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WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: What's the Difference Between Them?

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WordPress.com or WordPress.org? If you're a business owner looking to start your own website, you've probably met with this dilemma once or twice. It's often a source of confusion for many people and the answer requires an in-depth explanation.

In this article, we will take a look at the differences between the two and cover the pros and cons of both WordPress.com vs WordPress.org so you can walk away making the best-informed decision for the future of your site.

Before we dig into the details, if you're ready to launch a WordPress.org site and need a quality theme to get started with, we have a number of best selling, premium WordPress themes on Envato Market (ThemeForest). 

Best Selling WordPress Themes
Best Selling WordPress Themes on Envato Market (ThemeForest)

Now let's take a closer look at the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

WordPress.com is a commercial website where you can host your own sites for free. It runs on the open-source platform which was created by Matt Mullenweg and his company, Automattic.

When you host your website with WordPress.com it's technically a subdomain, which means your website address will look like this: yourwebsite.wordpress.com. You can also choose to upgrade to a paid version to use a custom domain to remove the "wordpress.com" part of the name.

Choosing WordPress.com also means your site will be regularly updated and protected from spam without you having to worry about it. All you need to do is sign up and choose a name for your site, pick from several themes, add your content, and click "Publish."

WordPress.org, on the other hand, started out in 2003 when Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little decided to create a better and improved version of the blogging software called b2/cafelog. It's licensed under GPL which means it's free to use, modify, and redistribute.

With WordPress.org, you have the freedom to download the software and use it to build a website that's totally yours. Unlike WordPress.com where you don't have to worry about hosting; with WordPress.org, you have to choose a hosting provider where your website will be hosted and handle all of the backend maintenance.

You’ll also have full control over the WordPress software and your site. It comes with extensive documentation and provides access to a community forum where you can get help from more experienced users. There are also other ways to get involved such as contributing to the WordPress core code, mobile apps, translations, and accessibility.

In short, both are viable options to consider when it comes to starting a website. And because of that fact, it can be difficult to know which one’s right for you. To help you with your decision, let’s take a closer look at both platforms and compare their benefits and drawbacks.

Why WordPress.com?

At first glance, WordPress.com is an attractive option, especially to those who are intimidated by all the technical aspects of owning and running a website. You can have a website up and running in as little time as it takes you to come up with a name for it. Seriously.

All the technical aspects of running a website are handled for you, which means you don't have to worry about updates, making regular backups in case something goes wrong, and you automatically get spam protection and a heavy dose of security, to boot.

Most notably, when you opt for WordPress.com, you don't have to worry about finding a reliable hosting company. No weighing the pros and cons of hosting providers and trying to figure out which has the best down-time stats. All of that is taken care of for you.

That's the good news when it comes to WordPress.com.

Major WordPress.com Drawbacks

Unfortunately, as appealing as WordPress.com might seem, there are limitations of using it that are a huge deal-breaker in most cases. Let's examine the drawbacks of using WordPress.com.

Domain Name

As I mentioned above, when you sign up for WordPress.com, your website's address is yoursite.wordpress.com. You have the option to purchase a domain name directly from WordPress.com which will run you $18/year if you choose a .com, .net or a .org extension. Other extensions such as .me or .co are $25/year.

If you already bought a domain elsewhere you can still use it with WordPress.com which will run you $13/year on top of what you have to pay to your domain registrar for yearly domain renewal.

Design Options

If you have been thinking about starting your own website for a while, you likely have a vision of how you'd want it to look. Maybe you've even picked out a theme that you really like, or saw a design that really caught your eye.

Luckily, WordPress.com comes with several hundreds of themes that you can choose from. Some of those themes are free and some are paid, however, aside from making a few small tweaks such as uploading your own header image, minor color adjustments, and a limited selection of Google Fonts, there is very little you can do with a free website.

If you want more control over your design options such as the ability to integrate any Google Font or unlimited color schemes; you will have to upgrade to a premium plan which is $8.25/month billed annually.

That option still doesn't allow you to create a completely custom layout with extra functionality which can be achieved if you have access to the theme's PHP code. This essentially means, your site will probably look like plenty of others, even if you select one of their paid themes which range from $39-$150+.

WordPress plans
WordPress.com premium plans add on features (but you still don't have full control)

What about choosing a third party theme from a marketplace like ThemeForest? Unfortunately, you can't use them with WordPress.com no matter how much you like them, not even if you select the most premium plan mentioned above.

Extra Features

Any website owner will tell you the most important thing is to build your email list. And for a small business owner, this is even more true. However, integrating an email signup form to collect email addresses is not possible with WordPress.com. Best case scenario: you will have to link to your sign up form offsite which in the long run can hurt your sign up rates.

Speaking of emails, unless you sign up for Google Apps, you cannot have a custom email address to go with your domain.

If you rely on videos or images, it's important to mention that your website will also be limited in size; with a free plan you only get 3 GB of space. If you need more storage you will need to choose either the premium plan which offers 13 GB for $8.25/month or the business plan which offers unlimited space for $24.92/month.

You Don't Own Your Content

When you opt for WordPress.com there is one thing you absolutely have to bear in mind aside from what I mentioned above.

Your website is not really yours. WordPress.com owns your website and if you happen to break their Terms of Service they can shut down your site without prior notice. If you are one of many people who don't take their time to read the TOS, you could inadvertently break their TOS by simply including an affiliate link in one of your posts and have your site taken down.

What's more, unless you sign up for a paid plan, WordPress.com may from time to time display third-party ads on your website—without needing your permission or allowing you to have control over those ads.

It's worth noting that at any point in time you cannot place your own code for ads like Google AdSense.

Now that we covered WordPress.com, let's look at WordPress.org.

Why WordPress.org?

WordPress.org is almost the exact opposite when it comes to benefits and drawbacks. With WordPress.org, you have complete control over your website. 

Domain Names

When you use WordPress.org your website's address can be yourwebsite.com right from the start. In this case, you have more domain name extensions to choose from such as .biz, .info, and even newer extensions such as .site, .club, .online etc.

The price of the domain ranges from $15-$100 depending on the extension you choose but considering most people opt for a .com, you can expect to spend $15/year for your domain name. Also, the code base for WordPress.org is free to use and most hosts will offer easy installation options.

Design Options

With WordPress.org, your design options are limited only by your imagination. From hiring a designer/developer to creating a completely custom website for you; choosing between thousands of themes available from the WordPress.org Theme Directory to buying a Premium theme with plenty of customization options from Envato Market; the sky is the limit.

Avada is the best-selling theme on ThemeForest
Avada, the most popular WordPress Theme on Envato Market (ThemeForest).

To really sweeten the deal, when you choose WordPress.org that also means you can extend your website even further by installing one of many plugins available.

Think of plugins like little modules that allow you to add extra functionality to your website without having to code it yourself. Plugins can be used to give your website a personal touch: from adding beautiful social media buttons to photo galleries and sliders

Extra Features

When you purchase a hosting plan to use with WordPress.org, there is another benefit. In most cases, you can create unlimited email addresses connected with your website and the best part is that they come at no extra charge.

Integrating your email signup form to grow your email list is usually a matter of copying a small bit of code and pasting it into your sidebar, or using the right plugin which takes only a couple of clicks to set up.

You're in Control

The beauty of using WordPress.org is the fact that you own your content, your website, and everything else related to it. That means that nobody (within reason) can shut down your website and you aren't limited when it comes to using affiliate links to promote products you really care about.

You can also monetize your site, either by using various ad networks such as Google AdSense, by selling your products, or a combination of both.

And if you decide to sell your website later down the line, you can do that, too.

Avada WordPress Theme Customizations
Many Premium themes for WordPress.org (such as Avada shown here) offer tons of customization options

WordPress.org puts you in control. But are there any drawbacks to using WordPress.org? Let's take a look.

Drawbacks of WordPress.org

WordPress.org is a self-hosted solution, meaning you are responsible for purchasing your own domain name and the hosting plan. Most hosting providers have the option to install WordPress with one click which means setting up your website is relatively easy.

The downside, however, is that you are responsible for the upkeep. In a nutshell, you have to regularly backup and update your WordPress website, as well as take proper security precautions.

In the event something goes wrong and you don't know how to fix it, you will have to hire a Wordpress developer to help you resolve your problem.

The Ultimate Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

While the technical aspects of maintaining a website might seem scary, the benefits highly outweigh the drawbacks.

FeaturesWordPress.orgWordPress.com

Full control over your website

Yes

No

The ability to upload custom themes and plugins

Yes

No

No technical maintenance

No

Yes

The ability to setup an online store

Yes

No

The ability to upload your own videos and audio content

Yes

No

The ability to scale your website as your business grows

Yes

No

Specifically, there are two particular things that you should bear in mind.

The first one is the peace of mind you get knowing you are in complete control over your website with WordPress.org.

The second one is the ability to create a website completely the way you want it. As a business owner, having a website that stands out from the competition can have a huge impact on your entire business and that's where WordPress.org really shines.

Not only is the free theme selection vastly larger for WordPress.org, there are also marketplaces like Envato Market's ThemeForest that offer high-quality premium themes at a very reasonable price.

The selection of themes here at ThemeForest currently boasts over 6000 themes which cover almost any business website niche imaginable.

The best part about purchasing a theme from ThemeForest is the high-level of customization. Almost every aspect of your website can be changed, often without having to touch a single line of the code.

WordPress.org is Your Best Bet

To sum it all up, while WordPress.com looks very appealing because it removes the technical aspect of maintaining a website, you are very limited in what you can do.

WordPress.org takes that limitation away by allowing you to have complete control over how your website looks and functions; from truly owning your website to the ability to have control over design elements. 

If you are ready to create a stunning website that puts you in charge, start by browsing our selection of ThemeForest's best-selling WordPress themes. You're certain to find something stunning to represent your business. 

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