What’s the difference between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org?
I know a lot of folks find this confusing — In fact, it’s a question that comes up often in my class on building a WordPress website.
Before you sign up for either of them, let me clarify that WordPress.com and WordPress.org are not the same company, and do not have the same offerings. They share the same name because they use the WordPress Foundation trademark, which is a project aimed at sharing and improving WordPress software.
An easy way to think of it is that they’re two branches of — and two ways of using — the same software.
Now that you understand why they sound similar, let’s get into the differences between the two options.
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: What Are the Differences?
The main thing to understand in the difference between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org is that the former (.com) is an all-encompassing website building platform (meaning you can build your entire site on it) and the latter (.org) is a free software you can install on your website to help you build it.
WordPress.com is a hosting company where you can build out a website for free — in exchange, they have your permission to put ads on your website and add their name to your URL. If you’re looking for a quick, simple website builder on a budget, it’s a great option. However, there are lots of downsides, including having to pay to remove WordPress advertising from your site or being able to use a custom URL. It also may limit which themes you can use, or what plugins you’re allowed to add to your site.
WordPress.org, however, offers a software you can install on your website.
Essentially, you buy your domain name (the thing people type into the URL bar to find you) and pay a company to “host” your website, which means they store the files that make up your site and keep them connected to the internet (I typically recommend Siteground for that!). Then you install the free WordPress.org software on your hosting and voilà! You’re ready to start building whatever you want. The limit is your imagination (and knowledge of web design). No pesky unwanted ads on your website, and you’ve already got ownership of your website’s URL. Plus you’ve got access to thousands of theme options and plug-ins (lots of free ones, too, thanks to the open-source development community) as well as full control over customizing your site.
Which One is Best for You?
If you couldn’t already tell, I always recommend that my clients choose WordPress.org when building their business websites. The full control it offers over your design without the need for additional and often costly upgrades alone is worth the extra steps to set it all up.
If you’re looking to start a beginner blog without worrying too much about the design, I might recommend WordPress.com. It’s a great option if you want to create a public journal of sorts, or a place to share your writing, stress-free. But it’s simply not an appropriate platform for a business website (and can end up costing a lot of money to upgrade it into what you need).
If you’ve already set up a website with WordPress.com — Don’t panic! I’ve got an option for you.
How to Migrate from WordPress.com to WordPress.org
It’s possible to take what you’ve already built on WordPress.com and move it over to WordPress.org. In fact, enough people have started out on WordPress.com and then realized its limitations that there are plenty of guides to be found on how to make the switch. Here’s one.
It’s completely free to migrate, too, so no need to worry about extra fees beyond paying for your domain and hosting.
Once you’ve completed the migration, you can start customizing your website and taking full advantage of everything WordPress.org has to offer!