WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: What’s the Difference?

Navigating the often-misunderstood “WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org” comparison can be confusing for newcomers to the WordPress universe. The question, “Which is better – WordPress.com or WordPress.org?” is often asked, but the answer might surprise you. Neither is better or worse. And that’s because there are better questions to ask. 

The real distinction lies not between WordPress.com and WordPress.org but between WordPress.com’s managed WordPress hosting and a self-hosted WordPress site from any number of third-party hosting services. 

So where does WordPress.org fit into this?

WordPress.org acts as a resource center, offering the WordPress software for download. However, it requires users to independently seek a hosting service, install WordPress, and handle maintenance themselves. Beyond this, WordPress.org is a hub for the open-source WordPress community. Here, users can learn about WordPress, contribute to its development, and engage with other WordPress enthusiasts. It’s important to note, though, that WordPress.org itself does not offer website creation, and it is not a web host.

On the other hand, WordPress.com offers a managed WordPress hosting service, allowing users to build a website using the pre-installed WordPress software. This platform removes the burden of managing security or maintenance, providing a ready-to-use hosted WordPress environment, along with many enhancements.

WordPress.com and WordPress.org each serve different needs and customer types, but they also share many characteristics.

  • WordPress.com and WordPress.org are backed by the same people. 
  • They have the same founder/co-founder, Matt Mullenweg. 
  • There’s a ton of collaboration back and forth between the two communities. 
  • They each cater to a different market segment. 
  • They each have their own personality, community, and culture. 
  • They both have the highest level of passion for WordPress as a whole than any other corner of the Internet.

WordPress.com provides hosting and a platform in which to build your site, using the WordPress software.

WordPress.org does not provide hosting, and it’s not even a platform, as it’s often referred to. Remember, WordPress.org is a website hub that houses information, downloads, resources, and a community. 

Here’s a quick comparison table to help clarify.

 WordPress.org / Self-hostedWordPress.com
CostDownload the software for free but pay for the domain and web hosting every year.Launch your website for free, or upgrade to a paid plan for access to additional features.
InstallationYou must find a host yourself to handle your site’s security, backups, and maintenance.Hosting is built-in. Upgrades are available for advanced features, security, backups, and more.
Experience NeededCustomization, site maintenance, configuration, and updates on your self-hosted site require intermediate technical knowledge.Beginner-friendly but also packed with all the power that advanced users require. WordPress.com is an all-in-one, website builder that will grow with you.
FunctionalityCustom plugins are widely available on your self-hosted site, but compatibility issues can cause plugins to stop working properly whenever there’s an update.Several built-in features eliminate the need for many plugins. Eligible plans allow plugins to be installed, and updates are managed for you.
ThemesInstall custom themes on your self-hosted site or build your own.A wide range of included themes with vast customization options. With an eligible plan, access advanced customization options or install custom themes.
SEOPlugins installed on your self-hosted site can be used to enhance SEO, but they require extra maintenance, installation, and time.WordPress.com is SEO-friendly right out of the box. With an eligible plan, SEO plugins are also available but not necessary.
AnalyticsAnalytics are available through self-hosted plugin integrations or connecting to Google Analytics.Built-in stats are great for beginners and help to gauge your site performance. Sites with an eligible plan can also connect to Google Analytics, or integrate with other tools.

It should be clear now that it’s not a competition between .com vs .org.

It’s really a comparison of hosting packages and services between hosts.

For example, it makes sense to think of this as a comparison of WordPress.com, which is a managed WordPress host, vs:

  • Siteground
  • Dreamhost
  • BlueHost
  • WPEngine
  • Hostgator
  • GoDaddy
  • Pressable
  • Kinsta
  • Hundreds of other hosts

Once you understand that, you can make better comparisons between WordPress.com and a WordPress site that is self-hosted on any number of other web hosts. 

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s look at some more misconceptions and myths!

Open a store. Launch a business. You can. You will. We'll help. Invent the world's greatest cat food, save a rainforest, start a needlepoint club. Whatever it is, it's going to need a website - that's where we come in. Start your website.

We’ll cover some common myths that have surrounded this comparison shortly, but first, let’s define a key point.

What is a host? 

To grossly oversimplify this, a host is a company with access to special types of computers known as “servers” with specific software that connects them to the Internet. They rent out space on these servers so people can make their websites available on the Internet.

Think of this concept as renting a plot of land to place a building on. You pay for the space where you can place a building, but you can move the building somewhere else if you want. (One example is a mobile home park.)

And this is why the comparison is not .com vs .org. WordPress.org cannot rent out server space, while WordPress.com can.

The Evolution of Misconceptions

The WordPress software and WordPress.com as a managed host have both evolved in wonderful ways over the years and sometimes quite rapidly. With the longevity nature of the internet, it’s inevitable that some outdated information will continue to rise to the surface. 

Having worked within the WordPress.com environment for several years, on the heels of being a WordPress.org user for nearly ten years, it became apparent that there is still a fair bit of public confusion surrounding WordPress.com. The source of some of this confusion can be found via well-meaning, independent sites promoting the WordPress software for Self-Hosted environments. In some cases, the information presented is either inaccurate or outdated, not through any malicious intent, but likely as a result of being misinformed. 

It is the intent of this article to offer some insight and clarification regarding WordPress.com as a managed host and respectfully dispel a few myths along the way.

The Big Myth: Debunked

The Fallacy: I don’t own my content.

The Reality: With WordPress.com, you absolutely own your content.

Click to expand and learn more about your rights to your content.

Let’s look at this myth by comparing it to renting vs. owning.

Some have stated that WordPress.com is comparable to renting an apartment in a complex. But the one aspect of this that I’ve seen people get hung up on is thinking that they “don’t own their site or content”.

This isn’t true. No more so than thinking that you don’t own your furniture if you rent an apartment. (Assuming you haven’t rented a fully furnished apartment!)

But if you rent an empty apartment and then fill it with your own belongings… you own your belongings – not the landlord. And if you choose to move to a different apartment or you buy a house, you take your belongings with you. 

What you don’t take are the built-in appliances that the landlord owns. And if you painted the walls a certain color, you can’t take those walls with you either.

The same is true with WordPress.com. 

You own all of the content – posts, pages, media, followers, comments, etc. – that you build within your WordPress.com website. And you can download or move that content anywhere you like. 

But in some cases, you can’t take the theme, plugins, and configuration settings with you if you move that content, as they may be specifically provided to you as built-in features by WordPress.com.

So, just like if you move your furniture to a new apartment or house, you need to then decorate the new space to suit your tastes, including painting the walls your favorite color. That may mean you’ll need to choose a few different plugins or a new theme to get the functionality or design that WordPress.com provided for you.

But no matter what, you own the content of your site. And to take it a step further, if you have a plugin-enabled plan, you can even move the whole site.

Now that we’ve explored the basics and realize that there may be outdated information floating around, let’s take a closer look at some more of the common myths that abound.

13 More Common Myths About WordPress.com vs. Self-Hosted WordPress Sites

Myth 1 Fallacy: I can’t move the whole site from WordPress.com to a different host.

Myth 1 Reality: You are always free to move your content to any other web host, and if you are on a plugin-enabled plan, you can move the entire site – plugins and themes included – anywhere you’d like.

Click to expand and learn more about moving a website.

If you have a plugin-enabled plan on WordPress.com that allows you to install custom themes and plugins, then you can migrate the entire site as-is. This would be like hiring a house mover to move your entire building from one plot of land to another.

In the case of a website, moving the whole house means moving the entire site to a different host. Which means it’s moving from one server computer to a different one. Kinda like making a copy of your computer files onto an external hard drive. 

In the house example, how “easy” and “smooth” the process of moving an entire building is will depend on how complicated the building is. (They do sometimes have to dismantle a building into parts in order to move it.)

Same goes for a website. The more complicated the website is, the more difficult the migration will be, and it might require some time to fix a variety of pieces after the migration is finished. 

This holds true for any kind of website. It doesn’t matter what software or website builder you’ve used, migrating a website from one host to another is a process that ranges from a simple click to hours of extra work. And some types of websites (and some hosts) don’t even offer the ability to export any content. 

It’s worth noting that reputable WordPress site hosts, including WordPress.com DO offer this ability. 

The nice thing about migrating a website is that you can try it and see the results, without causing any harm to the original site. Because a website migration is more like creating a copy.

When you migrate from Host A to Host B, you will end up with TWO versions of (hopefully) the exact same site. You can then compare the version of Host A that you started with to the version of Host B that you moved to before you delete the Host A version.

If the Host B version ends up being a mess and too much work to fix. You can stay with Host A instead and not have lost anything.

This is true no matter where you’re moving to and from. It could be between two Self-Hosted WordPress site hosts. It could be going from a Self-Hosted WordPress site to a WordPress.com site. It could be going from a WordPress.com site to a Self-Hosted WordPress site.

There is literally no risk in giving it a try, with the caveat that you don’t cancel or delete your original site or hosting plan before you’ve finished making the second copy and have checked it all over.

The biggest mistake you can make is to download a backup of your existing site and cancel things with Host A, and then try to set up the site with Host B expecting everything to be perfect and identical to Host A. It will almost never work out the way you expect it to. So save yourself loads of frustration, stress, and time – finish a site migration completely so that the site with Host B is exactly what you want to be live on the Internet before you cancel anything at all with Host A.

The process of migrating a website between hosts is going to be different for each individual host. Sure, there are some watered-down, generic versions of how to do it. But your best option is to reach out to Host A and ask them for exactly what the options are for your particular site to move it away from them – to transfer or migrate OUT – your website (NOT your domain, we’ll get to that). Then reach out to Host B and ask them for exactly what the options are to move a site IN to their hosting – to transfer or migrate IN – your website.

That’s the only way you can be sure that you have the correct instructions for your particular website and for the specific hosts that you’re working with.

Myth 2 Fallacy: But my domain IS my website.

Myth 2 Reality: Your domain is simply the address of your website.

Click to expand and learn more about what a domain is.

If you have a custom domain, then that is the address that points to your website, not the website itself. There are a couple of analogies that work well for this. 

To keep with the house example, think of your custom domain like a Box number at the Post Office. In many cases, if you move down the street, you can still keep the same Box number as your mailing address if you want to. With a website, you can move the files of the site to a different location and keep the same custom domain as the address.

Another analogy is that your host provides you with a storage box for your website files. At WordPress.com this comes in the form of the root subdomain that includes “.wordpress.com”. So, you might have a storage box domain of “mysite.wordpress.com”. You then purchase a custom domain of “mysite.com” and that’s what you want to be the address of your website. You then set this custom domain to be the Primary Address and it acts like a label on your storage box.

You can peel that label off and put a different one on it instead if you want. Your website files are still inside the main storage box; you’ve just changed the address on it.

But if you move that label, custom domain, to a different storage box, the contents of the storage box don’t automatically move with the label.

So, it’s really important to understand that your “website” and your “domain” are two separate pieces. Moving one does not move the other. They are simply connected together when you point the custom domain to the correct storage box (ie: host).

Again, this is true whether you’re dealing with a WordPress.com site or a Self-Hosted WordPress site.

Pro tip: Moving your custom domain is the last step when moving to a new host, not the first.

Check out our Mastering Custom Domains webinar

Myth 3 Fallacy: The differences between WordPress.com and a Self-Hosted WordPress site are huge.

Myth 3 Reality: Other than a few custom situations, the differences are more about the cost and services provided by the host than the functional ability of the software.

Click to expand and learn more about the custom situation exceptions.

To compare apples to apples, from a functionality aspect, WordPress.com comes with more built-in features than a Self-Hosted WordPress site, and there are very few things that can be done with a Self-Hosted WordPress site that can’t be done with a plugin-enabled WordPress.com site. Let’s review what those few things are.

Advanced Developer-Level Features: The things that can’t be done with a WordPress.com site are almost all advanced developer-level features. While WordPress.com offers many developer-level features, some may be limited or not available at all. This might include features like making changes to the PHP Environment – and if you don’t know what that means, you probably shouldn’t be trying to do it because there’s a high possibility that you’ll break something that you can’t fix. Note: You can change the PHP version of your site at WordPress.com, but not the default environment settings.

If these advanced kinds of server-level features are needed for a specific theme or plugin, it won’t be compatible with WordPress.com.

Incompatible Plugins: WordPress.com is a managed environment optimized for performance. So there are certain plugins that have been flagged as incompatible because they are known to cause problems in the WordPress.com environment. It doesn’t necessarily mean those plugins are bad; they just don’t play nicely with the pre-configured highly-optimized infrastructure of WordPress.com. Bonus: Because WordPress.com is optimized for performance and security, these incompatible plugins aren’t needed. No need to install extra plugins when WordPress.com handles all of that for you!

Complexity and Custom Code Requirements: The other situation is in the case of highly complex sites that require a significant amount of coding customizations (which may or may not be possible on a WordPress.com site). In this case, it’s fairly likely that a developer is involved, and they may be more comfortable and familiar with a Self-Hosted WordPress environment.

This isn’t to suggest that all developer-level work cannot be done within WordPress.com. It means that you need a developer who is familiar with the WordPress.com infrastructure and with what may or may not be possible.

Developer-level knowledge is beyond the scope of this article. However, the information is just an email away by reaching out to the WordPress.com support team. It’s worth noting that because of the evolution of WordPress.com, there are numerous opportunities for developers to become well-versed in the WordPress.com environment in order to expand their offerings. 

But for the vast majority of customers needing a website, these are situations that they will never encounter. 

If you do have specific and complex needs, you’re likely working with a developer or learning developer-level skills, and your decision-making process is going to be different than simply comparing hosts. 

If you’re trying to add features to a WordPress.com site that you don’t understand and theme or plugin developers are telling you to do things that you don’t understand, aka they’re telling you to change code or core files in order for their product to work, then you should be asking yourself: 

  • Do I really need this feature? 
  • Is there another way to achieve my goal? 
  • Should I be hiring a developer?

Again, the WordPress.com support team can help you to answer these questions.

Myth 4 Fallacy: WordPress is a DIY software that anyone can use.

Myth 4 Reality: Yes, of course, WordPress can certainly be DIY, provided, of course, the DIY tasks you’re attempting are within your skill set.

Click to expand and learn more about what DIY truly means.

YouTube offers DIY videos on how to change a fuel pump located under the box of a particular model of pickup truck. The public availability of this video doesn’t mean that I would have any clue on where to start with that project or that I’d even understand what the video explains. (Which I don’t, I’ve watched said video.)

If you use the WordPress software as is, with the tools provided, it’s really not that complicated. It has a learning curve, but everything does.

The tricky part is that the WordPress software is powerful, and it can do pretty much any darn thing you want it to do – IF you know how.

Changing the fuel pump on a truck is a no-brainer for some people. It’s brain surgery for others.

Something being DIY doesn’t always mean that it makes complex concepts easy enough for everyone. While WordPress has achieved that on many, many levels, there are still some things that simply require a higher level of DIY tech skills.

Myth 5 Fallacy: Self-Hosted WordPress sites are cheaper than WordPress.com

Myth 5 Reality: Yes and no. Bare-bones budget hosts will always be cheaper, but when comparing feature for feature, WordPress.com is often cheaper and may hold significantly more value.

Click to expand and dig into what comparing hosts looks like.

Some things to consider when looking at hosting include storage, site visits, pre-configured built-in features, security, backups, and types of support.

Let’s first discuss support. By “types of support”, I don’t mean phone vs email vs live chat. I’m referring to the level and quality of support provided. Most hosts will provide some sort of assistance if your site crashes. However, this could mean restoring a database that results in you losing three days worth of content updates. (Pro tip: It’s also worth noting that site crashes are almost always the result of a plugin or custom theme, not the core software.)

But what if you need a simple line of CSS code? Or what if you don’t know how to use a particular block or feature? Does your host provide support options to help solve CSS issues? Are they willing to teach you how to achieve your goals with a specific block? (Pro tip: WordPress.com support – aka our Happiness Engineers – is happy to help you succeed.)

So, if you’re comparing hosting packages, make sure you’re looking beyond dollars and get the details on the specifics of what exactly is included. A great way to test support is to reach out under pre-sales support and ask a specific set of questions. Use the same questions for 3 or 4 hosts and compare the answers you get.

Here’s a starter list of questions to choose from:

  • If I need some basic CSS to make a tweak to my site, will your support provide it, if it’s possible?
  • If something isn’t working the way I expect within a particular piece of my content, will your support look at my content and help me figure out what to fix?
  • If I don’t understand how a particular feature works, will your support guide me on how to learn it / or teach me how?
  • If my site encounters a critical error, what support will you provide to fix it?
  • If I connect a custom domain to my site and it doesn’t work properly, will your support help me figure out what’s wrong?
  • How will your support handle a question I ask that is outside the scope of your support?
  • What happens to my site content if I can’t pay my hosting bill?
  • What happens to my domain if it expires?

Now, let’s switch our attention to pricing. Beware of introductory pricing. Many hosts display their lowest “on sale” price, with the fine print revealing that it’s only valid for one billing cycle – be that monthly or annually. Many of those hosts will double or triple the price when your next payment is due. That message in fine print is often difficult to notice, so you may not even realize the price will go up. Look carefully.

In addition, while some hosts may offer cheaper hosting prices, they usually have limitations on storage, site visits, security, and backups. What are the extra costs for getting the add-ons that might be included with another, seemingly more expensive, host? Once you add those extra costs, that cheap host might not be so cheap after all.

The most important thing is that you understand what you’re paying for, what your own skill level is, and what your needs are. These are the components that will determine the value of the hosting package that you choose.

Also, remember that WordPress.com provides a free plan – which means if life throws you a curveball and you can’t afford to pay for a hosting plan, you can at least scale back the site and keep it without losing all of your content. Even if your plan expires from lack of payment. While custom themes and plugins would be removed if a plugin-enabled plan is removed, WordPress.com doesn’t delete your raw content – whereas many other hosts do.

Myth 6 Fallacy: With ​​WordPress.com I can’t install plugins and themes, or I can’t [insert task here]…

Myth 6 Reality: Yes, plugins and themes can be installed with WordPress.com, and the answer will be “yes” to most other similar questions. A better question is “How?”.

Click to expand and learn more about what and how.

Some of the misconceptions between WordPress.com vs a Self-Hosted WordPress site come from the belief of what can or can’t be done. 

This section would be incredibly long, in an already long article, if I tried to list out all of the thousands of different questions and scenarios that this line of thinking conjures up. 

The most common one that comes up is the belief that you can’t install plugins or custom themes on a WordPress.com site. This hasn’t been the case since 2017. If you have a plugin-enable plan on a WordPress.com site, you can install plugins and custom themes.

Overall, the short answer for the vast majority of the questions will be: yes, you can do that with a WordPress.com hosted site.

The longer answer might involve explaining how a particular thing can be done because the process might differ between WordPress.com vs a Self-Hosted WordPress site. 

And there will be a few questions where the answer is: no, you can’t do that.

The most efficient way to figure this out is to ask WordPress.com directly. There’s no point in asking someone who doesn’t work for, or use, WordPress.com whether or not something is possible because they likely won’t know the right answer. 

So make a list of the specific things you need answers to and then contact WordPress.com support with those questions. It will save you hours of time, guessing, misinformation, and frustration.

Myth 7 Fallacy: On WordPress.com, you don’t have full control of your website.

Myth 7 Reality: Your WordPress.com plan determines the level of technical control you have, but you always own your content. 

Click to expand and dig deeper into what control you have with WordPress.com.

On any plan, even free, you can export your content, under the Tools menu, to use elsewhere.

With a plugin-enabled paid plan, full site migration is possible.

If a theme gets retired, it doesn’t get removed from your site, and it still receives security updates.

With a plugin-enabled paid plan, you have the same SFTP access to your files that you do on a Self-Hosted WordPress site. Sites on the lower plans are less complicated and don’t need access to these files.

The question becomes, what does full control mean to you? Chances are high that one of the available plans will meet your needs.

Remember that developers who may need more robust access than WordPress.com offers are making different decisions than the average customer. So make sure that you’re relying on information that’s actually relevant to you personally, and not based on the needs of someone else.

Myth 8 Fallacy: Customizing WordPress.com sites is challenging due to plugin and theme restrictions that require expensive hosting plans.

Myth 8 Reality: While it’s true that only certain plans allow for plugin and theme installation, we’ve already discussed that “expensive” is subjective. And the concept of “customizing” means different things in different scenarios.

Click to expand and see how WordPress.com enables customization.

Keep in mind that not all customizations even require plugins or custom themes. Many customizations can be accomplished with the WordPress editor using blocks, the Site Editor, and global styles. 

WordPress.com also comes with many built-in, fully customizable features that would normally require a separate plugin on self-hosted sites. 

It’s important to know what you want, what you need, and what the options are to achieve your goals. There are loads of ways to customize a site, even on the free plan. So a blanket statement like this is misleading.

Myth 9 Fallacy: WordPress.com puts some restrictions on how you can monetize your site.

Myth 9 Reality: As of June 2023, all plans, even the Free plan, allow you to monetize your site.

Click to expand and learn more about monetizing your WordPress.com site.

WordPress.com does not impose severe limits on how you monetize your site.

In fact, WordPress.com actually provides more pre-configured built-in monetization options than a Self-Hosted WordPress site. These built-in options make it easier and faster to start earning money than some of the more complicated plugin options that are required on a Self-Hosted WordPress site. 

Every plan on WordPress.com enables you to earn money from your site, as long as you live in a country that supports Stripe payments. Even users on the free plan can charge for:

  • Gated, exclusive content
  • Paid subscriptions, at whatever price you decide
  • Selling one-off items like photos, songs, or ebooks
  • Tips and donations

If you plan to use WooCommerce or similar plugins to create an entire online store, then you will need a plugin-enabled plan for that. But every plan offers the ability to earn in the ways mentioned above.

Take our free course Newsletters 101: From Basics to Automation and Monetization to explore offering paid newsletter subscriptions. 

Myth 10 Fallacy: You are not allowed to sell ads on your WordPress.com website. You must use their ad network and share revenue.

Myth 10 Reality: On WordPress.com, you absolutely can sell custom ad space on your site.

Click to expand and learn more about ad space on your site.

WordAds is the ad network offered by WordPress.com for enabling ads on your site. WordAds partners with over 50 of the internet’s top ad suppliers, including Google Ads & Adx, AppNexus, Amazon a9, AOL Marketplace, and Yahoo, and the ad supplier’s bidding process ensures you get the best possible revenue for each ad.

Of course, as with all ad networks, some restrictions apply. And all advertising networks operate on a revenue-share basis. This is not unique to WordAds.

Want to use a different third-party ad server? That’s possible as well if you have a plugin-enabled plan that allows for the installation of plugins. And, yes, you can even incorporate affiliate links.

Want to charge a local company to place an image on your site linked to their website? You can do that too.

WordPress.com does have a Terms of Service requirement that the primary purpose of your site must be for publishing high-quality, original content (as opposed to a spammy site that’s sole purpose is to display ads and affiliate links). If this is a drawback for you, then WordPress.com might not be the right choice for your site. 

Myth 11 Fallacy: WordPress.com may delete your site at any time if they think it violates their terms of service.

Myth 11 Reality: Unlike many hosts, WordPress.com always issues terms of service breach notifications and warnings before deleting any site. 

Click to expand and learn more about Terms of Service and rules set by hosting companies.

Like all hosting providers or online services, WordPress.com has Terms of Service that all sites must abide by.

For legal reasons, all website hosts have some kind of Terms of Service and rules dictating what is allowed on their platform. Some are stricter than others. WordPress.com is very reasonable in this area. In fact, WordPress.com works with its customers more than most service providers to notify them of any breaches in terms of service. We issue warnings and even guide customers on the process of moving their content if it cannot remain within WordPress.com.

But if you want to run a site that is against the WordPress.com Terms of Service, then WordPress.com wouldn’t be an appropriate host for your site. It’s simply part of the decision-making process based on what your needs are. This same decision will need to be made based on every host’s Terms of Service.

To take it a step further, ask each host what happens to your content if your subscription is terminated due to non-payment or breach of Terms of Service. You are far more likely to have your content permanently deleted by another host of a Self-Hosted WordPress site than you are at WordPress.com.

In most situations, even with Terms of Service breaches, at WordPress.com your content will remain safe on a free plan, even if the site is made private.

Myth 12 Fallacy: WordPress.com does not offer any eCommerce features or integrated payment gateways unless you switch to the Commerce plan. 

Myth 12 Reality: There have been eCommerce-related options available on multiple WordPress.com plans for years, depending on what your specific needs are. 

Click to expand and learn more about eCommerce with WordPress.com.

We’ve already covered various ways of earning money in Myths 9 and 10 for everyone on any plan, even our Free plan.

For eCommerce-specific options, there are PayPal options available on all plans. While perhaps not a full eCommerce store, it still provides the ability to sell products.

There are also special payment blocks available that integrate with Stripe to enable one-time and recurring payment solutions.

Plugins can be installed with a plugin-enabled plan, such as our Business plan, including WooCommerce, which offers multiple payment gateway options and is a full eCommerce solution.

While the Commerce plan may be one of the higher-priced plans we offer, it comes with money-saving features. The Commerce plan bundles together some additional plugins that would otherwise have a higher collective cost if purchased separately. If you need the features that come with the Commerce plan, you’ll save money by selecting that plan over adding those features separately to the Business plan. Your needs will help you decide what’s best for you.

Myth 13 Fallacy: You cannot build membership websites with WordPress.com.

Myth 13 Reality: This one is easy. Yes, of course, you can build membership sites with WordPress.com.

Click to expand and learn more.

There are multiple ways of building membership sites, either with or without plugins, all of which can be accomplished with WordPress.com. We even have a free course, Membership Sites 101, to help you make the decision on which options are best for you and how to get set up using that option.

Choose Which is Best For You

You may have been expecting more of a functionality/feature comparison from this article. But hopefully, you now understand that this is not what drives the difference between a WordPress.com site and a Self-Hosted WordPress site. 

Both use the same core WordPress software. 

  • WordPress.com comes packaged with several pre-configured features built-in so you don’t need to figure out how to add them. 
  • A Self-Hosted WordPress site gives you the core software that you then need to add plugins to in order to achieve the functionality you desire – sometimes even for seemingly basic features. (To be clear, this isn’t a negative, it’s simply the nature of the software.)
  • Both options offer the ability to add additional functionality via plugins, provided you have an eligible hosting plan. 
  • While a basic hosting package on a Self-Hosted WordPress site might be a cheaper option to add that one plugin you want, it may not come with the storage, security, backups, and support that you truly need. 
  • With both options, you own your content. 
  • Both offer the ability to move the entire site if you want, even if there are certain requirements for doing so. 
  • When it comes to making the choice between WordPress.com vs a Self-Hosted WordPress site, it’s important to do your research and understand that (unless you’re a developer) it’s not about the features and functionality. 

The decision about which path is the right path for you personally is about so much more. And ultimately, it’s mostly about you. 

For those who aren’t tech-savvy:

WordPress.com is here for you with managed hosting that takes care of the maintenance and security headaches for you and is always just a Happiness Engineer away when you need some guidance. 

For the advanced user:

Even if you’re a developer, WordPress.com’s rock-solid infrastructure is one that will likely surprise you. See what we have to offer developers here. (I bet you had no idea how powerful our platform really is). Don’t believe me? Did you know that WordPressHostingBenchmarks.com said this?

WordPress.com had the fastest average and p95 in the Static test with 6ms and 18ms, respectively. WordPress.com had perfect uptime on both monitors. … Unquestionably a Top Tier performance from WordPress.com.

So no matter what your skill level or what kind of website you envision, make sure you’re making the decision that is going to give you the right type of help and set yourself up for success.

Ready to create a WordPress website? Choose the option that’s best for you here.

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Tanya Thibodeau

30 years ago I was teaching people how to play piano, now I teach people how to play WordPress! I'm a techie who speaks non-techie and my passion is helping beginners. I write YA/Fantasy novels, play the piano, and love to read. I also love animals, which is a good thing considering I have 3 cats, a rabbit and a dog.

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