When two things look alike, we assume they are alike. That just makes sense. But, much to our confusion, that’s not always the case. The viceroy and monarch butterflies have negligible differences unless you’re a butterfly-eating bird (in which case, how did you get here?). The monarch is poisonous because of the milkweed caterpillars it eats. The viceroy doesn’t share the monarch’s diet but it does mimic its orange and black stained-glass wings, causing predators to avoid it.
But we’re not here to tell you which butterflies are edible (sorry birds!). We’re here to talk about two seemingly similar tools for building websites.
What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
They may share a name, but both WordPress services have their strengths and are built to suit a different set of needs. The one that works for someone else might not be the best choice for you.
WordPress: What Is It?
At publishing, there are at least 6.2 billion indexed pages on the internet. In 2015, scientists determined it would take an average of 30 sheets of paper to print each individual page, meaning it would take 186 billion sheets to print out the entire thing. That’s almost 22 million trees!
Now that you have an idea of how massive the internet is, get this: 35 percent of it uses WordPress. Why? Because WordPress is a powerful and intuitive creation tool, built to be easy-to-use for both beginners and professionals. It can create everything from a blog to an online store and even an app. The WordPress software is open source and free to use, meaning an online presence is available to anyone willing to put in the time to build one.
So What Is WordPress.com?
Coding is a great skill to learn, but not everyone has the time or patience. WordPress.com takes care of all that complicated coding business for you. Just sign up for an account to get started and have a website running in five minutes. WordPress.com is a hosted service, meaning you don’t need to pay for a separate platform to host your website.
A WordPress.com site comes with limitations. Under a free plan, you’ll use the WordPress software to create a site with basic functionality. You have access to some free themes for your site, but you’ll need to pay for others. Your free site will be a subdomain of WordPress.com, like this:
Of course, paid plans grant you access to more features. These range anywhere from $4 to $45 per month. These plans allow you to eliminate “.wordpress” from your URL and give you access to storage and certain plugins. These plans are still limited, however. WordPress.com does not allow you to upload your own plugins or access any backend code, files, or databases. You also share any ad revenue you make on your site with WordPress.
So, who is WordPress.com for? If you’re looking to run a basic blog or build a portfolio site, WordPress.com might be what you’re looking for.
What About WordPress.org?
First, let’s be upfront about something. At Punch Bug Marketing, we work with and recommend WordPress.org. The reason is simple: Freedom.
WordPress is open-source software, meaning it’s free to download and use. It’s also a powerful and easy-to-use tool with fewer limits, giving you full creative control over your website. In fact, you own your site and all its data. By going this route, you won’t be able to host your site on WordPress.com, but there is a wide variety of hosting services available to fit a variety of needs.
You can also use your own plugins and customize any code, giving your site functionality you won’t find on WordPress.com. You can still use free or paid-for themes in your site and you’ll be able to use your own domain name for your URL, like this:
Who benefits from using WordPress.org? Anyone who needs a more robust web presence. You can track analytics, run ads without sharing revenue with WordPress, manage an online store, and create membership sites.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: The Takeaway
WordPress is flexible, accessible, and loaded with features. Whether you choose WordPress.com for its hosting and quick setup or WordPress.org for its creative freedom and control, the WordPress software is a great way to launch your web presence.
We have more to share about WordPress to help you build a successful website. Learn how to use WordPress tags and categories or find out the benefits of a custom website versus a pre-built WordPress theme here.