WordPress is one of the strongest brands in the world of web development. They boast that one in five of the billions of websites that exist run on WordPress. Theri brand is so strong, that for many people it’s not a question whether they should use WordPress. Instead, they ask themselves: What is the difference between WordPress.org / WordPress and WordPress.com? The difference is bigger than you might suspect, so it’s important to make the right choice from the start. And we are here to help you make the right decision.
What they have in common
First, let’s take a look at what both have in common. WordPress.com is based on WordPress, so if you use both you will soon discover the similarities. The editor experience is the same for both. They both have pages, posts, categories, menus and widgets which work identical in both versions. At it’s core, WordPress.com is WordPress and it aims to offer the same experience as its stand-alone sibling. If you can do something in WordPress, you’ll be able to achieve the same in WordPress.com… most of the time. And that’s important to remember.
WordPress is a CMS or blogging software. It has to be installed on what is called a “web server”. You can do this by buying a hosting package from someone and installing it. Many web hosting companies will also offer you an easy way to install WordPress with a few clicks.
The great thing about WordPress when compared to WordPress.com is that you have absolute freedom. WordPress is a very flexible platform. You could turn it into a webshop, an online university of sorts, an online magazine or just your personal blog.
You can install any plug-in that you want to add the functionality that you need. These plug-ins can be downloaded from both WordPress.org and from developers that create and sell these plug-ins through their websites. In the same way, you can install themes that you can download for free or purchase from a developer to style your website as you see fit.
I really can’t emphasis the freedom that WordPress gives you enough. This is also the key selling point. You can use WordPress and turn it into whatever you want. That might sound daunting, but using WordPress is fairly simple and finding paid help is ridiculously easy.
When would you choose WordPress? I would argue that choosing WordPress is almost always preferred over choosing WordPress.com. The fact that you need to buy hosting and perhaps get some help to get it up and running far outweigh the advantages of WordPress.com
WordPress.com isn’t software, it’s an online subscription service. For a fixed amount per month, you get access to a website and the features that are included in that plan. The advantage of this model is that you don’t have to arrange hosting or install the software yourself. Your updates are also taken care off.
However, that is pretty much where the advantages of WordPress.com end. If you start using the website, you’ll notice that some of the features that you might really want are hidden behind (another) paid plan. As you are using WordPress.com for a while, you’ll also notice that some features you used to have access to are suddenly “missing”. Only for them to appear in a far more expensive plan.
The service positions itself as the perfect alternative for WordPress and has two plans that seem to target businesses. However, what you get is a limited version of the real WordPress experience. And the bad news is that it’s not as easy to “get out” as you think. If you want to call it quits you can export your posts and categories, but that’s where it stops. You don’t own the theme you were using and you might notice that some of the functionality isn’t transferable to a regular WordPress website.
I have been using WordPress.com myself, but if you are choosing between WordPress and WordPress.com I would almost always suggest to choose WordPress since it offers you the freedom to built a website that you truly own instead of one that you are renting. If you are willing to trade in a part of your freedom for the ease of use of a managed service then I can’t stop you, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!
What to choose?
WordPress might require you to install the software on a web server, but that is a small price to pay for the absolute freedom that the platform offers over WordPress.com I would recommend to choose WordPress over WordPress.com in most if not all of the cages, because the advantages of WordPress.com don’t outweigh the disadvantages – including the fact that it’s harder to use than “regular” WordPress because they keep adding and removing features and shuffle them around in that chaotic dashboard of theirs.