When people hear about WordPress, they don’t usually realize that it comes in two different packages. It’s easy to become confused by information that applies to one WordPress but not the other. If they’re not careful, they might get a website with WordPress.com when they really needed one on WordPress.org, or vice versa.
Don’t worry, the difference is pretty simple once you know it.
WordPress.com Is Like Renting an Apartment
Renting an apartment is faster, simpler, and cheaper than purchasing a house. The apartment doesn’t belong to you, but that means you don’t have to worry about all the maintenance and repair. The owner takes care the technical stuff for you; you only need to move in your things and arrange them how you want. The downside is that you can’t remodel. While you have many appearance and feature options to choose from, if what you need is not on the list, you’re out of luck.
WordPress.com is a service run by a for-profit company called Automattic. Technically WordPress.com websites aren’t for rent – they’re free. However, WordPress.com has many features that come at extra cost. In particular, I recommend buying your own domain and paying the extra money to assign that domain to your WordPress.com website. As I will describe in a moment, it could save you grief later.
WordPress.com works best for tiny businesses that are just getting started and need a website in a hurry. The service is also good for personal use.
WordPress.org Is Like Owning a House
Purchasing a house takes more time and investment. You need decide where you want your home to be (your web host), and evaluate all the things you want your home to have. If you’re tech savvy, you might be able to get what you need on your own, but you’d probably be much better off if you hire some home inspectors, carpenters, or other specialists. After all, your house needs to be built, decorated, and maintained long term. But once you’ve completed all that investment, your house can be whatever you need it to be. If your family gets bigger in a few years, you can add some more rooms or install a dishwasher. Unfortunately, that also means if a pipe bursts, you’ve got to foot the bill.
WordPress.org is an open source web project supported by the non-profit WordPress Foundation (which was in turn founded by the CEO of Automattic). The WordPress open source software is free for everyone to use, modify, or even redistribute. However, doing this takes expertise that most people don’t have.
WordPress.org is better for established businesses that need to control their appearance or save themselves time and energy through online features.
Setting Up for Growth
Many people choose a service like WordPress.com because their needs are simple and the investment required for WordPress.org is too high. In that case, WordPress.com is a fine choice. However, it’s important to ensure that if your site becomes popular or your needs become more complex, you can graduate to WordPress.org with minimal hassle. By default, WordPress.com will give your site a domain such as: username.wordpress.com. They own that address, not you, and any search rankings you earn over the years will be linked to that domain. However, if you pay a little extra to use your own domain such as username.com, then when it’s time to move, your address can come with you. Website visitors and search engines will end up at your new house.
Planning for growth is also why I recommend WordPress.com over competitors like Wix, Squarespace, and Blogger. You can move to WordPress.org from other services, but you won’t have the option to keep the design of your site if you like it. WordPress.com is a great service, and by using it with your own domain, you can take advantage of it’s ease of use while still preparing for your site’s bright future.