WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: The Ultimate Comparison With Pros & Cons

WordPress

WordPress is web’s favorite blogging platform. It’s a software that lets you create, manage and publish your content seamlessly. That’s why over 20% of web or almost 50% of all blogs are powered by WordPress.

So, What exactly is WordPress?

WordPress is a state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. What a mouthful. WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.

WordPress was started as a blogging system, but it has evolved a lot to become a full content management system (CMS). It’s limited only by your imagination (and tech chops) as there are thousands of themes, plugins, and widgets available to transform your WordPress site into almost anything that you can imagine.

Don’t Miss: The 101 Best WordPress Plugins — For Anything & Everything

Difference Between WordPress.com & WordPress.org

It’s very simple but can be really confusing for beginners. WordPress has two flavors, namely: WordPress.com (the free hosted version — like example.wordpress.com) and WordPress.org (self-hosted version — like my blog).

WordPress.org is an open-source blogging software. So, anyone can download the WordPress software from WordPress.org and install on their website for FREE. And then you own it and you manage it.

WordPress.com is the hosted version of WordPress.org itself and is owned by Automattic (the company who created WordPress). Since it’s managed by Automattic, you don’t have to worry about upgrades, installation, security or maintenance.

When you sign up for a free WordPress.com account your blog address will look like: your-username.wordpress.com and if you choose the self-hosted version of WordPress (that is, WordPress.org) then you can start your blog with a branded address like your-name.com.

Read: Blogger vs. WordPress: The Ultimate Comparison With Pros & Cons

WordPress.com: Pros and Cons

WordPress.com Dashboard

WordPress.com Dashboard

WordPress.com is great for beginners who want to start their own personal blog. Because there is no need to download any software or plugin or themes and absolutely no coding skills are required.

It’s simple to use however it may take some time to get to know its interface if you are new to blogging. And it’s also perfect for hobby bloggers who want to build a personal brand or professionals who want to showcase their portfolio online.

The best thing about WordPress.com is that you can upgrade anytime to enjoy their premium features. For instance, you can purchase premium themes for one-time fees or can map your existing domain name to your free WordPress blog for $13/year.

And the best thing is… when you want to take your blog to the next level or want to enjoy WordPress to its fullest then you can upgrade to a business plan or can migrate to the self-hosted WordPress platform (by purchasing a web hosting plan).

When you migrate to a self-hosted blog you will not feel uncomfortable since both platforms share the same interface and options. But that’s not the case when you migrate from Blogger.com.

Pros

  • You guessed it right. It’s FREE — forever!
  • You don’t have to care about upgrades or security or spam control as it’s already taken care.
  • You don’t have to worry about backups either.
  • You will love WordPress once you become familiar with its interface and features.
  • You don’t have to submit your content to Google as your blog posts are search engine friendly and are automatically indexed by Google.
  • You have the option to purchase a premium theme without upgrading to a premium plan.
  • You can upgrade the features of your blog as there are a lot of paid upgrades available.
  • You can automatically share your latest blog posts to social media channels.
  • You can map your existing domain name by purchasing their Domain Mapping Upgrade (it costs $18/year and only $13 if you already own the domain name).
  • You can join their ad network WordAds to monetize your blog and make money. But you will need a custom domain name to be eligible.

Cons

  • Your blog may display ads to non-logged in visitors. Or you have to buy the “No Ads Upgrade” for $30/year to remove ads.
  • You can’t customize the blog post link structure.
  • You can’t customize the theme.
  • You can’t modify the theme files or system files.
  • You don’t technically own your blog. If they believe that you are violating their terms of service then they may suspend your account forever.
  • You don’t get FTP access.
  • You can’t upload a custom theme or plugin.
  • You can’t install any of those 3rd party WordPress plugins. If it’s anything that makes WordPress special then they are plugins. It’s plugins that can transform your blog into anything that you could imagine.
  • You can’t add custom codes or scripts.
  • You can’t add 3rd party web analytics services like Google Analytics (because you can’t add custom codes).
  • You have to give footer credits — apart from ads. So, they will add “Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com” plus a credit to the theme designer at the footer of all pages.
  • You have to pay a Domain Mapping fee even if you own the domain name. It’s free in Blogger.com.
  • You will end up paying a lot of money as their paid plans and upgrades are pretty expensive. For instance, it costs $99/year for the WordPress.com Premium package (with limited resources) when it costs only around $60 if you start a self-hosted WordPress blog.
  • You will find that the add-ons are also expensive. For example, if I start a on WordPress.com with a custom domain and want to make it ad-free with custom colors then it will cost $18 + (Domain Mapping) + $30 (Custom Design) + $30 (No Ads) = $78. Remember it’s the price of few add-ons and you still can’t enjoy Premium Themes or Plugins.
  • Your final cost of owning a free WordPress.com blog will be much higher than a self-hosted blog if you buy a few add-ons.
  • You get only limited disk space — 3 GB. If it’s a photography blog then you will soon exceed the available disk space and will be forced to upgrade.
  • You can’t monetize the blog with your own ads.

WordPress.org: Pros and Cons

WordPress.org Dashboard

WordPress.org Dashboard

WordPress is a state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability.

WordPress.org is an open-source software and is the big daddy of the blogosphere. It’s very flexible, so you can customize it the way you want. That’s why majority of the top 100 blogs are powered by WordPress — including mine (Ahem! :D).

If you have a domain name and a web hosting plan then you can install WordPress from the control panel of your web hosting account in less than 5 minutes (yes, almost all web hosting companies offer one-click WordPress installation).

Or, you can download WordPress from WordPress.org and install on your server manually (very few people do it that way).

The best thing about WordPress.org is that it’s the awesomest platform to showcase your talent and build your personal brand.

Although you don’t have to be a computer whiz to start and manage a WordPress blog, it does require some technical skills (or at least assistance). Because it involves few things like: domain names, web hosting, FTP, backup, updation, security, spam control, maintenance, etc. But it’s not a big deal if you are willing to learn because there’s a tutorial for anything that’s related to WordPress.

Read: The 30 Best Of The Best WordPress Theme Marketplaces

Pros

  • You get instant credibility.
  • You own your blog and it’s you who is responsible for its content.
  • You can customize the blog post link structure.
  • You can monetize your blog the way you want. Unlike WordPress.com blogs, there are no forced advertising.
  • You can control each and every aspect of your blog.
  • You get FTP access to your server.
  • You can customize your theme and modify any theme files or PHP system files. Thanks to FTP access.
  • You have access to a gazillion Free and Premium WordPress Themes.
  • You can upload any custom themes or plugins.
  • You can install any of those 3rd party WordPress plugins to transform your blog into almost anything you can imagine.
  • You don’t have to pay any licensing fees as WordPress is an open-source software (like Linux).
  • You can add any custom scripts or codes to your blog if they are compatible with WordPress.
  • You can add any of those 3rd party web analytics services like Google Analytics.
  • You get a huge SEO advantage when compared to free hosted blogs like WordPress.com or BlogSpot.com. Because it’s you  who is in control of the technical aspects of your blog.
  • You blog is not limited to publishing alone. You can transform your blog into an E-commerce website or a membership website.
  • You can easily create your own professional email ids — you@example.com — as you own a server.
  • You can get support from the web as there are hundreds of tutorials and support forums available.
  • You can additionally get professional support for your blog as there are thousands of WordPress developers around the globe.
  • You can also get support from your web hosting company. They won’t help you to manage your blog but they offer technical support related to security, backup, performance, etc.
  • You can install WordPress on your server in less than 5-minutes. Thanks to all web hosting companies as they made it super-easy.

Read: The 101 Best WordPress Plugins — For Anything & Everything

Cons

  • You have to buy a domain name and web hosting plan. Yes, it comes at a cost. The WordPress software is free but you will need a domain name and a web hosting plan. It will cost at least $60/year to buy a reliable web hosting service and an additional $10-15/year for a domain name.
  • You will see yourself learning a lot of geeky stuff. It can bother you if you are not interested in those things.
  • You can setup your WordPress blog in less than 10-minutes but managing the blog is not that easy as it requires some basic knowledge about some technical components like PHP, HTML, CSS, SQL, FTP, etc
  • You may find it difficult to cope with if you are totally new to blogging. But you can always get support from the official WordPress.org Support Forum (they’re really nice).
  • You are responsible for the security and maintenance of your blog. So, you have to make sure that the WordPress software, theme, and all your plugins are up-to-date as otherwise it may be vulnerable to attacks. Anyways, it’s not so hard and can be done in few clicks.
  • You will need more server resources as your blog grows and it means your cost will also increase. If you are on WordPress.com or Blogger.com then you don’t have to worry about scalability as you get unlimited bandwidth.
  • You have to fight spam by yourself as comment spam is a big problem for WordPress.org users. So, you have to make sure that the blog is configured with the right plugins to fight spam.
  • You have to take regular backups. It’s one of the most important task but luckily there are a lot of plugins that does that job. Additionally, you can also consider backup services offered by your web hosting company.

Read: Top 25 Web Hosting Companies — The Ultimate Web Hosting Comparison Chart

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: The Ultimate Comparison

Features
WordPress.com
WordPress.org
Owned by:
Automattic, Inc.
WordPress Foundation (Open-source)
How much does it cost?
Free
$50+
WordPress software is free but it will cost at least $50/year for a domain name and a reliable web hosting plan.
You get a blog address like:
example.wordpress.com
You can purchase the Domain Mapping Upgrade for $18/year to get a custom domain name or pay $13/year if you already own a domain name.
www.example.com
 Who owns your blog? Automattic, Inc. You.
You get a storage space of:
3 GB
It’s the total storage limit (for content, photos, or whatever you publish).
Limited only by your web hosting plan.
Most web hosting companies offer an unlimited web hosting plan at a reasonable price.
What about the storage for images?
You can upload photos until you hit the total storage limit of 3 GB.
Limited only by your web hosting plan.
How many photos can you upload?
You can upload as many photos as you want until you hit the available total storage limit of 3 GB.
Limited only by your web hosting plan.
Can you upload word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets, presentations?
Yes, but you need a premium plan to upload audios, videos, and zip files.
Yes, you can upload anything that you want — including documents, audios, videos, zip files, etc.
What is the file size limit?
There is a limit of 2.50 MB for images uploaded via mobile.
Limited only by your web hosting plan.
Is there a limit on page size?
No
No
Is there a limit on data transfer or bandwidth?
No
Limited only by your web hosting plan.
Do they show ads?
Yes (It costs $30/year for an-free account).
No
Can you display your own ads?
No (But you can monetize the blog with WordAds if you are eligible).
Yes
Can you invite team members?
Can you upgrade your blog?
Yes, you can visit the  Store (available in your WordPress Dashboard to add premium features).
Not Applicable
You are already enjoying WordPress to its max so there’s no upgrade possible/necessary.
Can you connect your blog to your social media channels to automatically share your content?
Yes
Yes
Can you publish a new blog post by email?
Yes
Yes
Can you customize the theme?
No
Yes
Can you modify a file?
No
Yes
You can change any theme file or system files.
How many themes are available?
You can install any of the available 300+ (includes free & premium) themes.
Virtually Unlimited
You can install any of the available 3,000+ themes on the WordPress Themes Directory or can download one from the web and install manually or can even purchase one from a premium theme marketplaces.
Can you install 3rd party themes?
No
Yes
Can you install 3rd party plugins?
No
Yes
Can you add scripts or custom codes?
No
Yes
Do you get FTP access?
No
Yes
FTP access is required when you want to upload a  plugin or a theme or a file manually to your server.
Can you integrate Google Analytics?
No (but every WordPress.com comes with WordPress Stats)
Yes
Can you import content from other blogging platforms?
Yes, you can import content from Blogger.com, LiveJournal, Posterous, Tumblr, Xanga, etc. and also from other WordPress blogs.
Yes
Can you edit comments?
Yes
Yes
Can you password protect posts?
Yes
Yes
Is your blog search engine friendly?
Yes
Yes
Can you access the blog via mobile?
Yes
Yes
How can you organize your content?
You can organize your content by using Categories and Tags.
You can organize your content by using Categories and Tags.
Is there any maintenance required for my blog?
No, it’s all taken care.
Yes, there are some maintenance activities like software upgrades, database management, backups, spam control, etc.
Is it a good platform to build a personal brand?
Yes, but few upgrades are recommended.
Yes
Is it a good platform to start a business blog?
No
Yes, it’s the perfect choice.

Closing Thoughts

Should you switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org? Of course, you should! If you’re serious about blogging then you should start a self-hosted WordPress.org blog. That said, if you are totally new to blogging and do not want to spend money at first then it makes sense to start one on Blogger.com or WordPress.com.

But remember, when you start a blog on any of those free blogging platforms you don’t own your blog. Also, I do not recommend the premium plans offered by WordPress as it offers only limited features (and is more less expensive) when compared to a self-hosted blog hosted by a reliable web hosting company.

So, which is your favorite blogging platform and why?

Happy Blogging! :)

  • iren

    Really helpful. Thank you!

    • http://www.minterest.com Mahesh Mohan

      Thank you, Iren! :)

  • Vincent Hathaway

    I just got into WordPress last week and was tempted to go the WordPress.com route. Thankfully a good buddy of mine who’s been helping me out told me to go the wordpress.org route. It’s been a lot of work and has a steep learning curve, but I’m excited that I have access to tons of amazing plugins that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It seems to make it all worth it for me.

    • http://www.minterest.com Mahesh Mohan

      Hi Vincent,

      Exactly! Once you figure out what’s what in WordPress it’s fantastic.