WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS. However, apart from powering many self-hosted WordPress websites, this CMS is also used as a hosted solution. Need a quick free blog? Yes, this is where hosted WordPress offerings come into play!
In this article, we shall be taking a look at four of the most popular hosted WordPress solution providers.
You cannot talk about hosted WP solutions without mentioning WordPress.com, brought to you by WP’s parent organization, Automattic. WP.com is by far the most popular WP-powered blog hosting service.
WordPress.com offers both free and premium features. The list of free features in WP.com is impressive, to say the least. First up, you get a whopping 3 GB of storage for your media files. You also get access to various free themes, as well as the standard features such as ability to automatically share your posts across multiple social networks, detailed statistics and analytics, integration with mobile apps, and so on.
In terms of paid upgrades, WP.com allows you to have custom domains at $13 per year, extra storage at $20 per year, and you can also use custom CSS by paying $30 per year. Need to upload videos? Use the VideoPress upgrade at $60 per year.
Since most hosted WP solution providers do not offer you the ability to have custom plugins or upload your own themes, you are pretty much at the mercy of their own theme repository. WP.com has a rather large collection of themes — amounting to over 210, out of which 53 are premium. The themes are divided into multiple niches, such as tumblog, portfolio, magazine, photography, and even wedding and teaching!
Adverts and Limitations:
WordPress.com occasionally displays advertisements on blogs. However, there is an ad-free upgrade that you can purchase for $30 per annum. Furthermore, the WordAds program lets you enter the advertising model and have a revenue sharing deal with WP.com
One point worth mentioning here is that by default, WP.com does not show its advertisements on your home page. This is what puts WP.com a step ahead of the others: most other hosted WP services place ads on your home page, and the only way to remove them is to opt for the paid upgrades.
Considering the fact that WP.com comes from the same stable as WordPress.org, it is natural for the former to have the latest bells and whistles as and when they are released. Thus, each time a new version of WP rolls out or a new default theme (such as Twenty Twelve) is released, WP.com users get a treat earlier than all other hosted solutions. Feeling jealous?
Overall, if you are looking for a hosted WP solution, WP.com should be, in all aspects, given weightage over others. It has an impressive list of features, and the paid upgrades are modestly priced.
Blog.com is another popular hosted blog provider that uses WordPress. While it is not as popular as WordPress.com, it has an active community and many really interesting blogs.
Apart from an awesome domain, Blog.com also has many other features in its quiver. Just like WP.com, Blog.com also lets you automatically share your posts across social networking sites, have multi-author blogs and blog without any worries. The free storage space is 2 GB, with options to upgrade it later on, as and when needed.
In terms of premium features, Blog.com lets you use a custom domain for $18 per year and use custom design by paying $15 per year. If you need to go beyond the free 2 GB storage limit, you can opt for 10 GB storage at $20 per year.
What about themes? Blog.com’s theme repository is not as populated as that of WP.com As of now, you get 105 themes, out of which 14 are premium. Some of the themes are pretty interesting — take a look at, for example, Spiky. However, on the downside, not all premium themes at Blog.com are actually premium — Buttercream, for instance, is a free theme being offered as a paid one.
Unlike WP.com, Blog.com does not believe in individual pricing for premium themes. You need to pay $68 per year, and you can get access to all the premium themes. This is comparable to Club Membership fees model of many premium theme providers.
Adverts and Limitations:
Blog.com places ads in your sidebar (including the homepage). The ad-free upgrade costs $30 per year (which, by the way, also gives you the ability to display your own ads).
However, the sidebar ads are not much of an interference, to be honest. The worst part is the header bar that Blog.com displays on top of all of its blogs (much like what Blogger does).
When I emailed them regarding it, Blog.com told me that the ad-free upgrade also gives you the option to eliminate the header bar.
Blog.com does not seem to have many advantages over WordPress.com (apart from, probably, having one of the most awesome and desirable domains). That said, if you are looking for a hosted WP solution that also gives you the ability use your own custom ads (albeit after a paid upgrade), Blog.com is your best bet.
Blog.com has its own community awards and blog showcases, so yes, you will not feel lonely when blogging with them but the user base is not as huge as that of WordPress.
Ideally, RapidPress is more of a managed WP hosting provider than a hosted WP solution, but since RapidPress is projecting itself as an alternative to WP.com (their pricing column too has a table comparing their plans against WP.com), it makes sense to include RapidPress here.
As of now, RapidPress does not have a free plan. You need to pay $29.95 per year in order to host your website or blog with them. Included goodies are custom domain mapping, URL forwarding and video embed. As per RapidPress, purchasing the same upgrades at WP.com would set you back by $86 per year ($13+$13+$60).
Apart from all of the above, RapidPress offers certain other features that WP.com or Blog.com do not: regular backups and uptime guarantee. In fact, as far as I get it, RapidPress is what you’ll get if you cross proper shared web hosting with hosted WP offerings.
There is no theme repository as such, but since RapidPress is more of shared WordPress hosting, you are free to employ themes and plugins of your choice.
Adverts and Limitations:
RapidPress does not place any adverts on your websites.
That said, RapidPress follows a shared hosting model, and thus, while it promises unlimited hosting space and bandwidth, you will probably need to upgrade if your website generates a good deal of traffic. Now, RapidPress itself is slightly ambiguous as to what is an acceptable number of monthly visitors for its websites, but this is what it says for sites that outgrow its plans:
A very small percentage of users may require more bandwidth, disk space or customization options than we cannot provide in a shared hosting environment. These users will need their own hosting environment to ensure that they are able to access the disk space, bandwidth and settings they need. We will work with these users to migrate to a more permanent solution – most likely VPS hosting.
RapidPress is brought to you by Name.com, which happens to be one of the leading domain name registration websites. Naturally, you can expect a good service in terms of hosting and uptime.
As a result, if you need a hosted WordPress solution with advanced features such as custom themes and plugins and domain, but do not wish to invest in managed or mainstream hosting, RapidPress can be your best budget-friendly bet!
The last hosted WP solution provider on our list, Blogetery, is a rather interesting case in itself. First up, while writing this article, I have tried to access it multiple times — over a period of 4 days. Failed. Each time. “Technical Difficulties.”
Ah… maybe history is repeating itself — Blogetery has had issues in the past, and was shut down. But it resumed its services and the last time I tried it some months back, it was working fine. Back then, it had over 140 themes, free custom domain mapping (yes, free!), and paid plans starting at $3.50 per month for premium themes/plugins and additional storage.
So, if I am struggling to even open the Blogetery home page (and the above screenshot is a copy of the Google cached version), why have I even bothered mentioning Blogetery here?
To be honest, I just wanted to give Blogetery the benefit of doubt. Maybe they are having a rough patch as of now — their Facebook page too has some posts by users asking them about their “server status” (all dated March, so I guess this is not a good month to be Blogetery).
Also, even if Blogetery were online, their free plan fills up your blog with too many ads, and the storage offered is only 250 MB. So unless you opt for the paid plan, there will not be much to brag about (apart from, of course, the free custom domain mapping).
Hosted WordPress offerings do not have the freedom and customization features that come with self-hosted WordPress. You do not get to install custom themes or plugins, and you are bound to choose from the collection offered by your host. Plus, much-needed features such as domain mapping and being ad-free are generally paid upgrades.
However, in spite of all the drawbacks and limitations, hosted WP solutions offer you ease of use and help you blog effectively, without the hassles of managing your web hosting account.
So are they worth it? Definitely yes, if you are looking to create a quick WP site, and can afford to live without heavy plugins and other custom features.
Have you ever used a hosted WP solution? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!