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▷ WordPress.com or WordPress.org, what is the difference?

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Which version to choose between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, freedom or simplicity?
If you’re here it’s because you have doubts, and it’s normal. There is still a lot of confusion between the two versions of WordPress and it’s not always easy to make sense of it.

Here is our full article to help you choose between the WordPress.com platform made at Automattic and the open source solution that can be downloaded from WordPress.org.

In this article, we will take a tour of the two ways to create a website on WordPress to try to get a clearer idea. If you have not yet created your website, this article will give you all the keys to understand the differences between the free version of WordPress (wordpress.org) and the comprehensive platform WordPress.com.

If you have already created a website with the WordPress.com platform, this article may make you want to switch to the light side of the force.

Overview of WordPress versions

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a hosting platform that facilitates online publishing. The software is hosted and maintained by the Automattic team, a company created by the founders of today’s most widely used content management system (CMS): WordPress.

On WordPress.com there are no setup requirements, no backups, just focus on content creation! It is a turnkey package like Blogger, TypePad, etc., which has its limitations.

WordPress.org

On the other hand, what is called WordPress.org (because that’s where you download the CMS) is the free, original and therefore complete version of the WordPress website creation tool (see how to install WordPress)

Commonly referred to as a “self-hosted solution”, to use the free version of WordPress you buy a domain name and hosting, install WordPress and can modify it, customize it, etc.

Rates

Let’s go straight to the heart of the matter, to the nerves of war: money! We are going to review the prices of the WordPress.com platform and, on the other hand, we will see the minimum investment to install the free version of WordPress (wordpress.org).

WordPress.com platform prices

The WordPress.com platform offers a range of pricing from a free basic plan with very limited features to a special e-commerce plan of €450 per year. Pricing will vary depending on the plan’s “unlocked” options.

Free Staff Top quality Business E-commerce
0€ 4€/month
or 48€/year
8€/month
or 96€/year
25€/month
or 300€/year
45€/month
or 540€/year
Very limited functions Very limited functions Limited functions Unlocked functions except e-commerce Fully unlocked features

Pricing for the free version of WordPress (wordpress.org).

If you decide to use the free version of WordPress (wordpress.org), the price will vary depending on your choices, but there will always be one basic requirement: the purchase of a domain name and web hosting. Taking a “first price” hosting, you can get by for about 35 euros/year, but if you want a good hosting with some performance, then the price will be higher.

Then you can use the free themes and plugins to build your WordPress site. But if you want certain features, you may have to go for high-end themes and plugins, which vary a lot in price.

WordPress Hosting Domain Topics Plugins
Free From 25€/year for first price shared hosting. From 10€/year for a .com domain name Free or paid depending on the desired features. Free or paid depending on desired features.

General functionality

When you want to create a website, you expect to have certain features, the ability to change the look and feel, maybe add options, be able to accept payments for a store, and so on. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do with each solution between the WordPress.com platform and the free version of WordPress.

General features of WordPress.com

As we have seen above, the features offered by the WordPress.com platform will depend on the plan you choose.

The free basic plan is very limited: you will have a hosting package with a “boxed” WordPress installed. You will have very few customization possibilities and the presence of ads.

To start having a bit of control over your site and to be able to start customizing it a bit, you will have to opt for the Premium plan (96€/year). But to really unlock features close to what you can do with the book version of WordPress (wordpress.org), you will have to move to the Business plan (300 euros/year). However, here too, not all the options that relate to online stores will be available. To unlock the e-commerce functions, you will have to go to the most expensive plan (540 euros/year).

Overview of the general features of WordPress.com

Free Plan Staff
(48€/year)
Premium
(96€/year)
Business
(300€/year)
E-commerce (540€/year)
Hosting All of the above features All of the above features All of the above features All of the above features
Choice of basic topics. + Custom domain + Premium themes + Support 7/7 24/24 + Woocommerce store
Jetpack Add-on + Email support + Design customization + SEO tools + WooCommerce Theme
+ Advertising removed + Adwords, Google Analytics integration + Extensions for external installations and themes. + Delivery options
+ Share on social networks + Automatic saving
+ Live chat support + FTP and database access.
+ Paypal integration + Removed “WordPress.com” branding.
3 GB storage 6 GB storage 13 GB storage 200 GB storage 200 GB storage

General features of WordPress.org

See the e-commerce plan (€540/year) in the box above? Well, if we keep it simple, by purchasing the hosting and installing the free version of WordPress.org, you will have access to all the features of this plan and more. Literally anything you want to do, you can do without limits.

First, of course, you will have control of your hosting manager, with access to your database and disk space via FTP. And then you can install the free and “unlocked” version of WordPress, which includes all its features, access to all component files to customize them if necessary and the ability to install all themes and plugins on the market, without any limit.

Once again, there is an astronomical amount of totally free themes and plugins, with more than enough features to create a large number of websites, even for a professional project. It is therefore quite possible to create a WordPress site for free.

That said, it is obvious that some features will require the purchase of premium themes or plugins and the final investment can sometimes be significant. But it is also important to know that many premium themes and plugins are a one-time purchase and are therefore investments that pay off very quickly.

Summary of general WordPress.org features.

Hosting WordPress Themes and Plugins
Custom domain Access to WordPress code Access to all existing themes (free and premium).
Hosting manager (Cpanel or other) No advertising Access to all existing Plugins (free and premium).
FTP access Many helpful resources on the web. Security and backup
Database access Integration of Adwords, Google Analytics, Facebook Pixels, etc. SEO Tools
Access to PHP version Possible PHP changes E-commerce
Speed and storage vary by budget Optimization and performance.
Social networking
Great customization design, CSS modification, page builders.

Installation and start-up

Now, the idea of this section is not to detail all the steps needed to create a website with WordPress, but to give you an overview of WordPress installation procedures in different versions.

Installation on WordPress.com

On the WordPress.com platform, the installation process will be more like a registration than an installation. Again, the idea of WordPress.com is that you can’t control things, it’s the exact opposite.

There’s no hosting to manage, no FTP access to upload files, no configuration – the installation is automated, once you’ve signed up, all you have to do is start customizing your website.

  • Step 1: Choose a plan on wordpress.com
  • Step 2: Enter your email address, username and password.
  • Step 3: Choose a domain name (free with the wordpress.com extension or paid with extensions such as .fr or .com)
  • Step 3a: Pay if you have chosen a domain name and/or a payment plan
  • Step 4: Your site is created, you can customize it (depending on the plan you choose) and start creating your first pages and posts.

Installation on WordPress.org

With the free version of WordPress, you’ll have to get your hands a little dirty, but it’s clearly worth it.

It’s not that complicated to understand and use the general website environment: have a custom domain name like “mydomain.com” and find a good host to install WordPress with its access to a database and FTP space (kind of like your website’s online hard drive)

There are plenty of resources to help you get started with WordPress, and the quick training courses will give you all the keys to become self-employed very quickly.

Also, many web hosts now offer automatic WordPress installers, so you don’t have to do anything if you need to.

  • Step 1: Buy a domain name and hosting.
  • Step 2: Create a database and password from your hosting manager (Cpanel or other).
  • Step 3: Download WordPress from wordpress.org and upload the file to your hosting via FTP
  • Step 4: Follow the WordPress installation process by going to my-site.com/wp-config.php
  • Step 5: Your site is created, you can customize it by logging into my-site.com/wp-login.php

Customization

The grace of WordPress is its infinite degree of customization and the freedom to modify, update and adapt a website to our desires and creative ideas.

But as we explained above, with the WordPress.com platform this freedom comes at a price, and you’ll have to look for the most expensive plans to compete with the degree of customization of the free version of WordPress.

Customization on WordPress.com

Customization is one of the big weaknesses of the WordPress.com platform. Simply put, with a free plan, you will have access to almost no customization of your website. You will choose a free theme and your site will have the design that the theme offers, except for a few details, period.

Of course, you can buy a premium theme, but given the limitations of free and personal plans, it’s hard to see the point of spending money on a customizable theme without being able to unlock all the features of WordPress.

To access an “advanced” degree of customization, you’ll have to upgrade to the Premium plan (€96/year), which gives you access to premium themes for free. But again, in the end you are paying a 96€/year plan for a “free” access to premium themes without having access to all WordPress features.

To really have an equivalent of what you can do with the free version of WordPress, you’ll have to buy a Business Plan at €300/year.

Summary of customization features on WordPress.com.

Free Plan Staff
(48€/year)
Premium
(96€/year)
Business
(300€/year)
E-commerce (540€/year)
Very limited customization (add logo, some colors, only some fonts). Same as free plan All previous customizations All previous features Same as business plan
+ Access to 100 free themes (paid premium themes). + More advanced customization (colors, font, css). + Remove the “WordPress.com” credit from the footer.
+ Access to 100 premium themes + Add external themes allowed
+Added external plugins allowed

Customization in WordPress.org

The free version of WordPress offers the highest level of customization. You may wonder, what is the difference with WordPress.com since the customization options are more related to the choice of theme?

This is both true and false.

Yes, a free theme offers a limited degree of customization, but remember that with the free version of WordPress you have the full power of the “unrestricted” WordPress CMS in your hands as soon as you install it.

This means that even with a free basic theme, you’ll be able to empower yourself to customize the CSS and PHP code and do pretty much anything you want with it. It’s even possible to create your theme completely from scratch to get the result you want for free.

Obviously, the easiest solution is to buy a (good) premium theme that will come with a significant amount of customization.

Summary of the customization features of the free version of WordPress (wordpress.org)

Themes Plugins WordPress
Unlimited access to all existing free and premium themes. Unlimited access to all existing free and premium Plugins. Access to WordPress code
Possibility of CSS customization Access to all page builders Possibility of PHP customization
Possibility of PHP customization Added all possible customization functions. Installation Child theme possible.

Security

When it comes to security, some of you may be wondering if it would be safer to opt for a platform that takes care of everything, such as WordPress.com, rather than having to manage this part yourself. Let’s take a closer look to give you an idea of what it’s like to secure a WordPress site.

WordPress.com Security

On the WordPress.com platform, whether it’s a free, premium (96€/year) or enterprise (300€/year) plan, you have no control over the security aspect. Or rather, to be more positive, the platform takes care of everything and has nothing to do.

The stability of the hosting servers must be guaranteed, as well as the protection of your site against possible attacks and hacks. On this point there is not much to reproach the platform.

There is only one thing that darkens the picture a bit: support. In case of a problem, because problems can always occur with any website, you will only have access to a backup of your site to be able to reinstall a previous version in a simplified way with the Business Plan (300 €/year).

Overview of security on the WordPress.com platform.

Free Plan Staff
(48€/year)
Premium
(96€/year)
Business
(300€/year)
E-commerce
(540€/year)
Security is supported by the platform. Same as above Same as above Possibility to add security plugins Same as above

WordPress.org Security

If you use the free version of WordPress, you will need to ensure the security of your entire WordPress site, and your hosting company will need to ensure server-side security.

On the server side of hosting, don’t worry, if you choose a quality host they should be able to offer you stability and availability of your website. There may always be some interruptions in access, but they should only be exceptional and of very short duration. Otherwise: change host.

However, for the WordPress part, it will be your responsibility. You should know that more than millions of websites use WordPress worldwide, making it the most used CMS on the market. This popularity does not come without some drawbacks, and security is one of them.

Since WordPress is an open source CMS, which means that the code is freely accessible, it is very easy for hackers around the world to work on ways to attack websites that use WordPress. This is why it will be very important that you protect your site well.

Is it complicated? From my point of view, no. Like other features, WordPress has the great advantage of offering solutions to almost any problem. Thus, you will find dozens of security plugins that will help you protect your site in the best possible way.

What you should know about protecting your WordPress site.

The basis of WordPress security is to use “serious” themes and plugins that are updated regularly. Checking this is very easy, you can check the rating of each theme or plugin, the number of users and the frequency of updates. With these three data, you can now sort the tools you are going to use to select only safe values.

  • Choosing a good web host
  • Choose a good WordPress theme that is regularly updated.
  • Choose good plugins that are updated regularly.
  • Install security plugins
  • Regularly update WordPress, your theme and your plugins.

Which security plugins to use first?

  • Firewalls to protect against attacks.
  • Antispam for sites with comments

If you want to go further, I advise you to (re)read the 15 essential security reminders for WordPress that will give you all the keys to protect your website.

Security overview on the free version of WordPress (wordpress.org).

Hosting WordPress Themes Plugins
Server security provided by your host The security of your site is your responsibility Importance of choosing the right theme (code quality and regular updates). Installation of mandatory security plugins
Access to custom security settings at the server level. Importance of performing WordPress updates

E-commerce and monetization

Many of you want to create a website to sell your products in an online store and do e-commerce. You will understand that if this is your case, your choice must be quick!

Online store on WordPress.com

On the WordPress.com platform, to be able to do e-commerce, you must be able to install plugins, at least subscribe to a Business Plan (300 €/year). You can then access the existing external extensions to set up your online store.

And if you want to “take advantage” of all the premium environment of the Woocommerce brand, then the e-commerce plan (540 €/year) is ideal. This plan is a kind of immersion into the magical world of Automattic, the company created by the founders of WordPress and the owners of the Woocommerce franchise.

Free Plan Staff
(48€/year)
Premium
(96€/year)
Business
(300€/year)
E-commerce
(540€/year)
No possibility of e-commerce No e-commerce facility No e-commerce facility E-commerce functions unlocked Business plan features
Installation of authorized e-commerce themes + Access to Woocommerce Premium extensions.
Installation of e-commerce Plugins is allowed. + Integrations with the main operators
+ Accept payments in more than 60 countries.
+ Free start-up assistance

Online store on WordPress.org

By installing the free version of WordPress, you give yourself access to all themes and plugins, both free and paid, and therefore to all e-commerce functionalities on the market.

Of course, you can also install Woocommerce and the hundreds of plugins that make up the entire WordPress e-commerce ecosystem to customize your store in your image and likeness. You will have access to all existing solutions related to your specific needs.

Themes Plugins
Access to all themes
of existing e-commerce
Access to all Plugins
existing e-commerce plugins

Advantages and disadvantages.

We’ve reached the end of this article, which I hope has provided an overview of the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. It’s time to recap the pros and cons of each solution – expect me to be judge and jury, necessarily!

Pros and cons of WordPress.com

Using the WordPress.com platform is a viable solution if you are looking for simplicity and possibly free. As for the disadvantages, they are too numerous, but to summarize, the free version is too limited (domain name, themes, plugins…) and the paid versions are too expensive for the proposed features.

Advantages of WordPress.com

  • Very easy to configure and install
  • Free for its basic version
  • Careful technical maintenance: installation, updates, spam, backups, etc.
  • Guaranteed availability: your site or blog is hosted on hundreds of servers, so it is always available, even with heavy traffic.

Disadvantages of WordPress.com

  • Only 100 free themes in the free plan
  • Pay to access premium themes
  • Impossibility to download external themes (such as ThemeForest) without using a Business Plan (300 euros/year).
  • Impossible to modify the PHP code of your website without a Business Plan (300 euros/year).
  • No plugin download without a Business Plan (300 euros/year)
  • WordPress.com can delete your website or blog
  • Domain name in the form of mywebsite.wordpress.com with free plan
  • Paid plans are too expensive

Pros and cons of WordPress.org

Freedom, choice and total customization. The ideal solution for your store, business or professional blog sites.

Advantages of WordPress.org

  • Ability to download custom themes
  • Possibility to install plugins of your choice
  • Full customization
  • Full code control
  • Possibility to add third party services (mailchimp, cloudflare…).
  • Full control of your domain and hosting

Disadvantages of WordPress.org

  • Requires more technical knowledge or training
  • You are solely responsible for the security of your site, WordPress updates, theme and plugins
  • You need to buy a domain name and hosting

Which one to choose?

It’s time for the verdict. And the main question that interests at the end: which version to choose between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? Which solution is better? Which is the best choice between these two solutions to create a website or a blog?

Why choose WordPress.org, the free version of WordPress?

If we look simply from a “features/price” point of view, the free version of WordPress is clearly the best solution from my point of view. No question about it.

Of course, you can only create a clean, functional and customized website by paying for hosting (from 30€/year) and a domain name (from 10€/year).

WordPress.org offers software, documentation and free downloadable themes and plugins. It’s a content management system that’s easy to use with a little training, and there’s a wealth of content on the Internet to help you with this: websites, YouTube tutorials, community support forums, etc. And if you want to get the hang of it quickly, there are quick and effective 3-day courses.

With the free version of WordPress (WordPress.org), you can install themes and plugins, ads, fully customize the look of your site, modify the database and even modify the PHP code that runs your site.

Anyone can download the software for free from wordpress.org, but it must be installed on the web host for it to work. Running a WordPress site and hosting it can be fun and rewarding, but it also puts all responsibility for the site under your control. If you don’t manage the security of your site well, you run the risk of losing all the content on your site or blog.

Why choose the WordPress.com platform?

Once again, if we had to sum things up, the WordPress.com platform could be the solution for those who want to start a personal blog, without the need to have their own domain name, to be able to customize the design of their site and, above all, without having any idea of future developments.

On WordPress.com you don’t need to download software, pay for hosting or manage a web server. You don’t control the software, the database or FTP access, and you can’t upload custom themes or plugins. In short, you can’t do much and can concentrate on creating content, text and images, but only with what is provided!

With the free plan, WordPress.com provides a myblog.wordpress.com URL, web hosting, unlimited database storage with redundancy and backups, automatic software updates, community support forums, multilingual administration, themes, real-time traffic statistics, comment tracking and other features….

Migration from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

Many beginners start on WordPress.com without knowing the difference between it and the free version of WordPress. However, most beginners quickly reach the limits of the free plan and have to start paying large sums of money to move to more expensive plans, or migrate their content to the free version of WordPress.

If this is your case and you have made the decision to migrate to the free version of WordPress, you have made the right decision and I recommend you read our article Migrating from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. You can also follow our WordPress Getting Started Guide or the WordPress Getting Started Guide.

WordPress.com and WordPress.org summary table.

Features WordPress.ORG with
domain name and hosting
WordPress.COM with
Free Plan
personal domain name Yes No
Storage space According to host 3 GB
Code edition Yes No
Google Analytics and other tracking Yes No
Monetization (Adsense) Yes No
Choice of topics Yes Limit
Choice of Plugins Yes No
Comments management Yes Yes
seo optimization Yes Limit
export Yes Yes
import Yes No
E-commerce Yes No
Required advertising inserts No Yes
CSS and PHP customization Yes No
FTP and database access Yes No
Award From 40€/year Free

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