WordPress.com or WordPress.org? How to Choose Between the Two

WordPress com vs org: Which One for your Website?

If you're new to WordPress, you might only know that it is the easiest and fastest way for anyone to get online and start publishing content regularly on a website. You eagerly type the word into your search bar and the top two results are WordPress.com & WordPress.org.

What you see when you search for WordPress in Google
A choice between COM and ORG

So what's the difference? What are the pros and cons of each? This article covers exactly that:

WordPress.com: A Publishing Platform

WordPress.com is a publishing platform, similar to Blogger, where anyone can sign up for a blog and start writing as often and on whatever topic they want. Users get to choose an address on the site (known as a subdomain): yourblogname.wordpress.com and are provided a dashboard where they can update the content of the blog. WordPress.com was started in 2005 by Automattic, the company that created the WordPress software, and all of the above features are still true of wp.com, plus a lot of other additions over the years such as more theme designs, a much richer social platform which enables WordPress.com users to easily interact with, follow and share content with each other, and premium features such as your own full domain name and the ability to change the design (using CSS) of your website. 

How WordPress.com looks in 2014
WordPress.com in 2014

What you need: nothing!
What you get:

  • a WP-powered website on a wordpress.com subdomain  that you can use and update from iPhone and Android devices as well.
  • choice of hundreds of site designs.
  • a community of millions of users who publish content on every topic under the sun.

However: You cannot put advertising on your WordPress.com site, you cannot use your own domain name or upload the theme of your choice unless you pay for premium features, and you don't have access to the files on the server.

You should choose WordPress.com if... you don't intend to serve ads, you want to start a blog and gain immediate access to a huge community of fellow bloggers, you want to get online right away on a fast website with a lot of options for customization, and you don't want to worry about hosting or security.

WordPress.org: Self-hosted CMS

WordPress.org is the software that powers WordPress.com and millions of other websites across the world. It began in 2003 as an open source software, allowing anyone to download and install the WordPress CMS to one's own web servers, completely free of charge. This was an unprecedented and game-changing step in the history of websites, as now anyone could have their own content management system and a website on their own domain space and have complete control over all aspects of it.

How WordPress.org Looked in 2003
The Humble Beginnings of WordPress.org in 2003

WordPress.org gives its users nearly unlimited ability to customize aspects of their website and make it function according to their needs.  It has brought about a revolution in website design and capabilities that continues to this day. As long as you own a domain name and have a web server with PHP/MySQL (provided by practically every web host), you can quickly install WordPress.org's latest version and get up and online in a matter of minutes. Most hosts also offer a one-click install of this popular platform.

The best part about WordPress.org is that as a user you can become part of an immense community of website owners and entrepreneurs, and can help to make the WordPress code better for all users by reporting bugs, participating in WordPress forums and helping newer users learn how to make WP work for them. It is thanks to this open source nature of WordPress that it has continued to evolve into the mature and battle-tested platform it is today.

What you need: your own domain name and hosting.
What you get:

  • A CMS and blogging tool that is updated regularly in response to user data from millions of users, making it continuously more flexible and secure.
  • Choice of hundreds of thousands of WordPress theme designs, both free and premium, created for every popular niche and imaginable purpose.
  • Complete control over and ability to change aspects of the theme via plugins, shortcodes and custom development.
  • A 'multisites' option, previously known as MultiUser or WPMU, so that one installation of WordPress can be used to power unlimited number of different blogs (for example, on subdomains of your domain name).
  • Thanks to the JetPack Plugin, today WordPress.org users also get access to WordPress.com's social features without any cost or having to host on the WP.com site.

However: In exchange for such flexibility and control, WordPress.org users must keep the following in mind:

  • It is your job to make sure your WordPress site is secure and updated to the latest stable version.
  • Plugins offer incredible functionality but it is important to choose plugins that are well tested and secure, and to report any bugs you find in a plugin to the WordPress.org plugin repository, so that it can be fixed or made known to other users.
  • If you find bugs in latest versions of WordPress, report them to WordPress.org so that the system can continuously improve.

You should choose WordPress.org if... you have your own domain and hosting, you want to display ads, you want to have complete control over the look, design and functionality of your WordPress site, and also have at least some time to devote to making sure it is secure and optimized. 

If you found this article helpful, you might also like to learn how WordPress works or take a quick lesson in WordPress vocabulary.

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