Did you know that WordPress.com and WordPress.org are actually two very different platforms?
Often beginners confuse WordPress.com and WordPress.org, which leads them to choose the wrong blogging platform for their needs. Even those who know that they are two different platforms are not aware of the differences between them.
We’re often asked by our users which is the better platform: WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. To help answer that, we have created the most comprehensive comparison of free WordPress.com vs WordPress.org (self-hosted version).
Our goal is to highlight the key differences between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, so you can choose the right platform for your needs.
Since choosing the right platform is crucial for your online success, we have created the most detailed comparison of WordPress.com vs WordPress.org (text comparison, table-based comparison, and a full infographic).
If you just want to start a blog or make a website the RIGHT way, then you can skip this article and head over to our guides here:
- How to Start a Blog with WordPress (step by step)
- How to Create a Website with WordPress (step by step)
Having said that, let’s take a look at the differences between self-hosted WordPress.org vs WordPress.com.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org (Infographic)
Note: This infographic and article compare the powerful self-hosted WordPress.org with the free WordPress.com hosting service. You can unlock additional features in WordPress.com by upgrading to their paid service. We have highlighted those features as well.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org Comparison
The best way to understand the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org is to take a look at each platform individually.
WordPress.org aka “the real WordPress”, is the popular website platform that you have heard all the great things about.
It is open-source and 100% free for anyone to use. All you need is a domain name and web hosting. This is why it is also referred to as self-hosted WordPress.
Below are the pros and cons of using the self-hosted WordPress.org to build your website or blog.
With WordPress.org, you have full control of your website. You are free to do anything you want and customize it as much as you need.
Here are some of the benefits of choosing WordPress.org to build your website, and the reason why it is our #1 pick for the best website builder.
- The WordPress software is free, open-source, and super easy to use. (See why is WordPress free?)
- You own your website and all its data. Your site will NOT be turned off because someone decides that it is against their terms of service (as long as you are not doing something illegal). You are in full control.
- You can add free, paid, and custom WordPress plugins / apps to your website.
- You can use customize your website design as needed. You can add any free or premium WordPress theme that you want. You can also create completely custom designs or modify anything that you want.
- You can actually make money from your WordPress site by running your own ads without sharing revenue with anyone.
- You can use powerful tools like Google Analytics for custom analytics and tracking.
- You can use self-hosted WordPress to create an online store to sell digital or physical products, accept credit card payments, and deliver / ship the goods directly from your website.
- You can also create membership sites and sell memberships for premium content, courses, etc and build an online community around your website.
There are a very few cons of using the self-hosted WordPress.org site.
- Like all websites, you will need web hosting. This is where your website files are stored on the internet. Initially, the cost is around $3-$10 per month. However as your website grows and gets more traffic, the web hosting costs will increase as expected, but then you would be making enough money to cover the costs.
- You are responsible for updates. You can easily update your WordPress site by simply clicking on the update button (1-click), so it’s not too much work.
- You are responsible for backups. Thankfully, there are tons of WordPress backup plugins that let you setup automatic backups.
The real cost of WordPress.org website varies based on what you are trying to build (simple blog, portfolio website, eCommerce store, membership site, etc). There are also other factors like free templates vs premium templates, free plugins vs premium plugins, etc.
On a low budget, you can build your website for as little as $46 per year. See our guide on how much does it really cost to build a WordPress website for full details.
For 99% of users, our recommendation is always to use WordPress.org. See our guide on how to start a website.
WordPress.com is a hosting service created by the co-founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg. Because of the same founder, often users confuse WordPress.com with the popular WordPress.org software.
The WordPress.com hosting service has 5 plans:
- Free – Very limited.
- Personal – $48 per year
- Premium – $96 per year
- Business – $300 per year
- Ecommerce – $540 per year
- VIP – starting at $5000 per month
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of WordPress.com.
The free WordPress.com platform is a good choice for hobby bloggers and those starting a blog for their family. Here are some of the benefits of using WordPress.com:
- It’s free for up to 3GB of space. After that you will have to switch to a paid plan for more space. (Personal plan $48 /year gives you 6GB, Premium plan $96/year gives you 13GB storage, or Business plan for $300/year for 200 GB storage).
- You will not have to worry about updates or backups. WordPress.com will take care of that.
There are several limitations of free WordPress.com which differentiate it from WordPress.org. Here are some of the disadvantages of using WordPress.com:
- They place ads on all free websites. Your users see those ads, and you don’t make money from it. If you don’t want your users to see their ads, then you can upgrade to a paid plan (starting from $48 per year).
- You are NOT allowed to sell ads on your website, which severely limits ways to monetize your site. If you run a high traffic site, then you can apply for their advertising program called WordAds where you share revenue with them. Premium and Business plan users can use WordAds right away.
- You cannot upload plugins. Free plan users get built-in Jetpack features pre-activated. Business plan users can install from a selection of compatible plugins ($300 / year). WordPress.com VIP program lets you install plugins, and it starts from $5000 per month.
- You cannot upload custom themes. Free plan users can only install from the limited free themes collection. Premium and business plan users can also select premium themes. There are limited customization options for the free version. Premium and Business plan users can use custom CSS.
- You are restricted to their stats. You cannot add Google Analytics or install any other powerful tracking platform. Business plan users can install Google Analytics.
- Free WordPress.com websites come with a WordPress.com branded domain (e.g. https://yourwebsite.wordpress.com). You’ll need a paid plan to get a custom domain name (e.g https://www.yourwebsite.com).
- They can delete your site at any time if they think that it violates their terms of service.
- Your site will display a powered by WordPress.com link. It can be removed by upgrading to the Business plan.
- WordPress.com does not offer any eCommerce features or integrated payment gateways unless you switch to the eCommerce plan.
- You cannot build membership websites with WordPress.com.
As you can see, the WordPress.com hosting platform is quite limited when you’re on the free, personal, or even premium plan. To unlock some of the more advanced features, you have to be on the Business plan ($300 per year) or on the VIP plan ($5000 per month).
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org (FAQs)
Since this is a popular topic, and WPBeginner is the largest free WordPress resource site for beginners, we get tons of questions regarding WordPress.com vs WordPress.org.
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