Before we dive into which flavor of WordPress to choose, let me start with a brief overview of what WordPress is. WordPress, whether we are speaking of the .com or .org version, is an incredibly powerful, yet beautifully simple content management system (CMS) originally created for bloggers. Simply put, it’s a free tool to create and manage your blog or website.
The WordPress software has quickly become a popular choice not only for bloggers, but also for entrepreneurs, big corporations, and everything in between. As of this writing there are more than 74 million websites running WordPress, or 24% of the web.
WordPress has taken website creation and maintenance from requiring highly specialized skills, and simplified it to the point where even the most non-technically inclined can create, maintain, and update a website, almost as easily as writing an email.
Now that we know a little bit about WordPress, let’s get down to business and talk about what makes WordPress.com different from WordPress.org, and which one is best for you.
WordPress.com – Fully Hosted Service
WordPress.com takes care of all the hosting for you, free of charge. Hosting is the service of storing and serving your website to internet users.
Setting up your website or blog on WordPress.com is as easy as signing up for a new account by filling in your information and selecting a few options for your website. The WordPress.com service installs your website and keeps the WordPress software, plugins and themes up to date (we will talk about plugins and themes soon). All of your blog posts, pages, images, and comments are stored on the WordPress.com servers.
One caveat to be aware of is that the free service is supported by ads displayed on your site, but these can be disabled for $30 per year. Ad removal is also included if you pay a monthly fee for a personal, premium, or business plan.
A big plus for many people hosting with WordPress.com is that all the security updates, backups, and possible plugin conflicts that happen during an upgrade are handled by WordPress.com.
WordPress.org – Self-hosted service
The other way to use WordPress is to install it yourself with a hosting service provider of your choosing. This is called the WordPress.org, or self-hosted version of WordPress. You can find reliable hosting service in the range of $100 to $200 per year.
There are many, many hosting services, and it can be overwhelming to choose one. I recommend Siteground. They are well priced and their performance, reliability, and customer service are consistently ranked high in the top 5 hosting services. Siteground, and many other hosting providers, have an easy install option for WordPress so you don’t have to download, upload, and install the software yourself.
What really sets Siteground apart is that they offer managed WordPress hosting in the same price range as most standard web hosting services. With managed WordPress hosting you don’t have to worry about any of the background maintenance, such as daily backups, updates, active security, or resolving occasional issues like plugin conflicts and other bugs.
Freedom to Customize Your Blog/Website
When it comes to customizing the look and feel of your blog or website, the self-hosted, WordPress.org version is the hands down winner.
With self-hosted WordPress you have complete control over the blog theme, which dictates every aspect your blog’s visual appearance, and much of the site’s functionality. If the built in customization options that the WordPress software provides are not enough, you can edit the theme’s code until you achieve the appearance, layout, and functionality you desire. If editing code isn’t your cup of tea, you can purchase a premium theme that has the design and functionality you need, or hire a professional to design one especially for you.
The free WordPress.com plan, on the other hand, is limited to a selection of a few hundred free themes, versus the thousands of free themes available to self-hosted WordPress users (with full customization abilities). There is, however, a paid WordPress.com plan which enables you to choose from approved premium themes, but you will still not be able to use a custom built theme.
Power of Plugins
Plugins are one of the most powerful aspects of WordPress. Functionality that used to take hundreds or thousands of dollars of custom coding became available for free with the advent of WordPress. Not only that, but it can be installed with a couple clicks of your mouse – Install, Activate, BOOM! Functionality added, no programming or technical skills required.
A serious limitation of WordPress.com is that you can choose from only a select few plugins. Contrast this with a self-hosted WordPress site where you have a selection of over 50,000 plugins. And those are only the free ones.
My Recommendation: Self-hosted WordPress.org
With its, power, flexibility, and room for growth, my recommendation is to choose a self-hosted WordPress site. While some of the limitations of a WordPress.com site can be overcome with upgrading to a paid plan, it will never match the freedom of a self-hosted WordPress site and will cost you about the same in yearly fees.
If you still aren’t sure whether to choose WordPress.com or WordPress.org leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer your questions and concerns.
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