WordPress is the most widely content publishing platform on the web, and it comes in different packages: the hosted WordPress.com, and the self-hosted WordPress.org! In this article we're going to focus on the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org and try to help you decide which is the best solution for you to gain benefits from the WordPress ecosystem.
WordPress – Hosted vs. Self-Hosted
A new WordPress user might at first get confused as to which version to select, and sometimes there are situations where users are not sure if they made the right decision by selecting the hosted or the self-hosted version. Still both versions have their pros and cons – and which one to choose strongly depends on what the user needs, expects and the skills that are necessary in order to manage a WordPress website. That's why it is so crucial to know the differences between both versions.
WordPress.com – Hosted & Managed WordPress
The main thing to understand about both versions is that one is partly-free, and the other is completely free (except costs for hosting). The partly-free, hosted WordPress.com platform offers a free sub-domain, and some free and premium WordPress themes to choose from. It also comes with limitations, including the restriction of using custom themes, plugins, and customization option. Some features can be enabled by subscribing to a premium plan on yearly basis.
For a professional website that will eventually outgrow itself, WordPress.com might not be the best solution. But on the other hand could be a good choice for those who expect a carefree solution and therefore accept some limitations. The premium plan offers custom design features as far as editing fonts and colors go. Besides the available business plan will give you freedom over ecommerce.
WordPress.org – Self-Hosted WordPress
WordPress.org on the other hand is a non-profit and open-source project that gives you all the freedom to take complete and full advantage of all that WordPress has to offer. This includes thousands of free and premium WordPress themes from independent WordPress theme shops like ours truly. The same applies to WordPress plugins, there is so much freedom with the open-source version that you can oftentimes be overwhelmed by choices and possibilities.
To take into consideration here is, that with all that freedom comes responsibility and you should either have the skills to fully manage your WordPress website (including setup, installation, maintainance, finding hosting etc.) or at least be open and willing to learn how to manage your website properly. If that's the case, then a self-hosted WordPress site is the best choice for you.
It's also worth mentioning that with the many available tutorials, forums and community help out there, managing your WordPress website should not be a problem at all. Many hosting companies even offer one-click WordPress installs where you can get started within a few minutes. But of course, it's up to you to decide what resonates the most with your needs, especially long-term.
Established WordPress Community
After your WordPress blog has been created and some content has been published, the next step is to find actual readers that will happily oblige to consume your content, and leave feedback on it. Become a part of your newly built community so to speak. This is where WordPress.com stands out.
Every post that you publish using the WordPress.com platform becomes publicly available, and accessible from the popular Search page. It's the second most used feature of WordPress.com beyond the actual blogging platform. There is a community of millions of members who actively use the Search page to research new content, such as poetry, food, and so many more topics.
Whereas using WordPress.org you're literally on your own, and you have to find a way to invest time in online marketing and search engine optimization in order to understand how marketing works, and what are the best ways for you to attract readers to your newly created blog or website. Again, there is no need to be discouraged by this, because a self-managed version still gives you a lot more freedom, and long-term success rate; full control over your own website, advertisements and such.
Running an ecommerce business
WordPress.com offers a business plan which enables ecommerce features – thanks to Shopify – that will allow you to create your own ecommerce store with a few clicks. Whilst a just-beginning online business can benefit from this offering, we know for a fact that at the moment WordPress.org offers more flexibility. Having full control of how your store is structured and what kind of data and possibilities become accessible to you is the main benefit of a self-hosted WordPress site.
WordPress.org has plugins such as WooCommerce (several million active installs), which give you an outstanding list of features and endless possibilities with designs that blow your customers away. On top of that, the WooCommerce plugin integrates naturally with particular WordPress themes and other plugins as well. (It is worth mentioning that WordPress.com [Automattic] took over the WooCommerce plugin, so it might be available on WordPress.com as well in the future.)
Conclusion: WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
WordPress.com is aimed at beginner bloggers and website/business owners, people who have not had a lot of experience with the web, and are looking for a quick and easy solution for a fixed yearly price. WordPress.org on the other hand gives you no limitations, there are thousands of free and premium WordPress themes and plugins to use, but you will have to cope with things as finding an appropriate hosting company and basically managing your site by yourself.
It is also possible to start a website on WordPress.com and then switch over to WordPress.org. WordPress.com provides the opportunity to transfer your website or blog content to a self-hosted version. Indeed, we have seen ourselves many customers come over from WordPress.com because they had gained more confidence in managing their sites and needed more flexibility and the ability to do custom modifications. In any case WordPress is a great content managment system and already used by 27% of all websites on the internet – number increasing.