.COM vs .ORG: Which WordPress Is Right For You

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WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, Which One For YouMany end up at the WordPress.com site and are utterly confused. They find a hosted community of blogs and instantly visions of MySpace and Facebook dash their dreams of owning, controlling and managing their own website in a professional, enterprise manner.

The confusion arises from the fact that WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two completely different approaches to the same, excellent application.  The quick answer is that WordPress.com is WordPress’ freemium solution where people can host a blog or simple site on WordPress’ own servers, while .ORG is a site dedicated to distributing and supporting the WordPress software for those that want to download and deploy it on their own servers or business quality web hosting services.

In a Nutshell

The differences in these approaches is very important, much like the difference between owning or leasing a car.  And just like the car analogy, this is not to say that both .ORG and .COM won’t “get you there” but depending on your needs, resources and expectations, it is worth considering the differences up front rather than down the road.

Set Up

WordPress.com is usually on top here.  With the click of a few buttons and some basic information you can have a visible website up and running in minutes.

WordPress.org provides a small download of compressed files which contain all the necessary files.  However, this is just the beginning. You will have to own or purchase space on a web server with the necessary resources.  You will have to setup the empty database and set the initial configuration. The good news is that many reputable web hosting services offer “easy install” interfaces built into their control panel, however these don’t always use the most recent (secure & stable) versions of WordPress and they may use default settings that are less than optimal for your particular needs.  Your best bet is either gaining the technical knowledge yourself or engaging the services of a HUMAN installer (pssst, we can do that for you!)

Maintenance

With WordPress.com, updates to the core software are all handled by WordPress themselves. You generally won’t even realize something has been updated unless you are following their notifications… or if something goes wrong.  Which brings us the .Org solution.

With the self-installed WordPress.org solution, you (or a qualified support provider, such as It’s WordPress) will be responsible for updates.  This is a Con for some, a Pro for others. Why? Because you and/or your consultant can control the roll out of updates, deciding if it is the right time for you.  You can check the compatibility of your customizations (plugins, themes, etc) and backup your site beforehand in case there are complications.

Customization

WordPress.com offers quite a few themes and the ability to alter their respective CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) if you’re handy with some light web design.  The domain name of your site defaults to yourchoice.wordpress.com, but you can pay a small fee to register a truly custom domain name such as www.yourchoice.com.

With your own deployment from WordPress.org these choices expand exponentially. In fact, nearly unlimited design options is one of the two main reasons users end up choosing their own installation over the WordPress.com solution. With your own WordPress.org deployment, you can utilize any theme you can find, buy or create, and customize it to your heart’s content.  Furthermore, you can have custom domain names and, if your web host supports it, create all the subdomains you want.

Ownership & Usage

Unlike some online communities, WordPress.com asserts very little control over the intellectual ownership of material you create and post in their hosted solution.  However, the possibility always exists for loss of that information or a situation where your content may not be permissible under their terms of use. For example, paid content or advertising is prohibited on sites at WordPress.com and sufficient complaints regarding your site may result in its removal.

When you choose to install the WordPress.org in your own environment, you are free to determine your own ownership and usage guidelines or shop around for a web hosting provider that meets your specific needs.

Development

Blogs and sites hosted at WordPress.com are significantly limited in regards to plugins, extensions and embedded technology. Some simple types are allowed, such as YouTube embedding, but custom and even many common plugins are NOT.  While this is an understandable measure to keep the community secure and stable, along with design limits, the inability to deploy/expand on the WordPress platform is a deal breaker for most businesses and power users.

When you deploy your own installation from WordPress.org your only limits on functionality are technological (can my hosting solutions do this? Is technology capable of performing this function?) and legal (Is this permitted by the governing local, national and international laws?).

Conclusion

If you are just looking to get your feet wet, WordPress.com might be a great place to learn the interface, see if it works for you or make a “wish list” for a more robust site later, but a fully functioning deployment of the software from WordPress.org is a must-have for any serious web site or business.  The software license is free, many fine WordPress developers & designers are available and economic hosting plans have never been more inexpensive or accessible.

If you’d like to see how WordPress can transform your web site and allow you to take the reins of your online presence, we offer many quickly deployable solutions for new WordPress users and enhancements and services for existing WordPress sites.

I'm the front-man of It's WordPress. I come from a diverse array of backgrounds, enjoying the opportunity to expand my knowledge base and skill set by re-inventing myself. I enjoy environments that focus on emerging information, technology and concepts. I put on the technical hat in my early 20s and never really looked back. I'm love technology and the internet, as well as the outdoors and avidly hike, kayak and camp every chance I get.

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