Lately I’ve been getting this question a lot: What’s the difference between a site built using WordPress.com and a site built using WordPress.org? My hope is that this blog post will answer that question thoroughly, and explain in detail the pros and cons of using each WordPress platform (.com or .org) to build a website.
First I’ll talk about WordPress.com. This is a site through which you can, at no cost to you, create a website in a blog style. Your provided free domain will be yourname.wordpress.com. You also have the option to pay extra for a custom domain (www.yourname.com). For your site, you can choose from over a hundred visual themes (a visual theme decides the layout, color theme, and fonts for your site). You will also have the opportunity to upload your own header image, and enter your own text and images on your site’s pages. This is the extent of your available options with WordPress.com. Beyond your blog and the text and images on your pages, your site will not have any additional functionality. Below are themes available at WordPress.com.
WordPress.org, while free to use and implement, does not provide hosting like WordPress.com. To use WordPress.org, you need to install it on a server. Most hosting providers have an option to automatically install WordPress.org. This makes it very easy to set up and start using. Hosting fees start at around $5 per month for a basic package (I recommend In-Motion hosting). For more information on installing WordPress.org please click here.
Similar to WordPress.com, you can choose from lots of free visual themes – except with WordPress.org instead of having a hundred themes to choose from, you have literally thousands. And not only that, once you choose your theme, you can edit your site files however you wish. With both platforms, you can edit your site’s colors and fonts using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets, click here for an introduction).
But the main thing that differentiates WordPress.com from WordPress.org is the plug-ins. A plug-in is an extra bit of software that you can easily add to your website via your admin dashboard to give your website additional functionality. This functionality could come in the form of a music player, gallery slideshow, mailing list form, social media integration, or virtually anything else you could imagine for your site. WordPress is open source, meaning that anyone (even you or me) can write a software plug-in for users and make it available to the public (not just the paid developers, as is true with a company like Apple). Because of this open source nature, there are literally thousands of free plug-ins available to you to download and add to your WordPress.org site. In addition to these free plug-ins, there are also plug-ins available for purchase online ranging from $20-$80 in price range. If you are curious as to the type of plug-ins that are available to WordPress.org users, click here to browse or to do a search. Below are some plugins available on WordPress.org.
I would recommend using WordPress.com if you’re looking to build a simple site without any advanced functionality and you don’t mind not having much control over how it looks. This site is for you if you will be happy with a plain blog and pages consisting of only text and photographs. To put it simply, WordPress.com sites don’t have a lot of “bling bling.”
WordPress.org is so much more than a blog maker. It’s a full-blown web publishing platform and content management system. With unlimited themes and plug-ins that you can alter yourself or with the help of a web person, its possibilities are virtually limitless. WordPress.org is used by many professional web designers and developers (myself included) to build custom designed sites that harness the power of WordPress. Many big-name companies use WordPress.org, such as eBay, Sony, and the Wall Street Journal. But don’t let that intimidate you – by all means you don’t have to be a genius to build a site using WordPress.org, but it certainly would help to be somewhat computer-savvy. If you’re not well versed in the ways of the web, I would suggest getting a computer person to help you with set up and to show you the ropes. After that you should have no problem building and altering the site on your own.
I hope this has clarified the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. I myself am a big fan of WordPress – I think it’s a fantastic piece of software and I love the sense of community that comes with any piece of open source software. Whenever I am trying to implement a plug-in and have a question, more times than not there is a support forum online where my question has been asked and answered before. Whatever my clients might ask for, and whatever I am envisioning for their sites, I’m able to make it a reality with the help of WordPress.
Some very advanced sites use WordPress.org, such as rollingstones.com.