WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: A Definitive Guide For 2014

WordPress.org or WordPress.com? If you’re new to WordPress, it’s a common question and often one that needs a little explanation since the two get confused.

In this post we’ll compare the two and look at their pros and cons. We’ll explore:

  • The differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
  • Compare each of their:
    • Costs
    • Freedoms and limitations
    • Maintenance and development
  • How to decide between WordPress.org and WordPress.com

What is WordPress.org?

The WordPress.org website.

WordPress is open source blogging/CMS software that powers 22 per cent of the web, including this one.

The software is a community-driven project and WordPress.org is where you can download the WordPress installation files, and search for and download free themes and plugins.

The site also contains WordPress news, documentation and community support forums. It’s also the place to go if you want to get involved in the WordPress and contribute to the core code, mobile apps, translation and accessibility.

What is WordPress.com?

The WordPress.com website.
The WordPress.com website.

WordPress.com is a commercial website where you can host a free site with some limitations or pay a yearly fee to remove the restrictions.

The site runs on the WordPress software offered at WordPress.org

Matt Mullenweg, who co-created the WordPress software, also founded Automattic, the company that operates WordPress.com.

Since WordPress.com is a hosted service, it means you don’t have to worry about finding a web host or downloading and installing the WordPress software. The service does all that for you.

Comparing WordPress.org and WordPress.com

Now let’s compare three of the most important considerations when deciding between WordPress.org and WordPress.com: cost, freedoms and limitations, and maintenance and development.

Cost Comparison


If you’re new to WordPress, it’s important to note that even though WordPress is free, open source software, hosting your own WordPress is not free.

You will hosting and a domain to run WordPress. Hosting with popular web hosts like Go Daddy and Bluehost is pretty cheap (as outlined in the image below). Domains usually cost around $10+ a year.

Once you’ve got your site set up, then you need to think about themes and plugins. There are many free themes available at WordPress.org, but these usually lack the advanced features and functionality need for, say, an online store or a business/corporate site. There are many premium theme stores around, like Elegant Themes or WooThemes, and the Themeforest marketplace offers more choice than you can poke a stick up.


On the other hand, WordPress.com offers plans and upgrades.

The plans include:

  • Basic – Free – Includes free blog, WordPress.com address, basic customization, no premium themes included, no eCommerce, no video storage, 3 GB of space, may show ads, community support.
  • Premium – $99 – free blog, a custom domain, advanced customization, no premium themes included, no eCommerce, store dozens of videos, 13 GB of space, no ads, direct email support.
  • Business – $299 – free blog, a custom domain, advanced customization, 50+ premium themes included, eCommerce, store unlimited videos, unlimited space, no ads, live chat support.

Here’s a quick visual breakdown comparing costs for WordPress.org and WordPress.com:

WordPress cost comparison

There are some other WordPress.com upgrades, too:

  • Custom design – $30 per blog, per year
  • Guided transfer to a self-hosted WordPress.org site – $129 per blog
  • Premium themes – One-off $20 fee, or $120 per year for unlimited themes
  • Site redirect – $13 per blog, per year
  • VideoPress – $60 per blog, per year

A free Basic WordPress.com plan is the least expensive option, particularly if you don’t want a custom domain name and don’t mind using their free themes with no modifications.

If you want a fully-featured site with your own domain name, unlimited storage for your videos and images, and no advertising, WordPress.com can become quite expensive.

If cost is your most important consideration, then downloading WordPress from WordPress.org will be your most affordable option.

Freedoms and Limitations


Limitations or no limitations?

When you set up a site using WordPress on your own server, you have the freedom to do whatever you want with it.

You can:

  • Use any free or premium plugin
  • Use any free or premium theme
  • Add and edit files via FTP, cPanel or whatever method your web host allows
  • Tweak WordPress files and server settings to improve performance
  • Full control of your content – no ads


In comparison, WordPress.com comes with limitations. The folks at WordPress.com are running a business. They provide the convenience of a WordPress environment all ready for you to use. They maintain the software so that you never have to touch code or worry about security or other such concerns.

In return, you must pay for any upgrades, from simply removing advertising to activating a different theme.

Limitations include:

  • Limited to WordPress.com themes – you can’t upload your own
  • No custom plugins
  • Limited storage space
  • Limited control of your content, i.e. you must pay to remove ads
  • No FTP access to your files

It’s also important to note that with WordPress.com you can’t use third-party advertising solutions, such as Google AdSense. You also can’t track your stats with Google Analytics.

If having freedom and full control over your WordPress site is an important factor for you, consider setting up your own site with software from WordPress.org

Maintenance and Development


Having full control over your site also comes with great responsibility. You will need to be prepared to regularly maintain and update your site. You will also need to make sure your site is secure and less vulnerable to hacking. Spam is also a likely problem you will need to deal with.

On top of that, if you have any problems with your server you will need to sort it our yourself with your web host.

There are managed hosting services such as Pagely and WP Engine that can take care of the maintenance of your site for you.

Maintaining a site can take up a lot of your site unless you want to hire someone else to take care of it for you.

You may want to consider using a managed WordPress hosting solution, such as Pagely or WP Engine. These services look after all the backend maintenance for you, but, of course, it comes with an increased cost.


The folks at WordPress will take care of all maintenance and development for you. You won’t have to worry about plugins breaking after an upgrade or your site suddenly going down because of a problem with your host.

You won’t have to keep up-to-date with WordPress news and upgrade your site each time a major version of the software is released.

The decision on whether or not to maintain and develop your site yourself depends entirely on your skills ability, and also how much time and effort you want to put into looking after your site.

If you would rather not deal with anything technical and don’t have the time to commit to ongoing maintenance and development, then WordPress.com would be the best option for you.

So… WordPress.org or WordPress.com?

Choosing between the two comes down to choosing the best option that will support the type of site you want to create.

If you are a casual blogger, don’t want to worry about maintenance and security, and don’t want or need a custom domain, then WordPress.com is ideal for you.

Howevever, if you want full control over your site, want to upload themes and plugins, or want to create an eCommerce or business site, then you may want to go with WordPress.org

WordPress comparison

If you’re still not sure, check out this handy video we created comparing WordPress.org and WordPress.com

This video offers a quick overview of everything you will want to consider when deciding between the two options:

Our Recommendation: WordPress.org

When it comes down to cost, freedoms and limitations, and maintenance and development considerations, WordPress.org wins hands down.

It may take more time and effort to set up a WordPress site, but you will have full control over the look and feel of your site. You will be able to use custom themes and customize their look, and also upload custom plugins to add more functionality to your site.

If you plan to grow your site and increase traffic, then downloading WordPress from WordPress.org is our recommendation.

What is your experience of using WordPress.org and WordPress.com? Let us know in the comments below.

27 Responses


    Good article i think another important thing to note is that with wp.com you cannot run 3rd party advertising solutions such as adsense.

    You also cannot track your stats with google analytics so if you run ad campaigns from adwords to your site you will not be able to track conversions.

    i had a client who was happily using wp.com for a business site but that last restriction forced us to move him off of wp.com


    Thank you for this article. You really presented the comparison well. I am considering the free basic wp.com for cost reasons and to test out the waters of my blogging and audience (since I’m a new blogger). But if I want to upgrade to a wp.org option later with my own hosting and custom domain name, would it be an easy transition? Would my blog content be able to transfer from ###.wordpress.com to ###.com? It was never clear from the wordpress websites.


    I consult quite a bit in the free to nearly free space, and I might leave you with the following suggestions:

    1.) WordPress.com is extremely fast. Self hosted on the other hand, becomes over time – almost without exception – prohibitively slow to respond requests. Bluehost and GoDaddy are notorious. They cache your pages (or something like that) if they’re not always busy. This is critical as mobile access now accounts for more than 50% of site visits (in most of my client’s applications, at least.)

    2.) Successor planning is easy in WordPress.com. You simply hand the site over to them. The most frequent use for this is in the NGO / NPO Space.

    3.) WordPress.com on-boards Analytics via JetPack. It’s not often I see clients require deeper info than is available in there.

    4.) Stability and updates are an issue with wordpress.org software. Most site operators will require an engineer to assure uptime in the self-hosted world. That means money. Sure you can operate gajillions of plugins — but that doesn’t mean they’ll operate if you keep current with the WP CSS.

    5.) Operating Many unknown Plugins is an extreme security hazard.

    I think you left some of this out of your analysis. If spend is the issue, and security among the issues you need to consider, wordpress.com is a natural choice.

    6.) IF you MUST operate a self-hosted WordPress.org site, look at Amazon Web Services. They will permit you an affordable solution, that will remain responsive and probably do it for less than the others.

    Thanks for reading,


      I think your analysis of wordpress.org is overblown. WordPress.org is pretty stable and usable to the point it can do much more than just hosting a blog – which is what wordpress.com does.

      As for plugins some have issues of course. But anyone that knows about hosting wordpress knows that this isn’t a big deal and to just stay away from plugins that have bad ratings or don’t download and install them in bunches.

      Lastly, I like to point at that you don’t need a engineer to host a wordpress.org site. Its easily installed through Cpanel and can get you up in running in no time. Just about every hosting service provides an easy install for wordpress with your hosting service.

      As a consultant I find your information lacking in the truth meter. The best sites on the Internet run off of wordpress.org and have been stable for many years now. I do suggest you look into wordpress.org more. Its a whole different world rather than the very limited and very lacking wordpress.com system.


    The video is confusing me. It says something about no eCommerce on .COM but I see the $299 plan specifically states I would get eCommerce. Please clear the cobwebs out of my head . . .


    What about the ecommerce question…as per Stephens comment. I see that the wordpress.com business option provides ecommerce, but your comparison recommends .org for ecommerce considerations?

      Raelene Wilson

      WordPress.com does offer eCommerce, but there are only two options available: Ecwid and Shopify. If you use WordPress.org, you have more freedom in terms of eCommerce solutions and more control over the options you can offer your customers and the look and feel of your online store.


    Thank you Raelene. This is a great article with excellent answers for beginners like me. In fact, as a consultant I get frequent requests from my clients asking me for WordPress sites but at the same time they want full functionality and sometimes I did not know what to say. What I do is to combine .NET for business functions and WordPress for blogs, everything under the same look & feel.

    Now, my question. One of the issues my clients have on WordPress.org is the SEO capability. Their understanding is that .com is great in SEO but .org completely lacks of it. Is that true? If that is the case, how can we improve the SEO capability of .org to make it comparable with the .com version?

    Thank you again,

    Alvaro Ramirez

    WP Hosting Blog

    Whatever you choose, always run your blog or website from your own domain to build domain value.

    I prefer the hosted WordPress and I like to optimize WordPress blogs and websites for maximum performance. I even write about this on my blog.

    Hosting is one of the most aspects of well performing WordPress sites.


    Hello to All!

    I loved this article & all the comparison’s. GREAT! learning from the feedback as well. Couple questions- can you explain what the host actually is and or does?

    I am someone who just enjoys the internet and reading blogs and likes to research material/articles and most of all like to make extra money on the side. Can always use extra $. Friend of mine has a site with ads that make them $. I would like to do something like that. I’m not a IT person at all and certainly do not know all them codes and terminology.

    I know know by your wonderful article the .COM is my best.

    Is it OK to use the YouTube Videos, in particular Tyler Moore, he seems to be the popular one with all the how to videos. Ive taken lots of notes and feel I can develop that website and only be out about $25.00?

    What about affiliate programs to purchase the ads to make $. How does this work? Friend mentioned Google ad-sense adds? Have not Google that yet. Any idea on how much the money making ads runs in cost?

    How to I get paid? From Google ad-sense ads? what other avenue’s out there for ad’s?

    Friend mentioned, you can share things on other bloggers and they may return favors?

    Bloggers- IF I set up my website using Kyle tutorial on WordPress then am I considered a blogger also?

    When I find information websites with articles per-say then I can share ? with them?

    Any help would be great!! I’m very interested and excited to do this but don’t want to get deep in my research and do the wrong website etc..

    Thank you to anyone for advise/help!!!!

    Patty J. Ayers

    Did you mean to write “If cost is your most important consideration, then downloading WordPress from WordPress.org will be your most affordable option.”

    Seems like that should say “…WordPress.com will be your most affordable option.”

    Then you go on to say, and I heartily agree:

    “If having freedom and full control over your WordPress site is an important factor for you, consider setting up your own site with software from WordPress.org.”



    Didn’t WordPress.com Basic have a policy against free blogs containing commercial content? I can’t find anything about that in their terms and conditions.


    What is suggested when a .com blog uses all it’s free space? Upgrade to a monthly / yearly charge or change to .org?
    If change to .org, can the existing .com blog be transferred?


    Most often people stay confused regarding the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Well let me tell you, WordPress is a powerful and most prominent platform letting you to establish your blogs or websites online using millions of predesigned themes and plugins (I.e. http://wp-nulled.com/category/wordpress-plugins/). Where at first side, WordPress.com is a fully hosted version; while on the other hand, WordPress.org is the self-hosted one. To understand the major difference between both, one can refer https://en.support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/. I hope that all confusions will be solved.