WordPress.com vs WordPress.org and How it Affects You

So you might be asking yourself, “Self, why is there a .com and a .org for WordPress? Does it really matter which one I choose?” The answer is yes, yes it does.

When I first started my blog, I went with WordPress.com because it was free.

At the same time I started my WordPress.com website, my workplace switched our bookstore website to wordpress.org. My coworker and I spent the entire summer—and well into the fall season—working on this new website. Since we were the only ones editing the site, we learned about HTML and CSS. Sarah learned more than I did, but I knew the basics for changing things to what I wanted. Early on we bought a Woocommerce friendly theme, and over this past summer we switched our hosting provider and he is now in charge of most of the backend information.

I tell you this because my personal blog did not end up this way. For my personal blog, I could choose from a large range of free themes, but I could only edit so much. Many gave me a few color choices, a few font choices, and the options of changing the header/background image. I could not install any plugins, and it was limited on what plugins were available to me anyway. Overall I could not manage and control what I wanted for my website. I was confused because the bookstore website had more capabilities than my blog. After looking around, I finally came to the conclusion that I was not using the same platform that the VBP bookstore was using.

Long story short, I almost immediately switched from wordpress.com to wordpress.org and am very glad I have done so. There are some extra costs, but in my opinion they are totally worth it. So that you don’t have to dig around the internet like I did, here is a list comparing and contrasting the two. (You can also look at WPBeginner’s infographic if you want a quick summary.)

    1. Plugins

      If you don’t know all the awesome things you can do with plugins, then you really don’t know what you’re missing out on! There are plugins to add special code to parts of your site, to add different widgets, adding a map, adding custom forms, etc. You name it, it is out there!

      • This one is quite possibly the biggest case against WordPress.com. If you go with the free wordpress.com, you do not have the ability to upload any types of plugins—free, paid, or even custom plugins by you. There are built-in plugins associated with wordpress.com, but they are the basic things like adding widgets to show recent posts or things similar to that. Or, if you want to sign up to their VIP program, you get access to plugins, themes, PHP code, and ads for a whopping $2500 a month for up to five websites.
      • WordPress.org, on the other hand, lets you have access to all of this for free. It’s yours to control! You can activate the many plugins available—including Woocommerce, Yoast SEO, and WPBackItUp, just to name a few that I use. Or you can create your own and let your program run wild!
    2. Theme Support

      • WordPress.com only lets you have access to the free themes in their database. On top of this, you also cannot touch any of the code. So, if you want to change the color of some icon, or the font to one that the theme does not deem available, you couldn’t. If you really want a certain theme, you can buy it for a one time fee or, on occasion, a yearly subscription. And if you want to edit some CSS, you can upgrade your account for $30 a year. On a side note, always take a look at the mobile version of your website as well. WordPress.com uses Jetpack’s mobile, and it is not editable. Your site doesn’t look anything like your site when viewing on a smartphone or even a tablet. I’m pretty sure you can turn this feature off as a wordpress.com user, though. This just means your site will now not be mobile friendly and Google won’t rank it like you want it to be ranked.
      • WordPress.org again lets you do all of this for free. You can always buy a theme, but with the option of editing the CSS and basically creating your own Child theme, you don’t even have to spend anything. If you want to be a good blogger, I highly suggest learning some HTML and CSS. You get more control over your own site and can make it as pretty and flexible as you want. Also, the mobile friendly version of your site can be edited in CSS, or some of the themes you can find will have really nice mobile versions already. I still tend to need to change the margins and padding of some images for mobile, though.
    3. Hosting

      • WordPress.com will host your website for free for up to 3GB of storage space. Meaning that they will keep track of updating all the backend files for you. Also, the sub domain name is free, you just have “.wordpress.com” attached at the end. To compensate for you not paying anything, they will place ads throughout your site to those who do not have wordpress.com accounts. And if you are like me, you hate ads with a passion. If you don’t want to be “example.wordpress.com” then you will have to pay $12–17 per year. If you want to get rid of those annoying ads, that will be an extra $29.97 a year. And if you are in need of extra space for your awesome blog, it will be $19.97 a year for 5GB, or $289.97 a year for 100GB.
      • WordPress.org is expecting you to find your own hosting provider. I use bluehost.com and started with a great deal. I paid $137.52 for three years and received all of this:
        • Starter Web Hosting
        • Domain Name Registration
        • Domain Privacy Protection
        • Registration Coupon

        My domain name was technically free the first year, and I ended up paying $27.87 to renew my domain name and the privacy protection. Two months ago I used a coupon and was able to upgrade from the Starter Web Hosting to the Plus Hosting. Right now they have a deal going on which can be seen at the earlier link provided. I don’t remember how much space I have, but Blue Host’s lowest price includes 50GB. I really like Blue Host, but there are plenty of other hosting services that can be used as well.

    4. Selling Ads

      • WordPress.com does not let you make money off of the ads featured on your site. All of it goes towards paying for your “free” WordPress.com sub domain website. You can apply to Ad Control if you reach over 2500 views a month, which is free. Once you are accepted, you split the money 50/50 with Automattic. I mean, I guess that’s okay because it’s more money than you had before. But who really wants to split the money with a company that will support WordPress.com and their hidden fees?
      • WordPress.org enables you to make ads if you want, and keep all of the revenue. There is no hidden fee with WordPress.org and I like it that way. I don’t personally use ads because I find them extremely annoying, and I would hate for others to visit and never come back because of the advertising. That’s just me, though, because obviously popup ads work for some people!

In Conclusion

When starting your own blog, ecommerce site, or portfolio, you need to decide on wordpress.com or wordpress.org. My choice I’m assuming is obvious, but I’m not dismissing having a wordpress.com account. I have one and it helps when wanting to see your site’s stats via the plugin Jetpack. This way, if you have multiple sites you can easily check the status of all of them. It also lets you follow other wordpress.com users and their blogs, then will give you a feed of who posted recently. Unfortunately, this only shows wordpress.com blogs, but that makes sense.

The main positive thing about WordPress.com is that the basic version is free. If you do not want to work with the backend files,go ahead and get wordpress.com. If you don’t mind popup ads or not having the ability to change certain things about your theme, this is the route for you. I, on the other hand, love to have full control over my work. I didn’t start my blog knowing web design at all, but I researched and now am even taking a class at school. This gives me the flexibility to change whatever I want whenever I want.

If you want to read up on HTML and CSS, I highly recommend the book HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites by Jon Duckett. This is the book we use for my class, and I absolutely love it! Unlike most books, all of the pages are colorful and everything is very spread out, so you can focus on one thing at a time. There are examples throughout the book and it is just a handy thing to have. My teacher compared it to a dictionary, which I guess kind of fits. I bought the soft cover because it was cheaper, and it really is soft. (I love the feel of soft covers.)

Let me know what you guys think by commenting below. Do you love or hate wordpress.com or wordpress.org? Do you like using a different platform?