It’s a little tricky to understand at first, but I’m going to try to make the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org easy.
Let’s start at the beginning. Forget about .com and .org right now and let’s talk about WordPress alone.
What is WordPress?
WordPress itself is actually software. Very much like Photoshop and Microsoft Word are software. When you install them on your computer, you can edit photos and write documents.
When you install WordPress on your server (your website’s own computer), you can create a blog or website.
So what is all the .com and .org business?
It’s all about hosting.
What is hosting? In a nutshell, it’s a company that will provide a computer for you to put the WordPress software on. It’ll be clear in a sec, don’t worry.
Do you remember when software used to come on CDs that you had to insert into your computer?
Let’s use that to make it easier to understand. You could get a copy of Photoshop on CD, but you have to have a computer to put it on, right? The computer that WordPress needs is called a server.
And servers (computers that are required to run WordPress) are owned by hosting companies.
If you sign up for a blog on WordPress.COM, you set up a free account, and then they give you a piece of a server that already has WordPress installed on it. WordPress.COM is your hosting company.
If you use the WordPress software on servers hosted by a different company of your choosing, it’s known as being self-hosted (or commonly referred to as WordPress.ORG). You’re essentially getting the CD with the WordPress software on it from WordPress.org and picking your own high quality computer (server) to put it on.
What does it mean for you?
It gets down to money and power. (It feels like there should be an villainous laugh here.)
WordPress.COM gives you server space for free. While if you use the WordPress software elsewhere, you will have to pay someone a monthly or yearly fee for server space.
So why should you pay someone when you can have it for free?
Here are some of the strings attached with the WordPress.com:
- Limited space (all of your pictures and text take up space, just like on your computer), and when you run out, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for more.
- They place their own ads on your blog so they can make money from your work
- You can’t have a fully custom design
- You are subject to their Terms of Service (if you violate them, they can delete your blog entirely without warning)
- Plugins (the WordPress equivalent of apps) are limited
- There are many rules on how you can and cannot make money with your blog, and you have to share the revenue with them
- There is no way to advanced features like shopping, memberships, or courses to your blog
- Upgrades are available, but at a fee (much like a game you download, but then realize you have to make in-app purchases to get ahead)
WordPress.COM also offers paid hosting plans for your free site, but even with those, there are still many limitations.
What’s better, WordPress.COM or WordPress.ORG?
The benefits of a self-hosted (wordpress.ORG) blog are the opposite of all those things. You will have to choose a hosting company, and pay about $120 and up per year or $10 a month.
But as long as you choose a quality hosting company, you’ll be free to do whatever you want with your blog (assuming it’s legal!).
You can have custom themes created, any plugin you’d like, make as much money as you can, however you want. No one has the right to shut down your blog. There are also much more powerful SEO tools available so that you can grow your blog faster and easier.
In case you’re still wondering, I highly recommend a self-hosted, “wordpress.org” blog/website so that you can have full control and build your business freely.
If you’re just starting out, my favorite hosts are SiteGround, and Cloudways (affiliate links–but after years of experience with too many hosting companies, they are the only ones I recommend for beginners).
WordPress.COM is a free (with paid upgrades) place for your WordPress blog. You do not have full control or freedom when using it.
You pay a hosting company of your choice to use WordPress.ORG, and you fully own and can do whatever you want with your blog/site.