WordPress powers millions of websites, from bloggers and small businesses to massive news sites and companies. This guide will help you to understand the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, and which might be the best fit for your website.
In this guide
The same WordPress software powers both WordPress.com and WordPress.org sites. One of the main differences is how your website is hosted. Web hosting is a service that allows your website to be published and accessible on the internet.
- WordPress.com: Includes managed hosting, which helps optimize your website for speed, security, and performance. Managed hosting takes care of many technical aspects of your site for you. WordPress.com has many plans with increasingly powerful features for different site types and budgets.
- WordPress.org: You can download the WordPress source code for free and upload it with a hosting provider of your choice. Going this route is also called ‘self-hosting’ WordPress. As this option doesn’t include hosting, you’ll need to find and pay for separate hosting and be more involved on the technical side to build and maintain your website effectively.
|Price||Varies by plan for your needs and budget. WordPress.com plans are a tremendous value and include Free, Personal, Premium, Business, Commerce, and Enterprise options.||Download the WordPress software for free, but pay annual fees to a third-party hosting provider for your web hosting and domain.|
|Experience Needed||Easy to use for both complete beginners and experienced professionals. |
WordPress.com is an all-in-one website builder and host optimized for performance.
|Customization, site maintenance, and configuration are more hands-on and require intermediate technical knowledge.|
|Hosting||Managed hosting is built-in. You don’t need any other hosting provider.||You must find and pay for a hosting provider yourself.|
|Speed & Performance||Unlimited bandwidth and traffic, highly performant CPUs, and CDN for high performance and speed.||Depends on your host and hosting package.|
|Security||Highly secured against hackers, malware, and vulnerabilities. Updates, backups, and free domain SSL are all handled automatically.||Depends on your host and hosting package.|
|Features||Powerful features help you design, manage, promote, and monetize your website.||Varies highly depending on your host and hosting package.|
|Plugins||Install plugins on a Business, Commerce, or Enterprise plan. Updates are managed automatically. Several default built-in features eliminate the need for many plugins. |
Proactively blocks potentially risky plugins.
|Custom plugins are available to install, but depending on the plugin, these could compromise your site.|
|Themes||Includes a wide range of beautiful, well-supported themes with vast customization options. |
With an eligible plan, access advanced customization options, install custom themes, or build your own.
|Install custom themes, or build your own.|
|Support||WordPress.com support forums, webinars, and videos are available for free on any plan. Premium email support is available on the Personal plan and above. Live chat support is available on the Premium plan and above.||No dedicated support. Visit the WordPress.org support forums for assistance, or check with your specific hosting provider.|
|Site Ownership||You own your site content and are always free to move it as you please.||You own your site content and are always free to move it as you please.|
When getting started with WordPress.com, you’ll sign up for an account, pick a plan that suits your needs and budget, and then get started creating your site. WordPress.com provides managed hosting for updates, security, and backups, as well as many beautiful themes and built-in plugin functionality, so you won’t need to download, pay for, and manage these separately. The additional features WordPress.com provides help you easily design, manage, promote, and monetize your website. WordPress.com also has dedicated support staff to help you if you encounter any issues with your site.
The variety of plans gives you options to suit your needs at any level, whether you’re looking to start a free blog, create a portfolio, manage a website for your business, or even sell products online. If you’re a developer or designer creating websites for others, WordPress.com’s unrivaled managed hosting stack could be the perfect solution for you and your clients. At higher plan tiers, you’ll gain access to developer-focused tools, including SFTP-SSH, WP-CLI, multi-site management, Git tools, and more.
To get started with WordPress.org, you’ll need to download the WordPress software, find and pay for a third-party hosting service, install WordPress on your host’s web server, and then build and maintain your website on your own. Each third-party hosting service will vary in their services and fees. You’ll also need to research, install, and manage your own separate theme and any necessary plugins to get the appearance and functionality you want for your site. Going this route with WordPress.org and a separate paid hosting provider is also referred to as self-hosting WordPress.
With self-hosted WordPress, you have great technical freedom, including the ability to make certain complex and custom code customizations that may or may not be possible on WordPress.com. You also can make changes to the PHP environment. These types of customizations and changes are primarily relevant for developers. Self-hosting WordPress also gives you the freedom to make a choice about the type and quality of hosting for your website and the degree of technical maintenance you’ll take on yourself.
“WordPress” itself is a free and open-source content management system (CMS) used to build and manage websites. WordPress is open-source software written, maintained, and supported by thousands of independent contributors worldwide and powers millions of websites. WordPress.org is the home page for the WordPress project.
WordPress.com is a commercial enterprise owned by Automattic, a company started by one of the founding developers of WordPress and staffed by full-time developers, designers, and support engineers. In addition, Automatticians (employees of Automattic) regularly contribute back to the WordPress software to benefit the entire community.
Direct comparisons can be difficult. If you’re comparing different WordPress.com plans with packages provided by various third-party hosting providers, you’ll want to compare costs as well as features, including storage, site visits, pre-configured built-in features, security, backups, and types of support. Cheaper hosting packages tend to reflect more limitations on storage, site visits, security, and backups. The award-winning hosting and features provided by WordPress.com are an extraordinary amount of value.
Beware of introductory pricing that can change after you’ve signed up with a specific host. Many hosts display their lowest “on sale” price, with the fine print revealing that it’s only valid for one billing cycle. Many of those hosts will double or triple the price when your next payment is due. WordPress.com always offers straightforward pricing.
Yes, you can install plugins and custom themes on plugin-enabled WordPress.com plans (Business, Commerce, and Enterprise).
Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org let you utilize the powerful WordPress software to build and manage a website. The main difference comes down to your specific site needs and if you’d prefer to take advantage of WordPress.com’s award-winning managed hosting or host your website on your own with a third-party hosting provider.
You can always get started for free with WordPress.com and upgrade to the plan that best suits your needs and site goals at any time. With either flavor of WordPress, you always own your own content, so if you ever decide to try out self-hosted WordPress, you can easily migrate your website.