This is a question I have been asked many times, as the distinction isn’t thoroughly clear right off the bat. WordPress is a software that allows you to create a website and blog very easily. However, there are two versions: WordPress.com, and WordPress.org. Let’s chat a little bit about what is different between the two, and what they are intended for!
Typically, I work with WordPress.org because it is the self-hosted version of WordPress, or the WordPress software. Historically, WordPress.com has primarily been used for blogging purposes because they offered free, basic services hosted on their own servers. However, they have evolved to offer some monthly subscription services that make their free offering a little more robust, and a possible solution for sole proprietorship type of businesses. With the free plan, you get a domain hosted through WordPress.com, so it will look something like mysite.wordpress.com, versus mysite.com. This is because your free website would be hosted through WordPress.com – so all of your files are being stored with them under a subdomain. Other sites such as Blogspot and Tumblr offer a similar opportunity, hence when you visit any of their sites they appear as mysite.blogspot.com or mysite.tumblr.com. Essentially, it provides a safe, secure way of sharing information without having to purchase your own hosting and manage security for a site – WordPress, Tumblr, and BlogSpot are able to spend quite a good deal of money on security for all of their subdomains, so you don’t have to. However, this does come with limitations!
Let’s get right to it, though. There are a few core differences between it and WordPress.org.
WordPress.com VS WordPress.org
WordPress.com is hosted on WordPress servers, so unless you pay for a premium plan, you will be using one of their subdomains (ex: mysite.wordpress.com)
WordPress.org is the self-hosted version, so you must find somewhere to host the files that make up your website, such as GoDaddy or GreenGeeks
WordPress.com has many limitations in the back-end, in design and in technical aspects (the back-end of websites that run the .org software have a much more advanced admin panel, endless themes to choose from, and are only technically limited by the hosting plan they purchase)
The following is an example of what I’ve done with WordPress.com. Last year, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I spent a couple months working with a local non-profit that provides opportunities for growth in the Tech economy throughout the Northern part of the state. We partnered with a local school, Tierra Encantada, that offers a unique experience to their students. Instead of taking elective classes throughout the school year, a few weeks are reserved at the end of their curriculum to take intensives – one class that is laser focused on a particular subject to provide an immersive learning experience. In this case, the journalism students worked alongside us to learn how to create and manage a free WordPress-based website that acted as an editorial presentation of their classwork. Work with the students began with a small team of six students that helped in the set-up and design of the site. They then went on to teach the other students how to enter in their articles to the system, which was like a domino effect, as once a few more students knew how to, the rest fell in line quickly. This took place over the course of about four hours of my presence in their classroom! It was wonderful impacting the youth there as they had no idea that if they wanted to chase after a career in web design, they could potentially work for themselves at home. They were all so shocked to hear about this! However, this story just reveals one of many things you can do with WordPress.com.
With the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org taken into consideration, and while I only provided one example of what you can do with the .com version, you should start to see a pretty picture being painted of the possibilities you can achieve with the .org version. However complicated purchasing hosting and installing WordPress sounds, it has actually become much more simple than the original methods used. The demand for WordPress is at an all-time high, as it powers 30% of the internet, and this client base continues to grow. For these reasons, hosting providers have had to adapt or die, and now most offer some sort of one-click install of the WordPress software.
In essence, WordPress.com is suitable for those that desire a free solution first and foremost. You’re able to skip out on any and all fees to start a very basic blog-centric website. You receive a simplified admin panel on the back end that, as shown in my experience above, is easy enough for 11-year olds to put to use. WordPress.org, on the other hand, is a flexible solution for those that want to have unlimited growth potential with one platform, rather than beginning with a more limited one and changing over later. If you’re looking to choose a long-standing solution that has been thoroughly tried and tested, WordPress.org is the way to go. Say hello to the webs solutions you’ve only dreamed about until now – WordPress has it all in store.
Let me know your thoughts below in the comments, and as always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions. I’m here to help further others online adventures.
Good luck on your journey!