When people first look at WordPress as a website platform, they usually notice that are two different versions of WordPress available – WordPress.com and WordPress.org – which can cause some confusion.
Both are developed by the same organization, and both are free. Both are platforms which allow you to develop a blog or webpage based sites.
There are significant differences though which we’ll look at here.
The Difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
The WordPress.org version was first out of the blocks in May 2003.
It is a self hosted platform meaning that it has to be downloaded and installed on a web host server – whether that’s your own, or on a web hosting solution from a company like Hostgator. It also requires a SQL database and ftp account to be set up for it to operate (they’re usually easy to set up with functionality provided by the admin panel at the web host).
The WordPress.com version was subsequently developed to provide a platform without these technical necessities. There is no software to download, hosting is taken care of by WordPress.com, along with backups, security, updates etc. You do not have to manage or control the platform software at all. Your site is managed for you and you just have to supply the content.
WordPress.com provides a platform for you to get a website or blog site up and running quickly and easily. Just go to WordPress.com, register and you’re away.
So What’s the Downside of WordPress.com?
If the .com version sounds so good, then you might wonder why there’s still the other version!
Well, WordPress.com is pretty restricted and limited in many ways compared to WordPress.org.
For example, with WordPress.com there are dozens of themes to choose from, but you cannot use a customised theme of your own choice. You also cannot upload and use plugins to obtain additional functionality.
It’s also much more difficult to monetize a WordPress.com site. You can’t normally include adverts from programs like Google Adsense that might earn you revenue. Indeed, you may have adverts placed on your site by WordPress and from which you get no income. You’re also very limited in any affiliate links you can include.
So, WordPress.com is extremely well suited to people who want a blog or website without needing any degree of technical expertise and is good for developing personal, family and private sites. It can even be used for business websites that just want a basic presence on the internet that they can refer people to.
But it’s not a great basis to build any kind of online business on.
… and What’s With WordPress.org?
WordPress.org sites require a little more effort to set up and maintain, although you don’t have to be a technical whizz to do so.
You have to have somewhere to host a WordPress.org site, which involves a small cost, and install them (although walk through guides will help most people accomplish this without too much difficulty).
You’ll have to update the software from time to time (usually just a couple of clicks), approve any comments (or not), and it’ll be you that’s responsible backing up the site etc.
However, you also have a far greater degree of control over the site as a result. Design options are greatly enhanced with a wide choice of free and premium themes. A huge range of plugins allow for extending functionality in all sorts of directions.
You also have a far greater degree of control over factors that influence search engine optimization with premium themes like Catalyst Theme and plugins like WordPress SEO allowing page titles, headings and permalinks to be set as desired and to help optimize the site for search engines.
As a result, sites developed with WordPress.org are much easier to rank for in search engines compared to WordPress.com sites.
You can also run advertising, link to affiliate programs and generally have a much greater ability to monetize a WordPress.org site.
So, if you want a site that’s really yours, your asset, that you control, that has design flexibility, that you can optimize for search engines, and that you can monetize more effectively, you’re going to want to use WordPress.org.