Virtually anyone doing research on getting a website built is bound to come across WordPress. WordPress, as many know, is the world’s most widely used website content management system (CMS).
However, many may not know the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org – or that there are even two different WordPress websites.
So, What’s the Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.Org?
The main difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org boils down to hosting and flexibility.
With wordpress.org, you’re dealing with what is known as open-source software. Essentially, that means the source code (the HTML coding for your entire website) is available for the end user – you – to make changes and edits as they see fit.
It’s a similar setup to being able to edit the software on your computer to make it customized to your needs. What that translates to in the context of actually developing a website is a tremendous range of flexibility and customization in both function and design.
For this kind of configuration, you have to provide your own hosting, and set everything up from scratch (or hire a WordPress development agency to do it for you).
The takeaway: Wordpress.org requires more responsibility, but gives more flexibility.
On the other hand, wordpress.com is a closed, managed environment, built upon the open-source software. While it’s much more user-friendly, it’s less accessible in that you don’t have access to the source code.
You’re limited in terms of plugins and themes – and thus style and function – that the platform offers. While there is technically a very low barrier to entry (or website creation and launches) with wordpress.com configuration, there is also a very low ceiling on design flexibility and function extensibility.
The takeaway: WordPress.com requires less responsibility but, thus, provides less flexibility.
Should I Use WordPress.org or WordPress.com?
Go with wordpress.com if you… are a beginning hobbyist looking to explore the world of blogging, and not ready to spend the time and resources required to set up a proper wordpress.org configuration.
On wordpress.com, you can set up a website for free in a matter of minutes (however, with a free plan, your website will have a domain such as yoursitename.wordpress.com).
You can also purchase additional functions and features through wordpress.com; however, they can get expensive very quickly.
With wordpress.com, it’s cost-effective in the beginning, but will ultimately end up costing much more money than a wordpress.org site.
Go with wordpress.org if you… are an intermediate to advanced hobbyist, running a business website, or running a publication style site where ad-revenue is a consideration.
WordPress.org is the most popular choice for web hosting, and is currently used to power about 23% of the web according to a 2015 article by Business2Community.
Its flexibility also provides the foundation for a wide-range of sites from directories to eCommerce shops to job board sites and everything in-between. In other words, no matter what your needs are, wordpress.org can be suited to meet those needs and leave you the flexibility you’ll want to evolve your site as your business grows and those needs change.
The takeaway: Think of the difference between these two platforms as the difference between making a TV dinner and making dinner from scratch. WordPress.com is the TV dinner option – requires little time and effort, but you can’t change much – while wordpress.org is the from-scratch option – it takes more time and effort but you have control over everything that goes into it.
Still Undecided? Check Out This Side-by-Side Comparison
Here’s a great infographic that helps to visually explain the difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com, courtesy of WPKUBE: