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WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: what's the difference?

WordPress
(Image credit: Pixabay)

WordPress is one of the most popular Content Management Systems (CMS) out there thanks to its ease of use, extensive customization options, and unrivaled community support. In fact, it currently powers 40 percent of all websites. 

However, there are many differences between the two versions of WordPress – WordPress.com and WordPress.org, and it’s important to know the distinction when choosing the right platform for your project.

In this guide, we’ll compare WordPress.com vs WordPress.org to help you determine which service is the best to get started with.

WordPress.com

(Image credit: Automattic)

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a website platform that comes with a web hosting service included in all of its plans. While not as popular or powerful as its counterpart, it aims to make the website creation process easier for beginners.

Since WordPress.com is fully hosted, users can simply sign up for an account and launch their site immediately without worrying about a hosting solution. It also provides a free website address out-of-the-box.  

With WordPress.com, it’s possible to create a site at no cost and switch to a paid plan later for more resources. 

 WordPress.com offers five premium plans

  • Personal – $4/month.
  • Premium – $8/month.
  • Business – $25/month.
  • eCommerce – $45/month.
  • VIP – starting at  $2,000/month.

Here are other advantages of using WordPress.com:

  • Easy to manage – WordPress.com will take care of site maintenance jobs such as upgrading software, managing your web server, and securing your website.
  • Requires minimal effort to start a website – setting up a WordPress.com site is straightforward since it already comes with hosting and a domain name.
  • Suitable for bloggers – WordPress.com has all tools needed to start a fully functional blog, allowing users to get their site live and running in no time.

There also some negative aspects to consider before choosing WordPress.com, such as:

  • Ads on free websites – if you start with the free option, your site will display ads from WordPress.com, making your website look less professional. You’ll need to upgrade to a premium plan to remove these ads.
  • No monetization ability – users can’t monetize their site with WordPress.com’s free service unless they purchase its Premium option that costs $8/month.
  • Limited access to plugins – you need to choose either WordPress.com’s Business plan or a more powerful one in order to install plugins on your website.
  • Lack of customization options – when using the free service, you’ll have limited access to WordPress.com themes and customization options. 
  • Restricted access to the website stats – with the free plan of WordPress.com, users can’t install Google Analytics or other tracking platforms.

WordPress.com is an excellent platform for beginners to start a website for free. However, the service is quite limited when it comes to features, even if you’re on one of its premium plans. Unlocking the more advanced features requires a Business plan, which costs $25/month.

WordPress.org

(Image credit: WordPress.org)

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is open-source software that’s free to download and install. This CMS is highly customizable thanks to its wide selection of themes and plugins and is fit for any type of website, from blogs to eCommerce stores.

Making full use of the WordPress.org software still comes with a price tag, however – users need to purchase a domain name and hosting service to use it.

Luckily, many web hosts offer cost-effective WordPress hosting solutions. Some of them are:

Unlike WordPress.com, WordPress.org won’t display any ads on your site, all while being completely free to use open-source software.

Here are more benefits of choosing WordPress.org:

  • Flexibility – users are free to customize their site and improve its functionality using any themes and plugins they want. People with coding knowledge can also utilize their own templates and tools.
  • A wide range of third-party plugins – there are thousands of tools available that integrate with the WordPress.org software, supporting or expanding such features as lead generation, SEO, and email marketing.
  • Monetization – unlike WordPress.com, WordPress.org lets you run ads and sell products directly from your website.
  • Supports scripts – WordPress.org users can add tracking scripts like Google Analytics on their site without limitations. This is a great advantage for those who want to use their site metrics to make data-driven decisions.

Before starting with WordPress.org, ensure you consider these aspects as well:

  • Purchase a hosting service – it’s essential to look for a web host if you want to use this self-hosted platform. Thankfully, many hosting providers offer affordable and beginner-friendly plans, coupled with a one-click WordPress installation option and support.
  • Responsible for website maintenance – WordPress.org users are responsible for their own backups and updates.

Although it might take longer to create a website with the WordPress.org software, this platform offers more flexibility to build any kind of site you want.

Which one to choose?

Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org offer robust features, but the right platform for you depends on your website’s goals, budget, and skill set.

Let’s compare WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org based on their pricing, features, platform flexibility, security, ease of use, support, and monetization options.

Price

An important factor to look out for when picking your future website software is the price – it’s crucial to ensure that your budget can cover the upfront costs and long-term fees of using the platform. 

People who want to spend little to no money on their sites can start with WordPress.com’s free plan – they will get up to 3 GB of disk space and a domain name with the .wordPress.com subdomain. 

However, this option comes with WordPress.com’s branding ads, and users have to purchase a premium plan to remove them. 

WordPress.com’s premium options for regular websites cost between $4-$45/month. All of these paid options include a free custom domain name during the first year.

The cheapest plan offers 6 GB of storage space, no branding ads, and the ability to upload audio files.

WordPress.com also offers plans for enterprises that start at $2,000/month. These options include a content delivery network (CDN) hourly backups, and a GitHub repository.

As for using WordPress.org, you’ll need to look for a domain name and a web hosting provider before getting started.

Hostinger WordPress

(Image credit: Hostinger)

If you go with a popular web hosting company, such as Hostinger, the prices will be lower than the WordPress.com premium plan

Hostinger’s WordPress hosting solutions range from $1.99-$11.59/month. With its lowest-tier plan, users will get 30 GB of storage space, 24/7 live chat support, and free WordPress themes and plugins.

It’s also possible to purchase a custom domain name from Hostinger, making it more convenient to keep and manage your hosting and domain registration in one place.

A custom domain name usually costs between $10-$20/year. But users can get a free domain if they opt for Hostinger’s WordPress Starter plan that costs $2.99/month. 

With WordPress.org, you’re free to start with the basic hosting plan and only upgrade it when your site grows and needs more resources.

If you’re a beginner and looking for a way to start a website for free, WordPress.com can be a good choice. However, if you intend to build a business website or any other large personal project without going over your budget, consider choosing WordPress.org. 

Features 

When picking a website platform, look for a service that will provide you with all the necessary features for your project, such as customization options, analytics, and SEO tools

WordPress.com, for example, comes built-in with the essential features to build a fully functioning blog. 

Jetpack

(Image credit: Automattic)

Its free plan also includes Jetpack, plenty of free themes to choose from, and the ability to make simple changes on your WordPress site template. 

However, you’ll need to upgrade to WordPress.com’s Premium plan to access more templates and advanced design customization.

Unlike WordPress.com, WordPress.org lets you fully customize a website regardless of the hosting plan you choose. Using this platform, you’re able to modify your site through code and plugins and make full use of the best WordPress themes available on the internet.

WordPress.org users can also install and use Google Analytics straightaway to track site metrics like bounce rate, time spent on pages, and conversion rates.

Meanwhile, Google Analytics isn’t available on WordPress.com’s free plan and lowest-tier premium plan.

Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org have the same high-quality SEO performance. However, WordPress.org gives you more flexibility to make manual changes to improve your site’s SEO thanks to the many plugins available.

It’s worth noting that WordPress.com only includes advanced SEO tools on its Business, eCommerce, and VIP plans.

With WordPress.org, users can customize and add tools to their sites from the start. On the other hand, WordPress.com requires web owners to upgrade to a higher plan to acquire more features and customization options.

Platform flexibility

Another difference between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org is how each platform extends a site’s functionality.

With WordPress.org, you have full access to the code that powers this software, allowing you to create custom tools or implement any extra functionality to fit your needs.

CreativeMinds

(Image credit: CreativeMinds)

The self-hosted WordPress.org also lets you install the best WordPress plugins to enhance your site’s performance. It’s also possible to use other free and premium third-party plugins from websites such as CreativeMinds.

On the flip side, plugins are only accessible on WordPress.com’s Business, eCommerce, and VIP plans.

For a simple website or blog, the built-in features of WordPress.com’s free, Personal, and Premium plans might suffice.

However, for those who want the freedom to modify their site without any additional payments, WordPress.org is the go-to choice. 

Security

To ensure that your site is safe from malware and other cyber attacks, pick a platform that offers security tools out-of-the-box.

With WordPress.com, web owners won’t need to worry about any maintenance issues, as they will be automatically taken care of. 

Moreover, users can’t access and modify their web server configuration, helping to protect their WordPress.com site from security risks.

WordPress.com also includes a pre-built SSL certificate on all of its plans, which will protect the site’s data and its visitors’ personal information. 

WordPress.org’s system is also secure by default. However, users are responsible for updating the software regularly and taking care of backups on their own.

Thankfully, users can install some of the best WordPress security plugins to help with most security tasks.

Moreover, many hosting providers provide additional security features that help protect your WordPress site. For instance, Hostinger’s WordPress plan includes weekly backups, a free SSL certificate, and the Cloudflare DNS Firewall to safeguard a website from DDoS attacks

Using WordPress.com means your site will be secure and easy to maintain from the start. However, WordPress.org gives more options to secure your website further.

Ease of Use

A website platform should also be easy to use, ensuring that anyone can build a website without having to master its intricacies and spend hours coding.

WordPress.com and WordPress.org offer a similar user experience and page builders for content creation. The difference is that setting up a WordPress.com site is quicker than starting a WordPress.org website.

With WordPress.com, users simply need to create an account from this platform’s official homepage. Then, they can pick a template from a collection of pre-made themes, make a few changes, and start adding content to the site right away.

Meanwhile, setting up a site with the WordPress.org software requires more steps, including registering a custom domain name and choosing a hosting plan.

Fortunately, many hosting companies like Hostinger provide a one-click installer, allowing users to install and create a WordPress.org site quickly.

WordPress.com is an excellent platform for those who want a hassle-free way of setting up a website. If you pick the right hosting provider, however, it should be as easy to create a website with WordPress.org.

Support

Support is another critical aspect to discuss when comparing WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org – it determines how fast and efficiently a user can get help when facing a problem.

WordPress.com offers different types of support for each of its plans. With the free service, users can only ask for help on the WordPress community forums.

Those who sign up for any of the WordPress.com premium plans will be able to access the email support. However, gaining assistance via the 24/7 live chat support will require upgrading to WordPress.com’s Business plan.

On the other hand, WordPress.org offers no direct support from the platform itself. Instead, it provides a community support forum and extensive documentation.

WordPress.org users can also get help from their web hosting provider. For instance, Hostinger offers 24/7 support via email and live chat, ready to lend a helping hand whenever you need them. 

Other than that, users can learn from the many resources on the internet covering WordPress.org topics

Those who are new to web development should consider using WordPress.org and picking a hosting provider with a support team that is available anytime. The open-source platform also has a large support community, offering a lot of self-help resources. 

Monetization Options

If you want to generate income from your site, it’s crucial to choose a platform that offers several monetization options. 

With WordPress.com, the choices to make money from a website are limited. Users on free and Personal plans can’t monetize their sites at all. 

WordPress.com also places its ads on free sites without sharing the earnings with the web owners.

BuySellAds

(Image credit: BuySellAds)

To integrate with monetization tools like Google AdSense and BuySellAds, users also have to upgrade to the Premium plan at a minimum.

Before you get to sell online, it’s also essential to sign up for WordPress.com’s eCommerce plan. This option lets you accept payments in over 60 countries, sell unlimited products, and integrate with top shipping carriers. 

In contrast, the self-hosted WordPress version allows you to monetize your site in any way without restrictions, from selling physical items to embedding referral links into blog content. 

Although it’s possible to make money online with WordPress.com, it’s much more efficient to use WordPress.org when building an online store or selling ad space on a website.

Which do we recommend?

Knowing the differences between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org is crucial for deciding which platform to choose for your online presence.

Remember that it’s also essential to know your goals, budget, and skill set before choosing between WordPress.com or WordPress.org to create a website.

Let’s recap the main differences between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org:

  • Price – the cost of creating a WordPress.org site can be lower than WordPress.com’s premium plans. 
  • Features – WordPress.com requires users to upgrade to a more expensive plan to get more features. In contrast, WordPress.org lets you use any feature and themes regardless of the hosting service you choose.
  • Platform flexibility – with WordPress.org, it’s possible to use custom tools or third-party plugins to improve a site’s performance. WordPress.com only gives this kind of ability to those on Business, eCommerce, and VIP plans.
  • Security – WordPress.com websites are secure by default. Meanwhile, WordPress.org users need to take care of their sites’ backups and updates themselves.
  • Ease of use – both platforms provide similar usability, but it takes less time to set up a site with WordPress.com.
  • Support – when using WordPress.com, the kind of assistance you get from the service depends on the plan you choose. On the other hand, WordPress.org has no support, but it lets you pick any web hosting service with 24/7 support.
  • Monetization options – WordPress.org gives you the freedom to make money in any way, while WordPress.com requires you to purchase at least its Premium plan to make money from your site.

If you want to have the flexibility to build any website without being limited by the plan you choose, we recommend picking WordPress.org. 

However, if you are looking for a simple website building process and don’t mind a higher price point, consider WordPress.com.