On Reddit or other blogger forums, one of the most commonly asked questions by people who wants to start a WordPress blog is why are there two separate websites for WordPress, namely WordPress.com and WordPress.org? And what are their differences?
I probably asked the same question too when I started out many years ago.
Before we dive into the whole .org vs .com confusion, let’s begin with what WordPress really is.
What is WordPress (no .com or .org)?
WordPress (without .com or .org) is the world’s most popular content management system (CMS) — which is a fancy word for software that manages your blog posts and images on a server. It is also a free software. The company that founded this software was Automattic — a fully distributed company I mentioned in my previous article on how to start working from home.
WordPress controls a lion share of 60% of the CMS market. The next most popular software Joomla is accountable for only 6% of the market. The 60% CMS market share also means that WordPress is powering 30% of all websites. Can you imagine that? 1/3 websites that you browse is powered by WordPress!
What is WordPress.ORG?
WordPress.org is the official website for the WordPress software. You will find the latest version of the software available for download, and myriad other free resources such as support documents, plugins, and community forum.
What you won’t find here is web hosting — paid or free. WordPress.org is a software provider period.
You will need to find your own web host. This is what people mean by self-hosted WordPress. More explanation for this term below.
Some of the most common web hosts for beginners are Bluehost, Siteground, and InmotionHosting. Bluehost is getting a lot of bad reputation nowadays, maybe rightfully so, but I actually started with Bluehost many years back and it was actually an alright host for me. Note that I only stayed with them for like two years before moving to a more advanced (and more cost effective) VPS server.
What is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com is a web hosting company. It is run by the same organization (Automattic) that maintains the WordPress software.
There are two kinds of WordPress hosting services provided by WordPress.com, paid hosting and free hosting. Its free-tier hosting is probably the easiest and fastest way to start a blog. For the free-tier, you will be provided with a free sub domain that your reader can use to access your blog, e.g., mrhomebased.wordpress.com.
If you want to get a custom domain name, such as mrhomebased.com, you will need to top up $4 more per month.
WordPress.com hosting plans come with a great many restrictions. For example, you won’t be able to install plugins unless you get the $25 per month business plan. If you’re planning to monetize your blog with ads and affiliate offerings eventually, you will be better off going for other web hosting companies.
When you hear the term self-hosted WordPress, it refers to hosting your WordPress blog on a web host other than WordPress.com.
WordPress COM vs. ORG Summary
In short, WordPress is a piece of software;
WordPress.org is the software provider;
and WordPress.com provides web hosting.