What’s the Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? – A Simple Video Explanation (YouTube Video)

Believe it or not, WordPress comes in two different flavors: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. I know — confusing! Worse still, making the wrong choice can cost you a lot of time and effort further down the line — something no business owner ever wants to have to deal with! So, what’s the difference? And which is right for your site?

To answer these questions — and others — check out our new video explanation over on our YouTube channel.

Take a look:

— (Note: Video credits to Topher DeRosia — creator of HeroPress.)

Video Transcript

Hi, this is Topher for WinningWP. In this video, we’re going to discuss an age-old question: What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? And which is best for you? This is a surprisingly common question, and it’s something that our community needs to get worked out. But, until then, I’m going to see if I can help you figure out which one is right for you.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

So, what’s the difference? And why does it matter? For one thing, WordPress.com and WordPress.org serve different markets. They have totally different purposes. They have different costs — and by that I don’t mean that they offer the same thing at two different prices, they have different things that cost money. On one side, something might be free, while on the other side, it costs money — and the reverse may be true for other things.

They vary in ease-of-use: WordPress.com is designed to be really easy to use, while WordPress.org isn’t necessarily designed for that. Instead, it’s designed more for power.

They offer an array of services. They each offer things that the other does not, and so you should look at both of them to see which one has what you’re looking for.

Which Is Right for You?

It’s actually pretty simple. WordPress.com is a service, and WordPress.org is a tool. So, .com is a service with a very small amount of do-it-yourself (sort of like IKEA). With .com, you get a few forms to fill out, you put in your name, and your blog title, and things like that, and, ten minutes later, you have a blog! Whereas .org is a little more like Home Depot, where they’re happy to give you all the raw materials you want, and you can go home and build either the most wonderful thing that no one has ever seen before, or you can build something kind of sad. That said, Home Depot helps you learn, and you can build something really amazing.

Extending that idea a little bit more, WordPress.com is a service that offers limited things. In this example, it would make an end table. You could paint it, you could cut the legs a little shorter, but, at the end of the day, it’s the same thing for everybody. With .org, you can make anything — really anything. It’s very, very powerful, and very, very flexible.

WordPress.com as a service is owned by a company called Automattic. They make their business around WordPress. They don’t own WordPress, they simply use it as a tool, as you would, and they build things with it, and they offer services with it.

WordPress.org as a tool offers WordPress itself: The open source product. Because it’s open source, it’s freely available to everyone on earth. Not only is it freely available, but you actually own it: The license dictates that every human on earth owns WordPress.

WordPress.com is also a hosted platform, which means they take care of everything for you. It’s a little like owning a condo instead of a house: You don’t have to mow the lawn, you don’t have to water the flowers, you don’t have to worry about the roof, but you still get to paint the walls. Whereas .org is self hosted. That means you need to have a server yourself, and you can make changes, and you can do more than paint the walls — you can actually knock them down!

WordPress.com is a fixed system — I referred to this with the end table — they offer a limited amount of things. Now, those things are great, and they’re wonderful, and if they’re what you need, then fantastic! But if they’re not what you need, you’re not going to get anything else. Whereas .org is fully customizable. When you download WordPress from WordPress.org, you can do anything with it.

WordPress.com is guaranteed to work, and by that I mean your blog will be up, and you will be able to use it. If it goes down, somebody else jumps on it again, similar to owning a condo or an apartment. If your plumbing breaks, somebody else comes and fixes it. With .org you’re completely free to totally break it, and you’re responsible for fixing it. Or you hire somebody. Again, like owning a home and hiring a plumber.

The WordPress Community

WordPress.com has an online community around it — and I’d like to show you that a little bit. Once you log into WordPress.com and you have an account, you’ll see a page that shows posts from other blogs you’ve decided to follow. So I follow the NASA Image Of The Day, and Boing Boing, and ThinkGeek, and they’re free to follow me, and see my posts. And my friends can follow me, and I can follow my friends.

You may be familiar with the idea of leaving comments on a WordPress site when you’re logged into wordpress.com, and when you’re on somebody else’s site, you don’t need to log in to leave a comment, and you don’t need to fill in all your information. Because you’re already logged into that system, it makes it much, much easier for people to visit each other’s sites, leave comments, and form a community.

Support

WordPress.org provides support for your install of WordPress. So, I mentioned that if you break your plumbing, you may need to have a plumber come to fix it, but the way the WordPress.org community works is that all the plumbers out there are willing to give you free support. Let’s take a look at that.

At WordPress.org, if you click Support, there’s a section about the forums, and documentation, and a handbook. And the forums are filled with other people just like you, who have experienced what you’re experiencing, and are happy to tell you how to fix it for free. That’s pretty amazing!

Newsfeed

WordPress.com has a newsfeed — and I use the word news a little loosely, because it’s not news, it’s other people’s blog posts, which are sometimes news, but sometimes they’re cats… But I’d like to show that to you. There’s a link called Discover, and these are curated blog posts. So there are people at Automattic reading the blogs, and finding things that you like, and sending them your way. This is pretty slick because it helps you save time, because you’re not all over the internet looking for good stuff and trying to sift through all the garbage.

Documentation

WordPress.org provides documentation. Now, .com has some documentation on how to use their service, but .org has really deep documentation on how to do everything! If you go to Explore Documentation, there are all of these articles on how to use WordPress, and things like that, and, additionally, there’s a handbook with chapters about how to use WordPress. It’s similar to having an ebook from Barnes & Noble, but for free — all written by people just like you, and, in some cases, written by me!

Pricing

WordPress.com has a free product. You can pay up to $24.92 a month and buy some added features –– some extra themes, your own domain name, things like that. But there is definitely a free model — and it’s a good one. WordPress.org is completely free. People make millions of dollars using .org as a freely available tool.

Which Is for You?

So, .com is best for the do-it-yourself blogger, as opposed to everybody else — and, by everybody else, I mean people who want to build websites, who want to noodle around, and customize themes, and change colors, and whatnot. If you want to blog, WordPress.com is probably for you. If you want to play with the internet, WordPress.org is great!

So let’s look at some examples of folk who might use .com: Somebody with no web or HTML skills (and if you don’t know what HTML is, this is for you); somebody with a limited budget — you don’t want to spend a ton of money getting a super-fast server or paying a developer to build something custom, you just want a blog. A one-time event is good for .com: A car for sale, a wedding, a big anniversary, a family reunion, that sort of thing. Something that’s going to get used once and nobody’s ever going to come back to, and you can throw it away. Someone needing a quick solution — WordPress.com is very quick, and you can have a blog up in minutes.

A local artist or musician — WordPress.com offers quite a lot of hard drive space, and so it’s excellent for uploading music and video. And then .com is great for anyone with something to say, especially if what’s important to that person is what they have to say as opposed to building something cool on the internet.

So who might use WordPress.org? A small business with a website budget, bloggers with monetized content — and that means usually having sponsors or ads, because you can’t do that on WordPress.com. Publishers who need a great deal of control over the look and feel of their site, and want to own the content. Retail businesses, because WordPress has some really excellent ecommerce tools available, and you can’t run them on .com. You need to have your own setup with WordPress from .org to do ecommerce.

Nonprofits and churches for a similar reason — WordPress has some really excellent donation systems available, and they don’t work on .com. Anyone doing any kind of business online — WordPress.com has a usage agreement that you have to sign to say how you’re going to use your site, and there are times when a business doesn’t want to be involved with any kind of contract, even if it’s a great contract. Often, businesses don’t want to be involved with another contract, and so they simply choose to set up their own site with WordPress that they downloaded from .org.

And, lastly, anyone who needs a custom solution. If you just need something different, something that’s not a blog, then getting WordPress from .org is for you.

So, one last summary: WordPress.com is for people who are not technical, don’t want to be technical, they just want to publish stuff on the internet. And WordPress.org is for people who have more specific needs, or may want to build things on the internet, who may want to learn or do business and take donations.

Thanks for listening and I hope I helped you decide which to use: WordPress.com or WordPress.org.

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All clear on the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? Thoughts?

By WinningWP Editorial

Run by Brin Wilson, WinningWP is an award-winning resource for people who use – you guessed it – WordPress. Follow along on Twitter and/or Facebook.
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