WordPress.com versus WordPress.org

Courtesy of 3nhanced.com
You may or may not have realised there are two different flavours of WordPress, denoted by the TLD extension. WordPress.com is where you can sign up to a free blog, hosted for you courtesy of Automattic, the company behind WordPress. WordPress.org is where you can download the software for use on your own web server – a so-called self-hosted installation.

So why two versions, and what are their different strengths and weaknesses? Essentially it’s a trade-off between flexibility and ease of use. For more detail, check out this WordPress support page that lists some of the main differences between the two.

The importance of your own domain

With a free WordPress.com account, your blog is assigned a wordpress.com sub-domain of your choosing (as long as you don’t choose one that’s already taken, that is). So, it’ll be something of the form


The main problem with this, in my opinion, is that you have no right of ownership over your site’s url – it is, after all, a sub-domain of wordpress.com, which means that it cannot exist independently of the main domain. If the company should (perish the thought) go bust, your url will disappear with it!

Now, to be fair, WordPress.com gives you the option of registering and using your own domain instead of the default wordpress.com sub-domain. Unfortunately this isn’t free – it’s a paid upgrade – but one well worth doing if you want to be taken seriously. I think it’s fairly safe to say that virtually all the big, well-known blogs have their own domain. You can read more about the ins and outs of how to do this in the WordPress.com forum.

Apart from credibility, the other reason for using your own domain is that your promotional efforts are an investment in your own brand, rather than someone else’s. And if you should one day decide to move to a self-hosted website or WordPress.org installation, you will be able to carry all your backlinks right along with you, meaning you don’t have to start from scratch building your traffic all over again.

WordPress plugins

I’ve written quite a lot about plugins on this blog, and in my opinion this is one of the most powerful features of WordPress. Unfortunately you are not able to install or utilise any plugins in the WordPress.com world, which severely limits your options to monetise your content or otherwise customise your site. This is the downside of the tradeoff between ease-of-use and flexibility.

Having said that, the core WordPress functionality is impressive, and is continuously integrating some of the best plugin features, so this is probably less of a hindrance than it perhaps once was.


Another consequence of going with a WordPress.com hosted blog is that you have to play by their rules. Granted, they don’t appear particularly onerous, but I always shudder slightly when I read stuff like:

Automattic may terminate your access to all or any part of the Website at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately.

Basically you’re at their mercy, and if for some reason they stop wanting to be your friend, there’s very little you can do about it. Of course, if you’ve been paranoid sensible and kept your own backups you’ll be able to get back up on your feet fairly easily – but I wonder how many people actually do this – after all, one of the stated benefits of having a WordPress.com blog is precisely that you don’t have to bother about this level of technical detail.

I love WordPress.com!

By now you might have gotten the impression that I’m opposed to WordPress.com – but actually that’s not the case. I just think you should go into it with your eyes open, and plan ahead a little. In my opinion, new bloggers should definitely go and get themselves a WordPress.com blog to play around with before going to the trouble of setting up a self-hosted blog. This will allow you to become familiar with the platform and the process involved in blogging without getting bogged down in technical details.

Later on, once you’ve gotten to grips with the basics, you can make a more informed decision about what niche to target, what domain to use, where to find hosting, how to go about installing WordPress for yourself, the wonderful world of plugins, etc. WordPress.com can be a great launchpad into all this, when you’re ready.

Which one do you choose?

I think ultimately this comes down to your individual circumstances: your level of technical ability, the amount of time you’re prepared to put into the technical aspects of your blog, and what your goals are for your blog.

It’ll be interesting to see which version is being used most by readers of this blog – why not take part in our poll? Feel free to leave a comment as well!

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39 Responses to “WordPress.com versus WordPress.org”

  1. Gravatar of Paul 1 Paul

    Yeah domains like myblog.wordpress.com are good, but it’d be even better if you could get for example, myblog.com

  2. Gravatar of Agolf Cartson 2 Agolf Cartson

    I wanted to vote but there was not “both” option. I use WordPress hosted on my own domain and server for my primary blogs and the I use WordPress.org for things like linkbuilding etc. That is the best solution if you ask me.

  3. Gravatar of Dover 3 Dover

    I have a few blogs hosted by wordpress, but, like you, those “we can delete you account whenever we want” statements always really scare me.

    My main blogs are all running wordpress because for the most part, I like the platform. They are hosted elsewhere though, and I am in the process of getting my own server secure enough that I can host them myself.

    In the long run and with hosting/domains so cheap, my feeling is that you will almost always be better served getting your own domain.

  4. Gravatar of Lisa 4 Lisa

    Great write up – Personally I only suggest using your own domain/hosted wordpress blog. I don’t suggest using wordpress’ hosted blogs for the reasons you outlined. I have seen a lot of my friends blogs simply get removed from WordPress with little to nothing they could do about it. They had to start all over again and create their blog, let me tell you that they weren’t pleased and definitely hosted their own blog after that.

  5. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 5 Rodney Smith

    Agolf: thanks for commenting – I’ve updated the poll to allow multiple selections, so you can vote now!

  6. Gravatar of Agolf Cartson 6 Agolf Cartson

    Thanks Rodney. I’ve just voted :)

  7. Gravatar of Sire 7 Sire

    I’ve always said that it is best to host your own blog so I chose wordpress.org. The reasons are many, but mainly because I want to be able to blog without fear of having what I’ve said terminated.

  8. Gravatar of Schan Ezan 8 Schan Ezan

    Hi Rodney,
    Remember last time I said my wordpress blog loads a bit slow. That is wordpress.com. For those who had been using both wordpress.com and wordpress.org, maybe you can share on the loading time differences if you are aware of any.

    I also agree that we should use our own domain name, unless of course if it is only a blog on your daily life journal. With Blogger, it only cost $10 a year to get a domain name from GoDaddy.

  9. Gravatar of Yiim 9 Yiim

    Ich ehrlich gesagt nutze ja wordpress.org

  10. Gravatar of Schüssler Salze 10 Schüssler Salze

    This is my first time to knowing the difference of these two. I thought having the same “name” construed one meaning but you make me feel I’m a little bit nerd to not knowing the difference lol. It really helps me understand the difference and I thank you for your blog.

  11. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 11 Rodney Smith

    No problem Schussler, thanks for stopping by.

  12. Gravatar of Javier | Stephen 12 Javier | Stephen

    I like the fact that WordPress.com allows you to get your feet wet. For people new to blogging, at least this allows them to get used to the interface and many of the other similar considerations, without yet having to plunk down any money, or worry about things like hosting. So it’s great.

  13. Gravatar of Atniz 13 Atniz

    I never really know there are two sites for WP before until see your post about it. Many of my friends don’t suggest wordpress free blog because they don’t allow you to do advertisement. So, blogspot is the best option if we want to monetize our blog using adsense or any other javascript programs. As for paid domain, I always install using Fantastico, so I’m not aware of it.

  14. Gravatar of Agolf Cartson 14 Agolf Cartson

    @Javier | Stephen

    I agree that the fact that it is free is great for people just testing out things. My only concern about “being free” is that you’re working on another person’s/company’s asset and not your own. But depending on your goal that might not matter.

  15. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 15 Rodney Smith

    I agree: it’s good for becoming familiar with the platform, but I also wouldn’t recommend investing any great amount of time or effort in a free blog. In comparison to the cost to you in time and effort, the cost of registering a domain and paying for hosting is negligable.

  16. Gravatar of Agitationist 16 Agitationist

    WordPress.org all the way! You really should have your own domain, and the plug-ins are fantastic.

  17. Gravatar of Martin 17 Martin

    I definitely think each has it’s own place. As easy as wordpress is to install on almost any hosting account it certainly is above the capabilities of some, and wordpress.com is the easy solution for them along with the folks that just want to put a blog online quick and easy and let someone else manage updates/security/etc.

    I however vote for wordpress.org because I like to customize my blog with plugins, skins, etc. Plus knowing that it’s running on my own server gives me comfort because I have control of when it’s online and I can guarantee it gets all necessary bandwidth and server resources. I have no such guarantees at wordpress.com.

  18. Gravatar of Vinterdekk 18 Vinterdekk

    I voted for .org – but that is because I like to host my blogs and sites on unique domains and because I have been working with WordPress for years.

    I have to admire though, how easy a newbie can get a blog on wordpress.com

  19. Gravatar of insideWebmaster 19 insideWebmaster

    Wow. I honestly had no idea at all about this. I thought that they were on and the same. Has it always been this way – or did this come after wordpress gained in popularity?

  20. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 20 Rodney Smith

    Inside: it’s been like this as long as I’ve been aware of WordPress, but I’m not sure of the history, or why they chose to do it like this. I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to dig up though. BTW, there’s another version – WordPress MU (multi-user) – which I didn’t even mention because I don’t know much about it.

  21. Gravatar of Best Deals Online 21 Best Deals Online

    WordPress.org is my one and only love :)
    Seriously, its such a powerful platform with so much room for expansions in terms of plugins, themes etc, and you have full control over everything on your on domain and hosting :)

  22. Gravatar of Make Money From Home 22 Make Money From Home

    I choose .org obviously because I can host it on my own domain. Thanks for laying the differences out. I know many people have no clue why there are two.

  23. Gravatar of Underarm Sweating 23 Underarm Sweating

    Well I decided for wordpress.org, not very tough decision at least for me.
    Because I like hoosting my blogs on domains they are unique, having the control over themes, plugins, etc..

  24. Gravatar of Odzyskiwanie Danych 24 Odzyskiwanie Danych

    Dot ORG is better if you plan to monetize your blog. Using adsense is forbidden on wordpress.com version. I don’t know how it is with banners and other ads but I think .com forbids them too.

  25. Gravatar of Bidet 25 Bidet

    I think .org is better for people planning on using adsense and other ways of monetizing because you have more control with your blog and plus you can make your blog unique

  26. Gravatar of Dieta 26 Dieta

    Your own domain is extremely important. It makes your site look a lot more professional. I mean sure you can have a professional site name.wordpress.com but who’s going to remember that? Now name.com is a lot more catchy.

  27. Gravatar of Erin Edwards 27 Erin Edwards

    Wow! This is great information. I found your site because I was thinking about setting up a blog called “Crafty Writer” and a Google search of that name led me to your associate’s blog.

    I had no idea I would find such great information for actually setting up my blog. I am working my way through all of both of your articles. They are extremely well written and helpful. Thanks again!

  28. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 28 Rodney Smith

    Erin: It’s a pleasure – glad you’re finding them useful.

  29. Gravatar of Doyle > BuyHTTP WordPress Hosting 29 Doyle > BuyHTTP WordPress Hosting

    About WordPress MU: It’s used to setup multiple blogs from a single hosting account, all controlled by a single WP installation. So even if you have 100 “separate” blogs you only have 1 set of files to maintain.

    You’re basically running your own wordpress.com, since each new blog runs on a subdomain. blog1.yourdomain.com, blog2.yourdomain.com, etc. It needs a special setup in your DNS settings for the wildcard subdomains you’ll need.

  30. Gravatar of Morgan – The Directory Link 30 Morgan – The Directory Link

    The title of this article caught my eyes and I was questioning why should it be ‘versus’, those are the same worpress. Or maybe I was wrong and I was. It is a good strategy, I think, like giving a little bit tester before selling a product. Nice marketing.

  31. Gravatar of Adam Pieniazek 31 Adam Pieniazek

    WordPress.com is great to get a taste for blogging, but with hosting that can be found for cheap, I recommend anyone who is blogging for business purposes, or even wants to be taken seriously use wordpress.org. The control you have over your site is easily worth the $50-$100 annual cost of running your own site.

    Sure, it’s not as easy to use but it’s not that difficult either.

    Also, when moving from wordpress.com to wordpress.org you can run into issues (such as pictures being linked back to wordpress.com, not good for SEO purposes) that further support starting off with wordpress.org so you don’t have to worry about it down the line.

    But for people who just want to blog for fun and toy around with it, wordpress.com is a great way to test it out without making a financial commitment.

  32. Gravatar of Dave Faulkner 32 Dave Faulkner

    I run a wordpress.com blog with my own domain name. I moved from Typepad to save money. I didn’t mind the prohibition against monetising, because I was hardly raking it in on Typepad. There were other advantages about WP, though, not least the ability to schedule posts in advance (that’s an paid upgrade on Typepad). Shelling out USD15 pa for the domain is well worth it.

    One disadvantage I haven’t noticed being mentioned above (unless I’ve missed it) is the inability to run Javascript widgets on wordpress.com. I know it’s implicit in the ban on monetisation, but there are plenty of other JS widgets I’d like to deploy that I can’t.

    Ultimately, I’d like to move my domain to wordpress.org, but two factors prevent me. One is that we have to watch every penny (although your prices are excellent, Rod). The other is the time I might need to invest in the midst of a busy life. I’ve noticed several comments on wordpress.org blogs about problems people have had with new themes, the database or other woes. So for now, it’s still wordpress.com, even if in theory I’d like the challenge of the move!

  33. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 33 Rodney Smith

    Dave: good point about the lack of javascript. I’ve also been unable to embed video clips on my wordpress.com blog, although I notice you’ve done it successfully on your site, so perhaps I did something wrong.

    As far as technical aspects of wordpress.org sites – yes, there is more of an onus on the site owner to take responsibility for smooth running of the site – applying upgrades, backups, and that kind of thing. Honestly though, I wouldn’t say it’s a big deal, especially once you’ve got everything set up. With every release, wordpress is becoming more and more self-contained (for instance you can apply upgrades from within the admin console). I expect pretty soon you’ll be able to install themes from within the console too. And if you were to get stuck, I’d be happy to lend a hand!

  34. Gravatar of Dave Faulkner 34 Dave Faulkner


    Thanks for that reply. There is a way of incorporating videos if you write the post using ‘Add New Post’ from the dashboard. There is an icon to click to include a video. Largely for major sites such as YouTube you simply end up copying the URL into a box and WP converts that into a shortcode.

    If the video doesn’t come from one of the supported services, then the way to do it is to use a vodpod.com account and link it to the wordpress.com blog. I did that regularly at Advent and Lent in recent months when I was featuring daily videos from the Damaris Trust.

    The one main disadvantage is that you have no control over the placement of the video in the post. It seems by default to be centred. If you wanted to place it on the left or the right and have text flow alongside it as you can with a JPG image, you are out of luck.

    Many thanks for the offer of help if I go to wordpress.org – very tempting! One other concern I’d have is this: while I know a little HTML, I really don’t know PHP or MySQL. Would I need any proficiency in them?

  35. Gravatar of Rodney Smith 35 Rodney Smith

    Ah-ha – well, it’s good to know it wasn’t just me being stupid! Thanks for the tips.

    You really don’t need any proficiency with php or mysql (or even html for that matter) – wordpress is geared towards those who don’t have any programming skills, which is why it’s become so popular. The only time you’d need anything like that is if you want to customise your theme – but you don’t have to do this unless you want to!

    Also, setting up your site is a breeze using Fantastico – you just fill in a couple of fields in a wizard and voila!

  36. Gravatar of Tyler 36 Tyler

    I think both options serve well, depending on what your objective is. If you are wanting to become a “full time” blogger and be taken seriously, then you should look into hosting your WordPress blog on a dedicated host with your own url.

    Many webmasters use 2.0 websites for backlinking. WordPress.com is great for this since the site carries a lot of weight. But you still have to work hard and blog. Just because it has good PR does not mean you can short change your work.

  37. Gravatar of Max Keith Gates 37 Max Keith Gates

    I prefer using WordPress.com because I don’t blog pretty often. I think if you are blogging for fun then WordPress.com is good for you but If you are promoting some service etc then you should use WordPress.org

  38. Gravatar of Chris/VegeABC 38 Chris/VegeABC

    Yeah, I’ve signed up to wordpress.com and I am really disappointed..

    for start – when free – you can customize almost nothing:
    can’t install analytics, can’t install plugins, can’t even customize css..

    and on top of that – as you wrote here (thanks for that!) they can cancel my blog at any time..
    after using lots of these free blog platforms I concluded that the best is to just get domain name, hosting , mysql database, and off we go. Don;t you think?

    Anyway, thank you for informative post, I actually recommended wordpress.com to my friend, but now thanks to you and this “may terminate …at any time” got to recomend sth else :)

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