If you’re relatively new to building websites, chances are, you probably aren’t familiar with the great WordPress.com vs WordPress.org debate. You might not have even known that one of the other exists, and the different pros and cons of each one. So what is, pray tell, this great debate between using WordPress.com, and WordPress.org? Is the other one just a cheap rip-off waiting to get sued?
The debate, in a nutshell, is about which of these two WordPress services is a better fit for the website you’re trying to build. Neither is a rip-off of the other, and both sites are owned by WordPress; it’s just that one (.com), is a more non-developer-friendly version than the other, and .org has a lot less limitations when it comes to site building, compared to .com.
“How do I know which one I need, though?”
The answer to this question all depends on your future website’s needs. There is no one WordPress entity that’s objectively the “better” or even “best” version to use. The two have their own unique features, and an equal amount of pros and cons.
WordPress.com: Why and When Should I?
WordPress.com takes care of the basic essentials for you, which lets you focus more on your site’s content. It’s a site builder that’s completely run and hosted by a group of company called Automattic. You get premium hosting, backups, security, and the like. This means that you can focus on your site’s content a lot easier, compared to having to spend hours on end building it from scratch.
Take note though, that WordPress.com also comes with its own limitations. While you may not have to worry as much about maintaining the inner workings of your site, you may have to keep in mind that you probably aren’t going to have as much freedom with it as you’d like. While customizing your site’s interface may not be an issue (WordPress.com comes with a ton of themes, for instance), adding certain features and elements in the form of plugins may become a problem, especially if your site needs specific features that aren’t available at WordPress.com.
How to maintain a website is an entirely different story. It greatly depends on 1.) you aren’t a WordPress developer 2.) you have no intention of learning code, or 3.) have little or no time to.
WordPress.org: When Is It Time to Consider?
One rule of thumb when it comes to considering WordPress.org is when you’re at least a little familiar with the workings of code, or are willing to invest some time in learning how to. Since WordPress.org is a self-hosted version of WordPress, you can get your hands as dirty as you want them to be. Plus, you have the freedom to tinker with it as much or as little as you’d like. You’d be in-charge of finding your own host, of setting up your own security backups, and overall maintain the website by yourself– and more importantly, on your own terms.
“But wait, why would I want that? Isn’t the point of WordPress to make site-building easier?”
…Not exactly. Think of it this way: The Daily Post creates an excellent analogy between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, in a way that even the noobest of noobs (such as myself) get the gist right away.
According to them, you have to think of WordPress.com as something you don’t have full ownership to. Take for instance, your 15-year old self, still living with your folks. If you wanted to paint your bedroom, you’d have to ask your parents’ permission first (who of course have full ownership of the house, including your room). Technically, the room is yours, but at the end of the day, well…it kind of isn’t.
So if you need or want to make any drastic changes (like painting your walls, or having the room extended), you’d still have to talk it out and/or work up a compromise with the actual owners of the house, a.k.a. mum and dad. An upside to this though, is that when the fuse in the basement crashes, or the AC stops working, your parents get to take care of it, and you don’t have to worry about a thing.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, is something you can freely customize and tinker with on your own accord. This can be compared to when you finally get to move out at 18, and get a flat of your own. Since you have full ownership of your residence, you don’t have to compromise with anyone to paint your walls in that color your mum’s always dreaded; you have the freedom to make the decision, and/or hire someone who fits your standards to do it for you. Additionally, you also have the liberty to choose exactly which AC unit you want for your living room. It’s just that if it happens to crash, you’re going to have to hire a mechanic to fix it, or figure out what’s wrong and how to repair it on your own (which isn’t too bad, because hey, lesson learned, and learning is good).
By now, you’ve hopefully gotten a clearer picture of just what the stark differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org are. But in a nutshell:
install as much or as little as you want themes are limited only to WordPress themes, you have to pay a certain fee to get rid of ads.You have near full-control of your site; you can add, customize, or even build your own themes.
Content control is limited;
|Fully hosted by WordPress; all essentials are covered.||Self-hosted; choose your own essentials, or choose better ones.|
|Features are limited to what WordPress.com offers||Thousands of features in the form of plugins;|
These are a few of comparisons that come with weighing in the differences between the two. Choosing between the two ultimately comes down to the amount freedom you want in creating your site, and how much resources (time, effort, money, etc) you’re willing to give up for it. Remember, that these are both very crucial options to weigh in before you decide which WordPress platform suits you best. So, don’t rush the decision process!