WordPress.com Vs. WordPress.org – What’s the Difference?

If you want to build a WordPress website, you have a choice to make: will you use WordPress.com or WordPress.org? While both these platforms can help you create a website, they’re very different.

To get right to the point, WordPress.com is a paid website builder that includes hosting, while WordPress.org offers free access to WordPress software but requires you to find your own WordPress hosting solution. But there’s more to learn beyond just this.

If you choose the wrong platform, you could end up overpaying for your website or face significant delays in getting online. To make sure you get the WordPress solution you need, we’ll explain the differences between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org.

Short on Time? Here Are the Key Takeaways

  • WordPress.com is a platform that provides managed WordPress hosting and a WordPress website builder. It offers both free and paid plans.
  • WordPress.org offers WordPress software for free, but you’ll need to get your own hosting, domain name, and theme to launch a website.
  • WordPress.com is more beginner-friendly than WordPress.org. Both platforms are fairly customizable, but WordPress.org offers more plugins and development options.
  • WordPress.com comes with key tools for SEO, analytics, and security. You’ll need to install plugins to get similar features for a WordPress.org site.

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org – What are the Key Differences?

Cost

WordPress.com – WordPress.com is a paid platform that includes a website builder and managed WordPress hosting. It offers five plans, which encompass its version of personal plans and business plans:

  • Free: Enables you to build a website with unlimited pages and 1GB of storage space. You can’t use a custom domain name (your web address will be “yoursite.wordpress.com”). Sell online with a 10% transaction fee.
  • Starter (from $4 per month): Offers 6GB of storage, the ability to add custom domains, and dozens of premium themes. Sell online with an 8% transaction fee.
  • Explorer (from $8 per month): Everything in Starter, plus more premium themes, a Google Analytics integration, and 13GB of storage. Advertise on your site to earn revenue and sell online with a 4% transaction fee.
  • Creator (from $25 per month): Everything in Explorer, plus unlimited bandwidth, 50GB to 200GB of storage, the ability to install plugins, additional security features, and a staging site for development. Sell online with a 2% transaction fee.
  • Entrepreneur (from $45 per month): Everything in Creator, plus access to online store themes, additional ecommerce tools, and shipping integrations. Sell online with no fee.

All WordPress.com paid plans include a free domain name for one year.

WordPress.org – WordPress.org, on the other hand, is completely free. It lets you download WordPress software at no cost.

However, to launch a website with WordPress.org, you’ll need your own hosting provider and a custom domain name. The best hosting services typically charge between $5 and $20 per month, and a domain costs around $20 per year.

WordPress.org comes with several free themes, but you’ll need to pay for a premium WordPress theme if you want to make your site stand out. Premium themes typically cost $50 to $200 each.

To match the security and online selling features that WordPress.com offers, you’ll likely need to purchase third-party plugins. These vary widely in cost and many require a subscription. As an example, WP Time Capsule, which offers site backups similar to those you get with a WordPress.com Creator plan, costs $49 per year.

However, some enterprise WordPress hosting providers include features like backups and security updates with your hosting plan.

The pricing structure that’s best for you depends on your goals. For most websites, WordPress.com has lower upfront costs, but higher long-term costs because of its subscription pricing. WordPress.org requires more investment upfront, with a theme and third-party plugins, but it can be cheaper in the long run.

Installation

With WordPress.com, there’s no need to install WordPress. Once you sign up for a plan, you get immediate access to a WordPress website builder. You can choose a theme and then customize your site using the drag-and-drop editor.

With WordPress.org, installation depends on what hosting solution you choose. If you use managed WordPress hosting, WordPress will be installed for you and you can start adding content right away.

If you use shared hosting, though, you’ll need to download WordPress and install it on your site. Many web hosts have a one-click installer for WordPress, so this process is fairly easy.

That said, one of the key differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org comes after the initial installation. WordPress.com automatically updates your WordPress installation and plugins, ensuring that you always have the latest upgrades and security patches.

This is extremely important since WordPress is constantly changing to keep up with new trends and cybersecurity threats.

With a managed WordPress hosting plan, your hosting provider will take care of updating WordPress for you, but you’re responsible for ensuring your plugins are up to date. If you have a self-hosted WordPress installation, it’s up to you to keep it updated. This can be a challenging process since updating WordPress can break your theme or plugins.

Experience Required

Another major difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org lies in how much experience you need to use each platform.

WordPress.com is designed to be easy to use. You can sign up, choose a template, and start creating a website with a drag-and-drop builder. You don’t have to worry about hosting or software updates, and if you want to add more advanced features you can upgrade your plan or install plugins. WordPress.com isn’t quite as seamless as other top website builders for small businesses, but for the most part, it feels like a website builder.

WordPress.org, however, has a steep learning curve. Before you can get WordPress up and running, you need to choose a hosting provider and install WordPress, purchase a domain name for your site, and install a theme. WordPress’s site editor is not very user-friendly, so you’ll also likely need a WordPress page builder before you can begin customizing your site.

If you want to access advanced features, you can install plugins just like you would for a WordPress.com site. The catch is that it’s up to you to ensure your plugins are compatible with your theme and that updates to WordPress, your theme, and your plugins don’t break anything on your site. If you’re not a developer, it can be very difficult to fix problems when they arise.

Functionality

WordPress.com and WordPress.org are relatively similar in terms of their overall functionality. Both platforms rely on third-party plugins to give you more tools and features for selling online, blogging, interacting with visitors, and more.

One important difference is that WordPress.com limits you to approved plugins. This isn’t much of a limit since the platform’s library includes more than 50,000 plugins. Still, with WordPress.org, you can add any plugin you want to your site, as well as develop fully custom plugins.

You can also expand your site’s functionality using custom code. WordPress.com requires you to have a Creator or Entrepreneur plan to add custom code, while you can always add custom code to a WordPress.org site.

Themes

WordPress.com has more than 150 themes, but which themes you have access to depends on your plan tier. There are themes for a wide variety of sites, including personal websites, portfolio websites, newsletters, blog sites, online stores, and more. You can sort the theme library based on your subscription level and what type of website you want to design.

WordPress.org has a library of more than 12,000 free themes that you can install on your website. You can filter these themes by layout and features, but not based on the type of website you want to build.

With WordPress.org, you can also purchase a third-party theme and install it on your website. This isn’t possible with WordPress.com, which requires that you use one of the platform’s ready-made themes. So, WordPress.org can offer more flexibility.

In addition, WordPress.org enables you to develop fully custom themes from scratch or modify your theme’s code. This requires coding knowledge, but it creates more customization options for your website’s user experience.

SEO

WordPress.com has a number of built-in SEO features to make your website more visible in search results. It auto-generates an XML sitemap (for indexing) and verifies your site with search engines to ensure it appears in results. WordPress.com also includes a content delivery network (CDN) so your site loads faster, which is good for SEO. All themes are mobile-friendly by default, which is another factor Google and other search engines consider for SEO.

The open-source software that WordPress.org provides includes almost no built-in SEO features. You can add meta titles and descriptions to your pages, but that’s about it.

To improve your site’s SEO, you can sign up for a free CDN like Cloudflare and install a free SEO plugin like Yoast. You can also manually generate an XML sitemap. In essence, you can replicate all of WordPress.com’s SEO features for free, but it takes some work.

Analytics

WordPress.com includes integration with Google Analytics to track your traffic within your WordPress dashboard. However, to enable the integration, you must have an Explorer plan or higher. Free and Starter plans don’t get access to traffic analytics, which means these plans will have limited usefulness for many website owners.

WordPress.org doesn’t include any traffic analytics tools, but you can track your site with Google Analytics for free. To do this, you’ll need to copy a piece of code from Google Analytics into your website. The process is relatively easy even if you aren’t comfortable coding. To see your website traffic, you must visit Google Analytics as the data isn’t available in your WordPress dashboard.

Conclusion

WordPress.com and WordPress.org both offer access to WordPress, but they’re very different in practice. WordPress.com is a managed WordPress hosting platform that has similarities to a website builder, offering tiered pricing plans, customizable themes, and a drag-and-drop page editor.

WordPress.org offers free access to WordPress software but requires you to find your own hosting and fully manage your WordPress installation.

If you decide that WordPress.org is right for you, we recommend choosing a managed WordPress hosting plan to make launching your site easier.

FAQs

Can I switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org?

Is WordPress.org good for beginners?

Is WordPress.org free?

Michael Graw
Technology Expert
Michael Graw
Technology Expert

Michael Graw is an experienced writer in the business and B2B tech fields. His articles can be found on Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Tom’s Guide, and TechRadar, and cover everything from corporate finance to crypto and international tech regulation. A prolific copywriter and entrepreneur, Michael has worked with a wide range of SaaS and tech companies and has his finger firmly on the pulse of B2B tech and finance.