WordPress .com vs .org – what’s the difference?

We often get asked what the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com is, either that or a blank look on the face of someone when we ask they which version of WordPress they are referring to. Is there a difference between the two? Does it matter which version you use? We’ll break down the similarities and differences using a table first and then expand on some of the details afterwards.

Similarities and differences

HostingYou have to find a hosting provider which allows you to pick someone closer to you, tailored to your business needs, etc.Your website is hosted by Wordpress.com with no further control on location etc.
PricingFree for the software, nothing to unlock or pay for unless you want to buy plugins and themes to change how your site functions.The free plan locks away a lot of features that serious users would need, the Premium plan ($10.75p/m) is the minimum you would want, the Business plan ($33.25p/m) is closest to Wordpress.org but still limited.
AdsYou can choose to display or sell your own advertising from which you can make moneyThe free plan includes advertising from Wordpress.com that you cannot control, they go away when you start paying $3.99 a month and above
PluginsAll plugins are allowed, of which there are thousands and thousands ranging from free, to one off payments and custom plugins.Plugin-like features available on the lower plans, plugin installation allowed on the Business plan ($33.25p/m)
ThemesFull theme support
You can use custom themes from a range of designers, you can modify your site or do anything else in terms of changing and customising it
You are limited to options that they give you unless you are on the Business plan which let's you unlock custom theme capability.
MaintenanceYou or a third party would have to maintain plugins etc.They maintain everything for you.
Space/StorageDepends on your hosting provider, theoretically unlimitedYou get 3GB to start off with, and then you have to pay from $3.99 a month which doubles storage to 6GB
eCommerce/SellingYou can create a complete store with your own payment methods including credit card.You cannot sell online. Wordpress.com suggest themselves that you should use Wordpress.org
Membership SitesYou can create membership sites, networking sites, learning platforms, and other powerful websites.You cannot create any form of membership site.
AnalyticsYou can install any form of analytics including Google Analytics.There are some limited built-in stats unless you are the Business plan which allows Google Analytics installation.
BrandingYou can express your brand however you like.You are limited by how you can implement your brand.

As you can tell from the table above there are some significant differences between the two options. They can both give you a website that most people would consider to be professional, however, WordPress.org is what you want to use as it is the more powerful solution of the two. Fact is that most people would recommend .org and if your web person or marketing person suggests using WordPress.com there are some serious differences to take into account.

Recently WordPress.com did unveil their efforts to bring capabilities similar to WordPress.org but it continues to be limited in comparison. WordPress.com also require you pay the high-cost monthly plan to unlock these features which might not be an option for some.

The worst part about WordPress.com is that your free site can be littered with advertising that WordPress.com chooses to show (you have no say), meaning that unless you are a hobbyist, you should not be using it for a website.

When it comes to web hosting, WordPress.com doesn’t give you an option in terms of location or even website optimisation. WordPress.org, on the other hand, lets you control where you would like your website to be hosted and also who by – this opens up a lot of different hosts, some who specialise in certain industries, and others who are closer to you in location. With us for example, our web hosting packages are not designed to be the cheapest, but they are designed to give you the best speeds and features for the price and give you options on where you would like your website to be hosted (decide between Australian web hosting or US based web hosting).

Why WordPress.org should be your only option

Ultimately, if you are a business or are serious about your website and leveraging it for marketing or lead generation, WordPress.org should be your only option. A lot of plugins and themes already exist to give you the capabilities you need. Thousands of businesses already have experience using WordPress.org, and most of all it gives you total control over everything. Whether you want to sell on your site, make money through advertising, or use it as a personal site, WordPress.org gives you the options and the power.

Keep in mind that features are always changing and while we try to update our posts, there might be outdated information above.