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WordPress makes up almost two-thirds of sites floating around in the virtual ether.
Why? Well, there are many great website builders to choose from, but WP hits that sweet-spot between capability, customizability, and low barrier-of-entry.
Even put against the most advanced CMS' - say in a battle between WordPress vs. Joomla vs. Drupal - it’s still a much-preferred option (for non-techies in particular).
It's no surprise that newcomers to web development are left scratching their heads when told that the CMS actually comes in two mysterious forms .
Two rather different forms. Spooky. 👻
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org Comparison
What is WordPress?
When you break it down, WordPress is one of the easiest - and certainly the most popular website builders…
We won't get into what the software used to be called, but it was originally created to make blogs. In 2003, WordPress took full form. By the autumn of 2009, WP was the most popular open-source CMS around.
WP is also a “CMS.” Content management systems let users create, modify and manage content on a website without technical know-how.
Basically, a CMS designs a website for you.
Alongside a great web host - once you have a domain name - it’s all you need to have a site up-and-running. It’s the engine, the chassis, and all the interior.
And, instead of YOU developing all of the complicated “core code” infrastructure needed for arranging and organizing web pages, having media published on it, and getting the site to play out certain functions, a CMS automatically handles all of that.
So you can focus on steering the thing where you want it to go - like driving an already-made car.
Once upon a time, WP could only create blogs - and it was very good at that. That specialism has long-since widened out. The software’s now responsible for a whole host of very well-known big-name brands.
- Sony music
- Facebook Newsroom
- The Rolling Stones
It has every type of advanced feature you could imagine, everything a business website would need, what online stores could imagine, and creative features for blogs, portfolios, forums, resumes, and even social networks and membership sites. (Scroll down to the Design Section for more on Themes.)
Why The Split?
History Lessons (A Hobbit’s Tale) 🗺️
The WordPress Foundation
We begin our enlightenment from confusion by discussing WordPress Foundation (ironically, it’s an “.org” site).
Well, WordPress - the CMS - is a registered trademark, and is in fact owned by this company. WordPress Foundation is a non-profit organization. The singular goal is to keep WordPress overall free and maintained. This will keep WordPress as a stable platform for generations.
WP Foundation was actually registered by a co-founder of WP the CMS, Matt Mullenweg. Another company, known as Automaticc, is also associated with both WordPress Foundation and WordPress the CMS.
Quite a few tongue twisters... The important thing to know is that the CMS program is subordinate to the WordPress Foundation organization. and here lies the reason why the .com and. .org websites exist.
Two Separate Products
So, we mentioned the company called Automaticc. They’re responsible for the creation of WordPress.com. This company is focused on blog-hosting solutions (like old-skool WP was).
Many features you would expect on WordPress.org are not accessible with WordPress.com - such as custom extensions, and a wide variety of custom themes other than just for blogs. Some are unavailable, if you pay premium fees, which are pricey.
To make things a bit more complicated, WordPress.org was co-founded by Matt, who also owns Automaticc, and therefore also owns WordPress.com.
The main thing to know is that WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two separate entities - and were designed that way… (Despite their common histories and even common founder and owner - in the case of Matt.)
If you find the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org fascinating, then you might find Blogger vs. WordPress comparison quite interesting as well.
Main Differences Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
If you go to a WP event, it will now make sense, when you notice that the booths have both the WordPress AND Automaticc logos.
Still, you have to choose one or the other - and know what you’re getting.
TEAM “Big Boys”.org 🗿
Ignore the “.com” on WordPress.com.We usually assume that dot-com websites are the official home of any company. Not in this case.
WordPress Foundation is the overarching company. And WordPress.org makes up the vast majority of online sites you've come across online. Everything from a freelance bead necklaces designer’s homepage, to BBC News America’s.
You can be sure that Mercedes-Benz, Walt Disney, and Beyonce also used WordPress.org for their websites.
Vs. TEAM “Niche Bloggers”.Com 🎪
By contrast, you're more likely to find little-known, personal blogs that feature little-known people or experts with niche followers.
One example is John Negroni’s website dedicated to writing about popular forms of entertainment. One of his posts entitled “The Pixar Theory” was actually published on the WordPress.com website, as an editor's pick in 2013.
You can find blogs that range from scholars critiquing social theories and trends, satirical illustrations commenting on politics, mathematicians going over the meaning of statistical algorithms, to reports from a psychiatrist writing about experiences while working as a medic in the military.
Interesting nonetheless. But, not the sort of thing that converts or gets massive audience attention... More a place to share random thoughts quickly - though it could perhaps be done better with a builder like Weebly (Weebly review).
WordPress.org PROS & CONS
Star Perks 🌟
You need to find a third-party hosting provider to connect to your WordPress.org account. Some say that this makes WordPress.org a paid CMS. NOT true. This could be a free solution with a reliable free web host.
(Need more power? Simply upgrade to a paid tier, depending on how much traffic you need to serve!)
Making Money (Monetization) 💳
This is pretty much the dividing line between the two entities... If you are looking to create an online business, WordPress.org is an essential. Get full- integrated eCommerce capabilities (Shopify review). Sell your own products/run advertisements.
Highly Customizable 🤖
From editing the core code, to using the user interface - to apply tweaks - you are given full control over the design and your site’s custom functionalities... This is exceptionally good when it comes to creating unique brands and things like sales funnels.
Plugins Enabled 🔌
Get access to a CMS with the MOST number of plugins available anywhere, of any CMS... These can expand the functionality of your site and boost its performance.
Full Control of SEO & Analytics ⚙️
Want to rank in the top 10 of a Google or DuckDuckGo search...? WordPress can get you there with its immense SEO tools and analytic insights - for gleaning information about your traffic.
Maintenance is Your Responsibility 🧐
If you have plugins that need to be updated or removed, when it comes to organizing your besides backup systems, I'm downloading systems with Spam control, this is all up to you to arrange - it is quickly sorted out via extension plug-ins.
WordPress.com PROS & CONS
The Ugly Duckling 🦆
Hosted on WordPress.com ✔️
This means you don’t need to look for a third-party host to get up-and-running.
Completely Free Basic Framework ✔️
As you get hosted for free, this software is potentially a free solution for getting a blog online… Just note: You will need to pay for extra features.
Maintenance is Automatically Handled ✔️
Once you create your account, WP.com automatically takes care of updates, backups, and management of plugins.
Making Money (Monetization) ❌
There is an immense limit on this CMS’ capacity for converting your audience attention into hard dinero... Essentially, you cannot request payments for products, there are no eCommerce store functions, and WordPress.com will also show their advertisements on your site.
Limited Customisations ❌
There is a slim theme store where you can choose from a selection, but no option to customize (such as the arrangements, colors, and stylizations).
Plugins Disabled ❌
There are around 30 official plugins available, compared to the thousands on the .org website. You cannot install any third-party extensions.
Limited Control of SEO & Analytics ❌
There's a reason it’s very hard to get yourself visible on the search engines - with these guys. You have very little control of SEO. There's no chance you'll get access to third-party SEO tools like Yoast, either.
WordPress vs. WordPress FAQ
To Be Or Not to… (Tad Dramatic?) 📜
Should I use WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
It all boils down to this question.
WordPress.com seems to be something of a niche provider, but it must exist for a reason, right?
Even premium reseller hosting makes its niche users money.
Now that you’ve had time to catch up with the lingo - and what it means - before we reach our conclusion, we will dive into a discussion on the critical criteria. You need to consider this, when making a decision between the two choices… (Or when trying to sound like an expert boffin when someone scratches their head and asks what one to bloomin’ well select.)
When to Use WordPress.com
Sure, you might be pleased with not having to deal with any tertiary hosting providers. Once you create an account with WordPress.com, you'll be handed a subdomain.
(subdomain.yourwebsitename.com, rather than... yourwebsitename.com).
One looks more professional, though we won't say which... Just know it can have a big impact on the impression visitors have towards your brand. In most cases, definitely not recommended for businesses. (Quality domain registrars have a wide selection choice).
You can find around 100 free themes on the .com website, compared to over 1,500 free themes on the WordPress.org website.
(And we haven't even begun to factor-in how many more you get with third-party sources, which is staggering.)
you won't be able to build email lists by integrating email clients like MailChimp and constant contact.
OWNERSHIP (Not Yours!)
Yep, that's right. One of the reasons why WordPress.com is free, is that they have no contractual obligation to give you ownership of your content.
This allows them to run advertisements on your website and to even shut you down without notice. Essentially, your content is owned by WordPress.com when you use them as your CMS.
You won’t be taken as seriously when you use WordPress.com, as opposed to WordPress.org.
If you want to do something personal, perhaps for some educational course you are on, or for personal blogging reasons, WordPress.com can work perfectly fine. And it’s fast! You create something and forget about it when you're finished.
But, if you want to create something that can be built upon long-term and that will garner larger attention, the .com site really cannot meet those expectations.
When to Use WordPress.org?
Almost ALL of the Time
Once you create a WordPress.org account, you will need to connect a third-party host. A web host uses its server resources to transmit the content on your CMS across the World Wide Web.
The benefits of using a third-party web host is that you have a much broader selection of hosting options and types, such as super fast dedicated hosting, or managed WordPress hosting (typically, these make great WordPress hosts)… Use specialists in hosting to boost your specialist content management tool.
Whatever the shape of your awesome online business ideas, WP has thousands upon thousands of site templates (themes) to choose from, that can customize the performance, functionality, and look of your website.
In most cases, these plugins require zero amounts of coding knowledge, so you do not need to be a developer to create a very competitive brand.
You Own the Content!
All monetization levers are accessible by you. WP really goes out of its way to make highly SEO-optimized themes that can get you great organic traffic on search engines.
Indeed, WP has the highest success rates - in many cases - out of all of the CMS', for its ability to get organic traffic on Google (who love them). We typically recommend it over some of the simpler drag-and-drop builders like Wix (Wix review), who tend to get a far smaller share of the web’s organic traffic.
Finally, not only will Google recognize your website more favorably, but even many skilled developers use WP as their preferred CMS. This is because the user interface is more intuitive than some of the most developmentally-centric CMS' like Joomla.
Join the likes of Disney, the New York Times and Timex.
“Be Not Afraid of Greatness” (As Written By Shakespeare) ✍🏻
When people refer to WordPress, they are almost always using it as a shortcode for WordPress.org… Why? Well, In the vast majority of cases, this is going to be the solution you'll want of the two.
One of the biggest - and least mentioned - differences between the two, is that you DON’T actually own the content you publish - when published using .com.
When publishing via the .com site, WordPress owns your content. They can shut down your website whenever they want. More than that, WordPress.com will place advertisements on your website 📺.
You can't sell goods without getting official permission first, either… Essentially, you can’t monetize your blog or website at all, when you use WordPress.com. And plugins are much fewer.
For this reason, WordPress.org is a major leg-up.
- ☑️ only 3GB storage on .com (unlimited on .org)
- ☑️ make money using WordPress.org but not .com
- ☑️ & .org lets you connect powerful web hosts/unlimited types (e.g. a top free VPS hosts)