WordPress.org is not the same as WordPress.com. In fact, they are two very different worlds. Let’s take a look at the main differences and the reason for the same name.
What is WordPress.org?
When we talk about “WordPress”, we usually refer to WordPress.org. On that website we can find a software called “WordPress” that we can download for free, install on a server (that is, in the space we hire from our hosting company) and start using it.
This software has no limitations. We can modify and alter it as much as we want through themes and plugins, and we can even (although we should not) touch the code itself (what is called “core”).
So, we are the masters in our WordPress installation.
What is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com is an online service (software as a service). A website where you don’t download anything. You simply register and you can create a blog or website on their servers. There is no need to hire hosting to anyone, because the web is on their servers.
Make a website on WordPress is also free, but there are certain “upgrades” or improvements that you must pay if you want them. The most typical ones are an increase of disk space, or a custom domain, since in the free version of the service, the web is a subdomain, like https://my-web.wordpress.com.
There are things in common between wordpress.org and wordpress.com
What do WordPress.com and WordPress.org have in common? Well, basically “WordPress”, the software itself. And it turns out that WordPress.com works with the same software as WordPress.org.
In short, WordPress.com is a website in which WordPress.org software has been installed to offer people the option of creating a website without having to hire domains or hosting.
Obviously there is another thing in common. The name. Everything is called WordPress. Why? Well, this is because the co-founder of WordPress.org (Matt Mullenweg) decided to create WordPress.com and put his software there for people to see it (and make some money).
Differences Between the two WordPress
WordPress.org is open, free and free, and is owned by The WordPress Foundation, a non-profit foundation, chairman of which is Matt Mullenweg. WordPress.com is a brand, and is owned by Automattic, a for-profit (and very much for-profit) company, CEO of which is Matt Mullenweg. That’s where the name comes from (Automattic).
The software you download from WordPress.org allows you to install the themes you want, whoever they are from, as well as create your own and use them. The service offered by WordPress.com does not allow you to install the themes you want. You can only choose from the ones they offer you.
The software you download from WordPress.org allows you to install plugins, which are “small programs” that you add to the basic WordPress installation, to extend its functionality. The service offered by WordPress.com does not allow you to install any plugins. In fact, not even that section appears in the control panel.
The software you download from WordPress.org you can monetize it as you wish, with no limits other than those set by the law of your country. You can use it freely. The service offered by WordPress.com allows limited monetization, because to place ads you must have more than 25,000 monthly page views and meet their requirements. In addition, you must share the income with WordPress.com at 50%.
The software you download from WordPress.org is free of advertising, unless you want to place it yourself. The service offered by WordPress.com displays ads, unless you pay $30 a year to get rid of the ads.
The software you download from WordPress.org must be maintained by you. When there are new versions you must update them yourself, or through the automatic system, and if something goes wrong you must fix it yourself. The service offered by WordPress.com does not require maintenance, because they do it themselves, as it is their software that they have installed on their server. So, you don’t have any headache in that sense and you always have the latest version.
The software you download from WordPress.org can be customized without limits, since you can touch the code, themes, plugins, PHP and CSS. You are in charge. The service offered by WordPress.com does not allow customization, unless you hire the custom CSS service for $30 per year, which allows you to add CSS code. Nothing else.
8. Network of websites
The software you download from WordPress.org cannot be part of a blog network unless you create it yourself, through the multisite options, which require you to touch code. The service offered by WordPress.com is part of the WordPress.com blog network, which itself is a multisite. In other words, your website will be one of those multisite sites.
The software you download from WordPress.org you can accept Google Analytics or any other statistics tool of your choice. The service offered by WordPress.com does not support Google Analytics, but has its own, much (much) more limited statistics system.
The software you download from WordPress.org is free, but you will need to buy a domain name and hosting if you want to use it. The service offered by WordPress.com is free, unless you want the upgrades, such as more than 3GB of space, custom domain or other extras.
Which is better?
If you’ve made it this far, I’m guessing you’ll be able to answer this question yourself. The answer is “it depends”. If you want to build a website and control all aspects of it, install an eCommerce plugin, or a third-party theme, WordPress.org is your only option. If on the other hand you just want to create an easy and simple website, select a theme from the “allowed” ones, not customize anything or install any plugin, WordPress.com is for you.