wordpress.org and wordpress.com: what’s the difference?

wordpress.org & wordpress.com - what's the difference?The differences between (self-hosted) WordPress (.org) and WordPress.com can be a bit confusing. My goal in this post is to clear up common misconceptions and help you understand those differences. I’m going to talk in everyday language, staying away from technical terms as much as possible.

what is WordPress?

First of all, let’s define what WordPress is. WordPress is software that can be used for both blogs and websites. It is a content management system (CMS), which means that you will have the ability to modify and publish your content, as well as maintain the site, all from one interface. In other words, you can make changes to your own site, rather than having to pay a developer to modify things like the text and photos on your pages. WordPress is Open Source software you can download for free.

what does “hosting” mean?

A web hosting service makes it possible for your site to be accessible on the internet. They provide room on their servers for your site and its files to be stored. (For more information on hosting providers, click here.)

Both wordpress.com and self-hosted WordPress use the WordPress software. The big difference is where your site is hosted, how much freedom you have, and the cost.

when it comes to WordPress, you have two options:

self-hosted WordPress

This option gives you the full range of all WordPress has to offer. The custom designs we offer here at Design by Insight are for self-hosted WordPress sites. {Several of the links below are affiliate links. This means I’ll receive a commission if you make a purchase.}

What you need to know about self-hosted WordPress:

  • web hosting service is required – The fact that it is “self-hosted” means you must choose a web hosting service. This will involve a monthly fee. For shared hosting (which is probably what you need if the information in this article is new to you), you will generally pay anywhere from $4-10 per month, depending on the host and any specials they may be running at the time. For more information about reputable hosts, see our hosting recommendations page.
  • domain registration required - You will have to obtain your own domain registration (your own URL). This is very inexpensive at around $10 per year. We recommend registering your domain through your web host, or alternatively through NameCheap.
  • full range of themes available - By self-hosting your WordPress site, you can use any WordPress theme available. We use and highly recommend the Genesis Framework and Child Themes from StudioPress.
  • plugins are allowed - There are a wide range of plugins available for self-hosted WordPress. These plugins expand the abilities of your site, allowing you to maximize the potential of WordPress. They let you do more with your site, such as add a contact form, block spam comments, add sharing buttons for social media, display your Twitter stream in your sidebar, and much, much more . . .

Wait . . . so what is WordPress.org?

It’s the website that offers the (self-hosted) WordPress software for download, plugins and themes, valuable information about WordPress, and forums. It is not a place where you can host your site.

WordPress.com

This option gives you limited use of WordPress. The perk here is that it is free.

  • WordPress.com is your host - This is where many people get confused. WordPress.com offers you a free site using the WordPress software, hosted on their servers. You don’t have to pay a thing if you don’t want to.
  • domain registration is optional - At wordpress.com, you can use one of their default URLs, something like http://YourBlogName.wordpress.com. They also give you the option of upgrading to a custom domain (which I do recommend).
  • you are limited in a number of ways - Because they are offering you a free service, there are a number of significant limitations. The biggest include:
    • no plugins
    • limited themes
    • limited ability to customize your site’s design and abilities
    • no affiliate links or e-commerce (in other words, you can’t make money off of your site)

If you are considering using our design services, please remember that we will only do header designs for wordpress.com sites, not full custom design.

to sum it all up . . .

Both WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress have the solid foundation of the WordPress software. But if you truly want freedom to build a great site with flexible features and custom design, go with self-hosted WordPress.

For further reading:

what are the limitations of WordPress.com (via WP Beginner)

7 Reasons to Convert Your WordPress.com Blog to WordPress.org (via Michael Hyatt)

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Does the idea of self-publishing overwhelm you?  We want to take the mystery and fear away!  Self-Publish: From Idea to Product is designed to give you a solid foundation for your self-published work!  Buy your copy today … and if you have already read Self-Publish, would you do us the honor of leaving a review on Amazon?  

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