org?

Yes, you can switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. All you have to do is 

  1. Find a hosting provider where you will host your WordPress.org website
  2. Export your WordPress.com website
  3. Import your site to your new hosting provider (support can help with this)
  4. Voila!

Some hosting services have an option where you submit your WordPress.com credentials, and they do all the heavy lifting and get it ready for you. Bear in mind this is highly likely to be a paid service.

What Should You Look For When Picking A WordPress Hosting Provider?

First and foremost you want to make sure that your hosting provider offers fast and secure servers with good uptime.

After that, their support is something you should also have in mind as it will often come in handy.

And last but not least, make sure your hosting provider offers decent pricing, with a range of plans to suit both your budget and your needs, as well as providing the flexibility to upgrade plans in the future as your business expands.

Here at RunCloud, we pride ourselves on offering top-notch server management tools, helping to improve the speed and responsiveness of your site. Our support is always ready to assist you in case of any need. Check out our server management plans here!

Can I Monetize A Free WordPress.com Website?

Yes, you can monetize the WordPress.com website. There are two popular ways you can go with this — either affiliate marketing or building a paid membership program. WordPress has written its own guide to membership programs if you’re interested in finding out more.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – Which One Is Better For eCommerce?

WordPress.org is far better for building an eCommerce website. 

The reason for that is that with the WooCommerce plugin you can achieve so much without having to spend much more money on premium solutions or buying their extensions. In fact, if you’re starting as a simple eCommerce store, you don’t need any extra features of WooCommerce, which means you can run it almost free (domain and hosting needed only).

When it comes to WordPress.com, you can go with an eCommerce plan that costs $540 per year which is not the most affordable option, especially if you’re just starting out. Additionally, even with paying that amount, you will still have limitations you wouldn’t usually have with WordPress.org.

After Action Report — Use WordPress.org for Maximum Versatility & Control

Although both platforms have their advantages and disadvantages there’s really no question as to which is the best solution for any business that’s either already established or is planning on significant growth.

From the addons and plugins you can choose that allow you to integrate everything from payment portals to mailing lists, security to social media automation, to full control over your themes and website’s appearance, WordPress.org lets you have it all.

Have you already made your choice? What was the deciding factor for you? Leave a comment below and join the conversation either here or on Twitter @RunCloud_io. 💬

Categories: WordPress

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