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WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

If you’re wondering what is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, and which one is better for blogging or starting a new website for your small business, this article will answer all your questions. (Some of the links below are affiliate links and I may earn commissions on qualified clicks.)

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I do not recommend using WordPress.com because the free version is extremely limited, and the paid plans are more expensive than what you can get elsewhere. I recommend building a WordPress website through Bluehost, which uses the WordPress platform from WordPress.org.

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What is WordPress?

In order to understand the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, you need to understand what WordPress is to begin with, and you need to understand some basics about how websites work.

WordPress is a free, open-source software that you can use to build and manage a website. WordPress is known as a type of “Content Management System”.

Content Management Systems

Back in the old days of web design, you’d literally create a website inside of a text editor using HTML or some other programming language. That HTML file would then be saved on a server owned by a web host such as Bluehost, and people could view your website by going to your domain (that’s your .com address), and that HTML file would be read by the browser, and your website would be shown.

But as time went by, people wanted an easier way to build and edit their websites, so that’s when content management systems, like WordPress, were invented.  

Creating a website with code vs a content management system.

A content management system provides an easy-to-use interface to customize the look of your website, change settings, add and edit content, all without having to know any code.

Although it is software, you don’t actually run it on your own computer. Instead, the software is installed on your web server, and you log into the admin dashboard using a special link. For example, https://yourwebsite.com/wp-admin.

WordPress Dashboard

So it makes the entire process of starting and managing a website a lot easier. Basically, if you know how to use Facebook, then you can figure out how to use WordPress, it’s very user friendly, even if you’re not really that tech savvy.

WordPress isn’t the only content management system out there, but it is the most popular on the entire internet. By some estimates, WordPress powers 37 percent of all websites. There are some others such as Joomla and Drupal. But they aren’t nearly as popular.

Wordpress Statistics

Squarespace, Wix?

Technically, sites like Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, and weebly are all content management systems too, because they provide a user interface for designing and managing your website.

But the key difference is that their platforms are not open source, so you are forced to pay for their specific web hosting in order to build a website using their platform. And because of that, you’re going to be paying a premium price to use those platforms.

Pricing for premium web hosting platforms

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org?

So, that brings us back to the question, what’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

  • WordPress.com is just one of many web hosts that enable you to use the WordPress platform to build a website. (It just happens to be affiliated with the same company that develops WordPress. So you can think of it as the “official” WordPress web host.)
  • WordPress.org is the site that has all the technical documentation and updates about the WordPress platform, a download link to the WordPress installation files (You typically don’t even need to download WordPress to your computer, your web host takes care of the installation for you), as well as a repository for a bunch of themes and plugins that you can use to customize your specific WordPress installation. In order to use the WordPress platform, you need to purchase web hosting from a 3rd party, like Bluehost.

I say WordPress.com is one of many web hosts because virtually every single web host out there enables you to install WordPress on your server and build a WordPress website.

Because again, WordPress is an open source and free platform, so you can install it on any web host you’d like. So whether you get web hosting from Bluehost, or Hostgator, InMotion, or SiteGround, you can install WordPress on it.

And the cool thing is you don’t even need to download the WordPress platform from WordPress.org and then upload it to your web host, because all of these web hosts have one-click WordPress installers built right into their platforms, so it’s super simple to get going.

Why not WordPress.com?

The biggest reason people consider WordPress.com is because they see that they have an option to create a free website.

So you might be thinking, “Why should I pay for hosting somewhere else, when I can just create a free WordPress site on WordPress.com?”

Well, the free website plan is extremely limited.

  • You can’t use your own domain, so instead of OnlineBusinessTech.com, it would be OnlineBusinessTech.WordPress.com.
  • You can’t create any email addresses.
  • You can’t use any custom themes.
  • You can’t install plugins.  

No Plugins

Plugins are one of the most valuable features of the WordPress platform. There’s a huge community of WordPress developers that have created all sorts of plugins that you can install on your website to give it some custom functionality.

There are plugins for contact forms, ecommerce, membership sites, email marketing, custom calculators, and a whole lot more.

Limited

The biggest drawback to WordPress.com is that the version of WordPress you get to use is extremely limited. And in fact, if you look at their paid plans, the cheapest one that actually gives you the full functionality of the WordPress platform is the Business plan, that costs $25/mo, which is way more than what you’d spend if instead you went with a web host like Bluehost.

Recommended solution

So the thing that’s weird about the question “Should I use WordPress.com or WordPress.org”, is you’re not comparing apples to apples.

WordPress.com is a web host.

WordPress.org is an informational/support/download site for the WordPress platform.

So while I’d to be able to clearly state that I definitely recommend WordPress.org, that would be like me saying “I recommend using https://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop.html“, instead of saying “I recommend using Adobe PhotoShop.”

See what I mean? WordPress.org is just the website that has information/resources about the WordPress platform. So, when I say I recommend WordPress.org, what I really mean is I recommend the WordPress platform, hosted on a web host like Bluehost.

With Bluehost, you can get hosting, with a free domain name included for the first year, for only $3.95/mo, and that’s the beauty of competition. Because you have all of these web hosts competing for your business, which drives down prices. I think WordPress.com charges so much because they know some people just feel more trustworthy because it’s like the official site or something, but it’s really not worth it.

So there are a ton of web hosts out there, but if you’re getting ready to build your very first website, I would recommend Bluehost, they’ve been around forever and they are great for getting started. And one of the great things about using WordPress is that you can always backup your website and move it to a new host down the road if you ever wanted to, unlike Squarespace or Wix where you are essentially stuck with their platform forever.

If you’re getting ready to build your very first website, congratulations! That’s so exciting.

Good luck!

By Matt Donley

Matt is the creator of onlinebusinesstech where he shares tips, tricks, and tutorials on how to leverage technology when building your own online business.