WordPress is the most popular website builder currently, about one-third of all online stores are powered by this content management system. It is favoured because of the simplicity, flexibility and powerful management tools for content, user, media and so on. Such global brands like BBC America, Sony Music, and Microsoft News have their websites running on WordPress and successfully serving thousands of visitors per day.

However, when first learning about WordPress you probably get confused about the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. In fact, WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two entirely different website solutions and formed by two distinct organizations although they have very similar names. Thus, it is of great importance to distinguish them in order to choose the right solution for your online business.

In this article, we will provide you with an in-depth comparison of WordPress.com vs WordPress.org and help you pick the best one for your needs. Let’s get started!

Pros & Cons of WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

WordPress.com is a for-profit hosted blogging service, which was launched in 2005. The service is built upon the open-source WordPress platform, with some additional plugins and modifications layered on. Thus, the inner workings of both platforms are very similar. However, WordPress.com is a fully-featured hosted solution, which takes care of all hosting-related matters for its users.

Meanwhile, WordPress.org is a self-hosted content management system (CMS), which means you’ll have to download and install the software onto your computer and find your own hosting provider. It’s also considered as the more advanced version between the two, providing you endless customization possibilities.

Before we discuss the differences of WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, take a quick glance at the below chart showing the pros and cons of each platform:

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org - The Ultimate Comparison (2020)
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

Detailed Comparison Between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

Pricing

WordPress.org is an open-source platform as discussed, and this means downloading and installing it is completely free of charge. You’re also able to upgrade your WordPress.org website without worrying about any monthly or annual fees.

While the platform is free, do keep in mind that you’ll have to incur hosting, domain name and SSL certificate costs. Normally, the cost of a domain name is $14.99/ year, hosting solution $8/month and SSL certificate $70/year.

Meanwhile, WordPress.com offers a subscription-based model for its users. It has different pricing tiers with additional features depending on which plan you are on, which ranges from $0 to $45 per month. Unlike the open-source version, each of these plans already includes SSL certificate, web hosting, and domain name (excluded the free plan).

WordPress Pricing and Plans
WordPress Pricing and Plans

Notably, while WordPress.com does provide a free plan, users are limited to access to some advanced features. For instance, you have to pay for the upgraded plans in order to use premium themes, integrate with Google Analytics, or place ads on your website.

Help & Support

The WordPress.org version is a free and open-source website solution, which you’re expected to install and develop your site on your own using available guides. That can help you keep the cost low, but it also means there’s not necessarily dedicated support for customers when using the product.

WordPress.org Support
WordPress.org Support

However, WordPress.org has a large community to support users if they run into any problems. Here, you will receive advice and tips from developers and other experienced users. Apart from that, WordPress.org maintains an extensive online documentation for its customers.

WordPress.com does not offer any specialist support on its free plan. You have to find the information yourself on the community forums, FAQs created by other users or the online documentation.

If you need more help, you can upgrade to the Personal plan or Premium plan to receive email and live chat support. From the Business plan and above, you will have access to 24/7 priority live chat support. Notably, only the eCommerce plan users will get the full-fledge support from WordPress.com, including personalized one-on-one expert support sessions.

Ease of Use

Both WordPress.org and WordPress.com require a certain level of technical knowledge to use. This is especially true with the former, as this platform allows users to get deeply into the underlying code to customize their website. With coding skills or with the help of a developer, you’re totally able to create a whole new website from scratch to suit your principal business objectives.

In comparison with the open-source version, the process of setting up a website with WordPress.com is much more streamlined. It’s a full-featured hosting solution that is designed to provide for users everything needed to start going online. You can easily set up and create a website in just a few minutes.

Theme, Plugins & Customizability

WordPress.org offers a pretty impressive array of premium and free themes with full responsiveness and cross-platform compatibility. Currently, WordPress.org’s marketplace is filled with more than 7,000 themes, providing users an extensive list of options.

WordPress.org Themes
WordPress.org Themes

In terms of plugins, it would be no exaggeration to say that WordPress.org has the most robust marketplace among website solutions. Its marketplace has a broad range of more than 57,000 free and paid plugins, which allows you to enhance and expand your website’s functionality.

WordPress.org Plugins
WordPress.org Plugins

Notably, WordPress.org provides unlimited customization possibilities for its users, which is one of the greatest benefits when using this platform to scale into the digital world. All plugins, extensions, and themes could be adjusted and coded to tailor the look and functionality of your website. This gives you greater control of your website appearance and the ability to add specific features to suit your business needs.  In addition, please note that keep your plugins and themes updated in order to boost your WordPress site.

With WordPress.com, it is fairly easy for users to install and apply its themes to design the website’s look. However, the total number of theme options provided by this platform is much more restricted than the open-source one. You can upgrade to higher pricing plans to get access to more than 200 premium themes and customize your selected theme with extended color schemes, background designs, and CSS.

On the other hand, the range of plugin options is entirely dependent on which pricing plan you are on. The free edition only provides you with default built-in features. To access the plugin directory, you will need to upgrade to at least a Business plan or higher.

In summary, due to WordPress.com’s proprietary codebase, the platform offers limited customization options. You cannot freely edit your store as with WordPress.org.

Ecommerce Features

WordPress.org doesn’t come with any built-in eCommerce features, but you can still start your online business by installing third party plugins such as WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, WP eCommerce, Ecwid etc. It is also totally possible to integrate your WordPress website with other eCommerce platforms such as Shopify or BigCommerce. For more information, check out this detailed How To Integrate Shopify With WordPress.

To sell on WordPress.com, you’ll need to be signed up to its eCommerce plan. This option lets you sell unlimited products, it accepts payments in 60+ countries, and even integrates with top shipping carriers. However, bear in mind that this plan will cost you $45/month.

Search Engine Optimization

Some eCommerce platforms are inherently better when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and WordPress is not excluded. Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org provide robust SEO tools, and the most popular one that you might know is Yoast SEO. You can highly optimize your store by using this plugin’s outstanding SEO functionalities such as adding multiple focus keyphrases per page, real-time suggestions for internal links, or URL redirect.

It should be noted that you can only install Yoast SEO plugin on WordPress.com if you’re in the Business or the Ecommerce plan. Aside from that, WordPress.com is still a SEO-friendly platform, even without integrating third-party plugins. The free version of this hosted solution gives users great control over SEO metadata and files, alt tags, headers, and 301 redirects.

However, if you’re in a competitive niche, WordPress.org would be the better option. Thanks to its open-source nature, users can get complete control over SEO, allowing you to make some manual changes to improve SEO performance that you can’t on the hosted solution.

Blogging

In fact, the WordPress software was originally built to create blogs. Users can easily start a blog website with many important blogging features including create and schedule posts, blog management dashboard, comment management system, spam detection, embed images, videos, and link, etc. This is particularly the case for WordPress.com, as the hosted platform is specifically designed as a blogging service provider. It’s also an cost-effective option for anyone who wants to build a blogging site, given you don’t need to sort out hosting and security certificates individually.

If you need a website for other reasons than a blog, but would like to add one to your site as an additional feature, WordPress.org would be the suitable option. The open-source platform provides plenty of blogging plugins on its marketplace, allowing you to create a blog page on your current website.

Maintenance

With WordPress.org, it’s your job to handle the website maintenance. You will need to make sure that your store’s data is backed up correctly and keep on top of software updates. This process can take you a great deal of time and effort, as you have to update your store manually. Additionally, there is also a chance that the update process might affect your site’s loading time.

Meanwhile, WordPress.com will take care of all the maintenance issues for its users. You don’t have to worry about updates, plugin compatibility, or check release notes. The hosted provider will manage and upgrade all the security patches and latest versions for your store, which will greatly reduce downtime and make sure your sites stay up-to-date. As a result, WordPress.com demands much less maintenance than the open-source one.

When to use WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

As you can see, both WordPress.org and WordPress.com have their own pros and cons, and are splitted into two different platforms. Thus, there is no clear better website builder, and it’s totally dependent on your business needs and budget.

Below are some points might help you decide:

  • WordPress.com is the suitable platform if you’re slightly less tech-savvy and want an all-in-one solution. It’s totally perfect for personal blogging sites, and even a great option for eCommerce sites that don’t have lots of in-house technical resources.
  • If you want full control and flexibility over your website, then WordPress.org is the ideal choice. However, it requires you to know coding skills or have a team of WordPress experts in order to fully utilize the customizability of this platform. There’s no denying that WordPress.org is the more powerful and advanced option.

Conclusion

The similarity of two domain names: WordPress.com vs WordPress.org might cause confusion for beginners. Through this article, we believe that now you can clearly understand the differences between these two aforementioned website builders.

Whether you’re starting a new online business or looking to switch platforms, it is of great importance to choose the right solution that is aligned with your business objectives. In case you decide to scale your business online through WordPress.org, don’t forget to have a look at Best WordPress Plugins for eCommerce – 2020 review.

If you plan to migrate your website from WordPress.com to WordPress.org or vice versa, LitExtension offers the optimal solution for you. With our service, all of your important data will be transferred to the new website automatically, accurately with utmost data security.

Our support team is available 24/7, do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

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