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Differences Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

By in Blog, Blog Maintenance, WordPress | 12 comments

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People often wonder and ask about the differences between having a blog on WordPress.com and having a blog through WordPress.org. I recently watched a video interview with Matt Mullenweg, founding developer of WordPress. He gave a very unique, yet fitting analogy that I really liked, and wanted to capture in this post where I attempt to explain some of the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

He basically equated the differences between the two to renting an apartment versus owning a house. When you rent an apartment, you can’t necessarily choose where you’ll be living as you have to choose from what’s available, but all you really need to worry about (generally) is rent – everything is taken care of for you (for example, appliances, water, electricity, etc. can be included in the cost of rent, if something breaks down, you call your landlord, etc.). On the other hand, when you buy a house, you have more freedom in choosing exactly where you want to live, and everything is your responsibility, between the extra bills for water, electricity, acquiring your own appliances, maintenance costs such as fixing things that break down or regular maintenance, and you also have to worry about property taxes on top of it all!

WordPress.com is the equivalent to renting an apartment, and everything is taken care of for you:

  • setup
  • maintenance
  • updates

All you need to worry about is the initial design options (from a list of available designs), and then content. You can’t necessarily choose your domain, you have to take what’s available, but it’s maintenance-free.

WordPress.org is the equivalent to owning a house – you have to take care of everything yourself

  • choosing a hosting provider and buying a hosting package
  • installation of WordPress to your hosting provider
  • choosing your own domain
  • designing the site or blog
  • maintenance and updates

As with renting versus owning, though, there are advantages (and disadvantages) to running your own WordPress site/blog with WordPress.org – you have a lot more freedom to do what you want with your blog, such as turning it into a full website and using it as a CMS (Content Management System), having a custom design (whether you design one yourself or you hire someone to design it for you), using plugins that add functionality to your WordPress site/blog, etc.

As always, though, with freedom comes responsibility, and it comes in the form of keeping things up-to-date, and making sure certain costs are covered (domain name cost, hosting, potential site/blog design costs, etc.).

I think this was an awesome analogy to comparing the two, and wanted to share the information! It’s a popular question, and one that is important to understand when you’re thinking of starting a blog. For most people, it’s better to start off with a WordPress.com blog to become familiar with the setup, the process, even the aspect of blogging itself. From there, you can decide to take it one step further and have a more personalized blog or website using WordPress, and it’s easy to export blog posts from WordPress.com and important them to a self-hosted WordPress.org installation, so there’s no need to worry about any kind of hassle in that regard.

If you’d like to see the video I referred to, I’ve embedded it below:



I hope this has given you a better understanding of the differences between working with WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Which blogging platform do you use (whether WordPress or not)? If you’re using WordPress, which one do you work with? If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment and ask away! If I don’t have the answer, I will find it out for you!


    12 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this Ursula! I’ve wondered about this for a while and even after reading the info on the support forums at WordPress, I still wasn’t clear on it. You finally made it make sense to me, though!
    .-= Laura Lee Bloorยดs last blog ..What Is Your Why? =-.

    Laura Lee Bloor

    February 1, 2010

    • No problem, Laura! I also wondered about this for a while, so I figured since I now understand it much better, I’d share my knowledge to help others understand as well! ๐Ÿ™‚ I thank Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress) for coming up with the perfect analogy to use to explain and understand this common question!

      Ursula

      February 2, 2010

  2. Hi Ursula,

    that’s a great way of explaining the difference between the two ways of using WordPress.

    Might I even go as far as to suggest extending it by differing between owning a flat and owning a house (very German thing to suggest probably).

    Owning a flat is like using a hosting package. You can do what you want on your own webspace, but you are still limited in some ways by the provider (eg. PHP settings, CGI scripts).

    Owning a house is like using a server package. You really do have responsibility for the entire system.

    Graham Tappenden

    February 3, 2010

  3. Hi Graham!

    You’re absolutely right, we can take it a step further from that perspective, especially when talking about shared hosting vs. dedicated virtual private servers.

    I guess I was trying to gear the post towards beginners, as that tends to be my audience – people who are new to blogging and WordPress, and need a little guidance. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the input!

    Ursula

    February 3, 2010

  4. Awesome explanation ,thank you for sharing .

    Chandana

    April 22, 2011

    • No problem! I used to be confused about the two myself, and I love to help others, hence why I wrote this post! ๐Ÿ™‚

      WP Gal

      May 4, 2011

  5. Thank you for this very good explanation. wp.com works for me b/c I just want to “rent” and focus on my content. I’m small potatos so it works for me.

    Stephanie

    July 7, 2011

    • Hi Stephanie! Thanks for leaving a comment! A lot of people don’t necessarily need to go full out with their own self-hosted blog/site, however, the minimum I would recommend, even for “small potatoes” is to have your own custom domain instead of piggy-backing on the the WordPress.com domain. For example, in your case, hugskissesandsnot.com is available, and WordPress.com does give you the option to purchase your own domain and use it on your blog, without the hassle of worrying about hosting, etc. It’s extemely affordable – it will cost a total of $17 per year to set this up. When you’re logged into your dashboard, check out the Upgrades area – that’s where it’s located! Then, no one will even know that your blog isn’t self-hosted, because you’ll have your own domain, but will still be using your WordPress.com blog!

      WP Gal

      July 7, 2011

  6. These are great illustration and comparison about the two sites. WordPress.com is limited but needs no paid hosting. WordPress.org needs a paid hosting (e.g. hostgator) which allows you to customize a page in a way you want it. However, for starters it would be best to start with the free one and after knowing the basics with wordpress.com, move on to a paid hosting.

    More Web Site Traffic Guide

    January 4, 2012

  7. Hey WP Gal,

    Great explanation and thanks! I was wondering if you might have any information on Discount wp themes?

    I’m interested in purchasing some of their themes, but have never used them.

    Can you shed any light on their website?

    Thanks!

    -Tom

    Tom

    July 25, 2012

    • Honestly, I’ve never heard of them or used any of their themes – I recommend sticking to the major tried and true theme providers, such as Elegant Themes, StudioPress, WooThemes, and iThemes. They have excellent support, and secure well-written code for their themes!

      WP Gal

      July 31, 2012

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