Did you know that WordPress.com and WordPress.org are actually two very different platforms? Often beginners confuse the two which leads them to choose the wrong platform. We’re often asked by our users which is the better platform: WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. To help answer that, we have created the most comprehensive comparison of free WordPress.com vs WordPress.org (self-hosted version).
Our goal is highlight the key differences between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, so you can choose the right platform for your needs.
Since choosing the right platform is crucial for your online success, we have created the most complete comparison of WordPress.com vs WordPress.org ( text comparison, table-based comparison, and a full infographic).
If you just want to start a blog or make a website the RIGHT way, then you can skip this article and head over to our guides here:
- How to Start a Blog with WordPress (step by step)
- How to Create a Website with WordPress (step by step)
Having said that, let’s take a look at the differences between self-hosted WordPress.org vs WordPress.com.
WordPress.org with the free WordPress.com hosting service. You can unlock additional features in WordPress.com by upgrading to their paid service. We have highlighted those features as well.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org Comparison
The best way to understand the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org is to take a look at each platform individually.
WordPress.org aka “the real WordPress”, is the popular website platform that you have heard all the great things about.
It is open source and 100% free for anyone to use. All you need is a domain name and web hosting. This is why it is also referred to as self-hosted WordPress.
Below are the pros and cons of using the self-hosted WordPress.org to build your website or blog.
With WordPress.org, you have full control of your website. You are free to do anything you want and customize it as much as you need. Here are some of the benefits of choosing WordPress.org to build your website, and the reason why it is the go-to choice.
- It is free and super easy to use. (See why is WordPress free?)
- You own your website and all its data. Your site will NOT be turned off because someone decides that it is against their terms of service (as long as you are not doing something illegal). You are in full control.
- You can add free, paid, and custom WordPress plugins / apps to your website.
- You can use customize your website design as needed. You can add any free or paid WordPress theme that you want. You can also create completely custom designs or modify anything that you want.
- You can actually make money from your WordPress site by running your own ads without sharing revenue with anyone.
- You can use powerful tools like Google Analytics for custom analytics and tracking.
- You can use self-hosted WordPress to create an online store to sell digital or physical products, accept credit card payments, and deliver / ship the goods directly from your website.
- You can also create membership sites and sell memberships for premium content, courses, etc and build an online community around your website.
There are a very few cons of using the self-hosted WordPress.org site.
- Like all websites, you will need web hosting. This is where your website files are stored on the internet. Initially, the cost is around $3-$10 per month. However as your website grows and gets more traffic, the web hosting costs will increase as expected, but then you would be making enough money to cover the costs.
- You are responsible for updates. You can easily update your WordPress site by simply clicking on the update button (1-click), so it’s not too much work.
- You are responsible for backups. Thankfully, there are tons of WordPress backup plugins that let you setup automatic backups.
The real cost of WordPress.org website varies based on what you are trying to build (simple blog, portfolio website, eCommerce store, membership site, etc). There are also other factors like free templates vs premium templates, free plugins vs premium plugins, etc.
On a low budget, you can build your website for as little as $46 per year. See our guide on how much does it really cost to build a WordPress website for full details.
For 99% of users, our recommendation is always to use WordPress.org. See our guide on how to start a website.
WordPress.com is a hosting service created by the co-founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg. Because of the same founder, often users confuse WordPress.com with the popular WordPress.org software.
The WordPress.com hosting service has 5 plans:
- Free – Very limited.
- Personal – $36 per year
- Premium – $99 per year
- Business – $299 per year
- VIP – starting at $5000 per month
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of WordPress.com.
The free WordPress.com platform is a good choice for hobby bloggers and those starting a blog for their family. Here are some of the benefits of using WordPress.com:
- It’s free for up to 3GB of space. After that you will have to switch to a paid plan for more space. (Personal plan $36 /year gives you 6GB, Premium plan $99/year gives you 13GB storage, or Business plan for $299/year for unlimited storage).
- You will not have to worry about updates or backups. WordPress.com will take care of that.
There are several limitations of free WordPress.com which differentiate it from WordPress.org. Here are some of the disadvantages of using WordPress.com:
- They place ads on all free websites. So your users will see ads, and you don’t make money from it. If you don’t want your users to see their ads, then you can upgrade to a paid plan (starting from $36 per year).
- You are NOT allowed to sell ads on your website. If you run a high traffic site, then you can apply for their advertising program called WordAds where you share revenue with them. Premium and Business plan users can use WordAds right away.
- You cannot upload plugins. Free plan users get built-in JetPack features pre-activated. Business plan users can install from a selection of compatible plugins ($299 / year). WordPress.com VIP program lets you install plugins, and it starts from $5000 per month.
- You cannot upload custom themes. Free plan users can only install from the limited free themes collection. Premium and business plan users can also select premium themes. There are limited customization options for the free version. Premium and Business plan users can use custom CSS.
- You are restricted to their stats. You cannot add Google Analytics or install any other powerful tracking platform. Business plan users can install Google Analytics.
- They can delete your site at anytime if they think it violates their Terms of Service.
- Your site will display a powered by WordPress.com link. It can be removed by upgrading to the Business plan.
- WordPress.com does not offer any eCommerce features or integrated payment gateways.
- You cannot build membership websites with WordPress.com.
As you can see, the WordPress.com hosting platform is quite limited when you’re on the free, personal, or even premium plan. To unlock some of the more advanced features, you have to be on the Business plan ($299 per year) or on the VIP plan ($5000 per month).
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org (FAQs)
Since this is a popular topic, and WPBeginner is the largest free WordPress resource site for beginners, we get tons of questions regarding WordPress.com vs WordPress.org.
We have done our best to answer the most frequently asked questions below:
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – Which is Better?
If you are a personal blogger, and you don’t care about making money from your website, then go with the free WordPress.com.
If you are a business or a blogger that wants to make money from your site, then we recommend using the self-hosted WordPress.org. It gives you the freedom and flexibility to grow your website the way you want.
While you can get several advanced features with the WordPress.com Business plan ($299 / year for each website), you can make that money go much further on a self-hosted WordPress site which costs $46 per year.
In our expert opinion, WordPress.org is hands down the better platform. That’s the platform that every professional blogger, small business owner, and even big name brands likes Disney uses.
How do I start a WordPress.org Website?
To start a self-hosted WordPress website, you need a domain name and WordPress hosting.
A domain name is your website’s address on the internet such as google.com, wpbeginner.com, etc. Web hosting is where your website files are stored on the internet.
We recommend using Bluehost for hosting your website because they are one of the largest web hosting companies in the world. They’re also an official WordPress.org recommended hosting provider. Last but not least, they’re offering our users a free domain + 60% off on hosting.
For step by step instructions, you can checkout our free guide on how to make a website.
If you need help, WPBeginner team can even build your website for free. Learn more about how our free WordPress blog setup works.
Can I move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org?
Often new users who don’t know the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org end up starting with the free WordPress.com service. Once they see the limitations of the platform, they want to switch to “the Real WordPress” aka WordPress.org.
Yes, you can definitely switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org and fairly easily move all of your content.
We have created a step by step guide on how to move your blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, or you can take advantage of our free blog setup servie, and we will transfer your blog for free.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – Summary
The best way to think about the differences between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org is the analogy of renting a house vs. owning a house.
WordPress.com is similar to renting a house. You have limited power and control over what you can and cannot do.
WordPress.org is like owning a house. Where you have full control, no one can kick you out, and you can do anything that you want.
Below is the summary of everything we discussed above in our self-hosted WordPress.org vs WordPress.com comparison:
The confusion created by the similar domains: WordPress.com vs WordPress.org is quite unfortunate for beginners. There is a lot of history behind the decisions, and you can read more about that in our article how WordPress.com and WordPress.org are related.
Our hope is that you found this article helpful in understanding the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
We wish you all the best with your website and hope that you chose the right platform: WordPress.org.