They sound incredibly similar, so what’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? We’ll explain how they differ while also seeing how they stack up in terms of setup, themes, customization, plugins, security, price, and more.
What is the Main Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
WordPress.com is an all-in-one platform that gives you everything you need to quickly build a professional-looking website or blog. That includes all of its primary features at no cost, as well as hosting.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, is open-source software that serves as a content management system (CMS) for websites, blogs, and so forth. Like WordPress.com, WordPress.org is free. However, you will be responsible for hosting with WordPress.org to make whatever you develop functional, which is the main difference between the two platforms.
Comparing WordPress.com and WordPress.org
The need to find hosting with WordPress.org is just one way in which these platforms differ. Now let’s break down how they stack up with one another in various departments so you can pick which best fits your design needs.
Setup on WordPress.com is as easy as can be. All you have to do is head to the homepage and click “Start Your Website.” This makes it ideal for beginners, who will also get step-by-step guidance along the way until the site is built.
As long as you have an email address and the name for your site handy, you can proceed to pick a theme, tweak parts of the design, and add content to have a fully functional website.
WordPress.org’s setup is not as intuitive. It involves some research and possibly a bit of training before getting started. Before you start building a site, you will need to pick a web hosting provider. Once that’s finished, you’ll need to install WordPress to your hosting account. Then, the site will be ready to go so you can customize it to your liking.
While some hosting companies make it relatively easy to set up a site using WordPress.org – via a control panel, CPanel, or another method – the fact that WordPress.com lets you begin with one click earns it the nod here.
A theme helps you set up the overall look and feel of a website. The selection of WordPress.com themes depends on the plan you pick. Free or Personal plans will give you 150 themes to choose from. Premium, Business, and eCommerce plans offer an additional 200 themes to choose from, with most of them being of the premium (paid) variety.
WordPress.org, meanwhile, has a directory of over 7,500 free themes. You can also find free WordPress.org themes scattered across the Internet. Add in thousands of premium themes as well, and it’s a no-brainer that WordPress.org wins this category due to selection.
Read: Best WordPress Themes
While WordPress.com and WordPress.org use the same native software, the former limits you in terms of customization due to some interfaces, mechanisms, etc., that sit on top of the dashboard. Additionally, customization seems to be limited according to your subscription level, so if you choose a cheaper option, like Free or Personal, you may feel restricted compared to Premium or Business users.
On the flip side, WordPress.org gives you much more control over design and code. This allows you to tweak your site by implementing customized code, making theme changes on the fly, configuring plugins as you please, and so on.
Needless to say, WordPress.org wins on customization.
You can increase your website’s functionality via plugins, which you can think of as small programs or pre-built blocks of code that add additional functionality to your website. On WordPress.com, you can access over 50,000 plugins with a caveat: you have to pay for the Business or eCommerce plan.
WordPress.org gives you much more plugin power, as you get access to 50,000 (the same as WordPress.com’s Business and eCommerce plans) at no cost. And if those 50,000 don’t suffice, you can find thousands more that are either free or paid on the Internet.
Plugins represent another area where WordPress.org gets the upper hand.
Read: Best WordPress Plugins
Security and backups are pretty simple on WordPress.com, making it very easy to maintain if you’re looking for a hands-off approach. Once your WordPress.com site goes live, you’ll get the peace of mind that comes with basic security and backups, as well as software updates when needed.
WordPress.org is similarly secure, but you can add an extra layer of protection with a set of security plugins. You’ll be responsible for backups, which you can delegate to a plugin as well or perform manually.
While WordPress.com is easier to maintain, being able to customize security with plugins on WordPress.org gives it the edge here.
Read: Best WordPress Security Tips
You can build a completely free site with WordPress.com, but it has the drawbacks of having wordpress.com in the domain name along with possibly irritating advertisements sprinkled everywhere. Upgrade to paid plans that range from $4 to $5 per month, and you can get rid of those limitations.
WordPress.org is ”free,” but you’ll still need to pay for a domain name and hosting.
As far as price is concerned, WordPress.com’s Free plan wins if you’re okay with having a completely basic website for personal use. But if you’re looking for more bells and whistles down the line, WordPress.org offers more value.
Which is Better: WordPress.com or WordPress.org
Defining which is the better platform to build your website upon – WordPress.com or WordPress.org – really depends upon the user’s needs. If you want an option where you do not have to figure out hosting, installing, and configuring WordPress on a deeper level, WordPress.com is probably your better option. This is particularly true for hobby sites or sites where you do not require complete control over every aspect of your website.
However, if you want complete control of your website and want to truly customize your site’s look and functionality, then WordPress.org is the better bet. It might take a little more manual work in terms of installation, backing-up, and managing, at the end of the day, owning every aspect of your website, the content, and your work is well worth the time and effort it takes to run a WordPress.org installation.
Read: WordPress Pros and Cons