Do you want to create a website and do not know whether to rely on WordPress.org or WordPress.com Or maybe you are just curious to understand the difference between these two solutions?
Here is a detailed overview that will shed some light on all your doubts.
We will see the advantages and disadvantages of these two options, also summarized in a handy summary table.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: differences
After having seen what WordPress is, the most used CMS for creating websites, today we will see what are the characteristics that distinguish its two “versions”.
For those unfamiliar with the WordPress ecosystem and web hosting concepts, it’s common to wonder what the difference is between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
The explanation is actually simpler than you might think.
When it comes to WordPress, it refers to the CMS. WordPress is a Content Management System or a Content Management System.
What does this mean in practice?
A CMS is a program that allows us to manage the contents of the site. Think for example of site pages and menus, blog articles, but also forums and discussions.
These systems are designed to make website management easier and accessible to anyone, even those without a technical knowledge base.
Some CMS, including WordPress, are open source, this means that the software code is open and that the community of developers and enthusiasts contributes every day to improve the functions of the platform.
After this brief introduction, you may be wondering “if the CMS is always the same, why are we talking about the comparison between WordPress.org vs WordPress.com?”
Speaking of WordPress.org we refer to the self-hosted version of the CMS.
On the other hand we find WordPress.com, which is the managed version.
Let’s go into detail so that the difference is clear to everyone.
What is WordPress.org?
We talk about WordPress.org in reference to the official website, actually it would be more correct to talk about self-hosted WordPress. Furthermore, generally speaking, to refer to the self-hosted version we simply speak of “WordPress”.
The main difference between WordPress.org vs WordPress.com is that in the first case you can freely download the software from WordPress.org, but if you want to create a website with WordPress you will need a hosting or you can install it on your computer.
We will return to the installation in the next section.
What is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com means the managed service offered by Automattic. It is a hosting solution for WordPress sites, by purchasing the service or using the free plan you will then have the opportunity to create a website with WordPress and publish it.
The company offers several plans, from the free version to the eCommerce plan. We will have the opportunity to see them in detail when we talk about costs.
Now that we have clarified what distinguishes these two options, let’s see point by point what they offer us.
To make this WordPress.org vs WordPress.com comparison more practical we have created two chapters.
In the first part we will see the basic features:
- Which of the two options is easier from installation to use?
- What kind of support can I expect from the two versions of WordPress?
- What do they offer in terms of additional features and plugins?
- Will I have the same possibility of customizing the site with both versions?
In the second part of the WordPress.org vs WordPress.com comparison we will see what there is to know about the advanced features:
- Can I create a multi-site installation or use the staging feature?
- How do I export content and migrate to another platform?
- Can I have site backups?
- What tools will I have to do SEO and improve site performance?
Go in a hurry? Switch to point-by-point comparison in the summary table.
Basic features of WordPress.org and WordPress.com
Let’s see what to expect from the self-hosted and WordPress.com-hosted versions in terms of ease of use, support, plugin availability, and site customization.
Ease of use
WordPress is one of the most loved CMS precisely for its ease of use. The intuitive interface combined with the multitude of guides make it possible for anyone to learn how to use it. For example, if you are starting from scratch and want to have the basics, you can start by reading our tutorial on WordPress.
What are the differences in this case in choosing WordPress.org or WordPress.com?
With WordPress.com you will not have access to some functions, so site and content management will be simplified.
For example with some plans you will not have FTP access, you will not be able to access the site files and the database.
Better WordPress.org or WordPress.com on ease of use?
In this case the .com version wins for simplicity, sacrificing the presence of some functions.
With a plan among those proposed by WordPress.com you will not have to worry about the installation. Just activate the plan and your WordPress site will be ready to use.
By choosing the self-hosted version of WordPress you have more possibilities:
- install the CMS locally (on your pc);
- choose a hosting and install WordPress;
- choose a WordPress hosting.
By ordering one of our WordPress hosting plans or any other plan, you will be able to select the software to install. Simply enter the data requested when ordering, as you can see here:
In this way, after the activation of the plan you can finalize the installation of the CMS in a few seconds and start creating your site.
Support is not included with the self-hosted version of WordPress. WordPress is an open-source platform and via WordPress.org you just download the CMS.
With this solution, therefore, you will have to personally take care of the management of the site. You can count on the extensive documentation, community and guides you will find on thematic blogs like ours.
For everything related to hosting, you can rely on customer support. At SupportHost we understand the importance of support and we know that it is crucial to providing a quality service.
Depending on the plan you choose with WordPress.com, you may be entitled to email or chat support. The free plan does not provide any assistance.
To get chat support you need to subscribe to a Premium, Business or eCommerce plan. Priority support is reserved for eCommerce and Business plans only.
Features and plugins
In the WordPress environment, plugins are extensions that add new functions to the site. There are plugins to create multilingual sites, optimize the site for search engines, create contact forms and much more.
Although in some cases these extensions are abused, it is no coincidence that we have dedicated a guide to plugins that slow down WordPress, in many others they are essential.
What plugins can we use on WordPress.org and WordPress.com?
With WordPress.org you have the ability to fully manage the site and install any plugin. You can search the directory and you can upload premium or custom plugins directly from the admin area.
WordPress.com, on the other hand, has limitations that depend on the plan. In all plans you will find Jetpack and Akismet plugins pre-installed and you will not be able to deactivate them.
In addition to these there are other predefined functions that allow you for example to create contact forms, use a statistics system and manage comments.
Some of these features are only available with paid plans. Below you see a list of the features you can access with the plans: personal, premium and business.
And what about the other plugins?
Only some plans allow you to install plugins freely. Specifically, with the free, personal and premium plans it will not be possible to install the plugins you want.
Only with the business and ecommerce plans, you will be able to install the plugins you want from the compatible ones.
Who wins the WordPress.org vs WordPress.com comparison in this case?
Without a doubt the self-hosted version that has no limits and gives you full possibility to customize the site with extensions.
Customization of appearance and themes
You can use themes to customize the look of a WordPress site.
With the self-hosted version of the CMS you can install the themes you want starting from the free ones in the directory up to premium themes. You also have the freedom to add custom themes and modify existing ones, for example by creating a child theme.
With WordPress.com you can use third-party themes, such as those sold on Themeforest, only if you have a Business or eCommerce plan.
With the Personal plan, you only have access to the free themes you find in this list. In this same directory there are also premium themes which are only available starting from the Premium plan.
With WordPress.com, the ability to create a child theme is reserved for Business and eCommerce plans only.
Again, WordPress.org wins hands down by offering maximum choice and theme management.
The self-hosted version, WordPress.org, allows you to choose the hosting service you want.
Tip: You can start with low cost hosting.
To get an idea of costs: our shared and WordPress plans, ideal for getting started, start at € 2.41 per month and include the domain for free forever.
With WordPress.com, there are five plans:
- Free: includes 1 GB of storage and your site will be on a subdomain of the type sitename.wordpress.com;
- Personal: € 4 per month if purchased for at least one year; or € 7 per month;
- Premium: € 8 per month if purchased for at least one year; or € 14 per month;
- Business: € 25 per month if purchased for at least one year; or € 33 per month;
- eCommerce: € 45 per month if purchased for at least one year; or € 59 per month;
Keep in mind that with WordPress.com the domain is only free for the first year.
Advanced Features: Better WordPress.org or WordPress.com?
If you want to create a personal site and are a beginner, you may see WordPress.com as the ideal solution.
But what if you need other functions?
Creating a staging environment, managing a multi-site installation, availability of backups, optimization and performance are important aspects if you want to get the best out of your WordPress site.
Let’s see how the two versions fare in these cases.
WordPress multisite feature
With the self-hosted version, you can create a single WordPress installation through which to manage more than one site. This function, integrated into the CMS, is called WordPress multisite.
One of the most common use cases is to create sites in multiple languages and manage them through a single administration panel. If you’re intrigued, there are other ways to create multilingual WordPress sites as well.
WordPress.com, on the other hand, does not allow you to take advantage of the multisite function. At present it is necessary to subscribe to multiple plans and manage the sites separately.
In some cases it may be necessary to export the content of the site, for example to switch to a different platform or to create a copy of the site.
With WordPress.org we can use the integrated Import/Export function that allows us to transfer content to or from other platforms. Using this function it is possible for example to migrate from Blogger to WordPress.
With WordPress.com, however, you must always take into account the chosen plan. Only the Business and eCommerce plans allow us to use a migration plugin and create a copy of the site.
In all other cases we will have to rely on the Export function as we have seen in the guide on how to switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.
If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, you have access to the site’s files and database, and you usually always have the option to create a manual backup. Some hosts, like us at SupportHost, also include automatic site backups.
In our case, you can also make a full backup of the account with cPanel.
To make a WordPress backup you can use plugins or proceed manually.
With WordPress.com, the situation is not always rosy. In this case you can download a backup of the site and restore it only with the eCommerce and Business plans that give you access to Jetpack backup.
The other plans don’t include the backup feature, you also don’t have access to the database and can’t access your files directly. FTP access is only on the Business and eCommerce plans.
In the comparison WordPress.org vs WordPress.com, for security and backup the .org version wins, which allows us to have full control and access to files.
SEO and performance
Can choosing between WordPress.org and WordPress.com have an impact on ranking?
Not directly. Underlying both options is the CMS itself, and WordPress offers us integrated functions for search engine optimization such as the ability to create readable and SEO-friendly URLs.
In this case, the scales tip in favor of WordPress.org which allows us to use the plugins we prefer.
Another important aspect concerns the performance of the site.
Having a fast site is important because it has a direct impact on the visitor experience. Speed is also at the top of Google’s thoughts, as it is one of the factors that impact ranking.
To speed up WordPress it is not enough to install a plugin, but it is necessary to analyze the resources used, optimize the images and do not forget to pay attention to the database.
To work on every aspect of the site it goes without saying that you need to have access to the files and the database. All things you can do on your own with self-hosted WordPress.
Depending on the hosting you choose, you may also want to use server-side caching to improve site performance. Our WordPress hosting plans 3 and 4 include LiteSpeed with LSCache.
With WordPress.com, on the other hand, you have to settle for the preset configuration and tools available based on the plan you subscribe to. For example with the Business and eCommerce plans you will find the Page Optimize plugin.
Create a development environment: staging
By relying on a reliable hosting service, you will have staging available. This feature allows you to create a copy of the site to test on.
The purpose of creating a staging copy of the site is to be able to make the changes and do all the checks before making them on the live site.
Doing so avoids creating unexpected errors that get in the way of site visitors. Think of sites with menus and other items not working, or worse, eCommerce with problems in the checkout phase.
With WordPress.org the availability of the staging function depends on the hosting service you rely on. For example, with all our hosting plans Softaculous is included, a tool that allows you to create a development environment in one click.
After that you can use a plugin like All-In-One WP Migration to transfer the files to the site and make the changes. To do this, however, you need to have a Business or eCommerce plan that allows you to install the plugin.
WordPress.org or WordPress.com: which one do I choose to create a blog?
Have you thought about starting a blog, great! WordPress was born as a platform for blogging and can offer you all the necessary tools.
However, some considerations must be made especially with regard to monetization.
WordPress.org: pros and cons
If you want to have maximum control and customization options when creating your blog, you should use WordPress.org.
Advantages of using the .org version:
- you will have a professional looking domain;
- you can make money with a blog for example, by joining an advertising program or by selling courses;
- you can use plugins and themes to customize your blog;
- you have full access to files and databases.
Disadvantages of WordPress.org:
- you cannot create a free blog because there are the costs of the hosting plan;
- you have to update WordPress, while with the .com version the updates will be automatic.
WordPress.com: pros and cons
With WordPress.com, by choosing the free plan you can create a blog at no cost and reduce management operations to a minimum. However, you have to sacrifice the possibility of having a custom domain and the other functions we have talked about in detail.
By creating a free blog with WordPress.com, ads will be shown on your site, which you have no control over. To remove them you will need to upgrade to a paid plan. This means even with the free plan you will not be able to place your ads and monetize them.
With the other plans, starting from Premium, you can join the official WordAds advertising program. Even in this case, therefore, you are limited in your choice.
What about affiliate marketing? In this case there are no limitations based on the plan and you can insert links with affiliations as long as you always respect the terms of the service.
Which is more suitable if I want to open an eCommerce?
Again, I have to repeat myself. With the self-hosted version of WordPress you have no limits and if you want to create an ecommerce site, you can take advantage of a plugin like WooCommerce.
If you want to go the same way by choosing a WordPress.com plan, you will need to purchase the eCommerce plan.
All the other plans proposed, in fact, even the Business one, do not support advanced features for online stores and are limited in terms of payment systems.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: summary table
In this table you will find a summary of the features of the plans offered by WordPress.com compared with the functions of the self-hosted version.
Keep in mind that the costs and functions provided by hosting depend on the provider. In this table, for simplicity, you will see the services included in our hosting plans, such as the domain included forever and automatic backups on all plans.
|WordPress.org||WordPress.com (free)||WordPress.com (personal)||WordPress.com (premium)||WordPress.com (business)||WordPress.com (eCommerce)|
|Costs||from 2,41 € / month||0 €||from 4 € / month||from 8 € / month||from 25 € / month||from 45 € / month|
|Free domain||free for one year||free for one year||free for one year||free for one year|
|Assistance||by email||via email and chat||via email and chat (with priority)||via email and chat (with priority)|
|Personalization and themes|
|Export content (migration)|
|Access to files (FTP) and databases|
|Payments (non-recurring)||limited, does not accept PayPal payments|
|Monetization with advertisements||limited, WordAds only||limited, WordAds only||limited, WordAds only|
In short words
WordPress.com is for you if:
- you want to create a free website or blog;
- you don’t want to deal with technical management (updates, backups, access to files and databases);
- you want to create a personal portfolio or blog;
- you don’t need to customize the look and functions.
WordPress.org is for you if:
- you have a budget (even a minimum) to invest;
- you want to check every aspect of the site;
- you want to create a professional looking website, blog or ecommerce;
- you don’t want to have limits in customization.
We have seen how in terms of customization and management freedom WordPress.org is unmatched. On the other hand, WordPress.com, with the presence of the free plan, may be the ideal solution for a small personal project.
Ultimately, is it better to have WordPress.org or WordPress.com? There is no single answer, but the decision depends on your needs.
With this detailed comparison, you should have all the information you need to guide you in your choice. Still have questions or considerations? Write them here in the comments.