Wordpress & Web Development

What’s The Difference Between Running Your Blog On WordPress.com & WordPress.org?

James Bruce 24-03-2013

wordpress or wordpress.orgWith WordPress now powering 1 in every 6 websites, they must be doing something right. For both experienced developers and the complete novice, WordPress has something to offer you. But just as you start on your path of WordPress nirvana, you’re going to hit a stumbling block: “Do I need wordpress.com or wordpress.org? What’s the difference?!”


This question comes up a lot, so I’ve decided to write a definitive guide. If you’re too lazy to read 1,000 odd words – and that’s cool, I won’t judge, I know we live in a world of 140 characters limit – then here’s an easy to understand set of bullet points for you.

WordPress.com Advantages

  • No charges for increased traffic, useful for getting on the front page of Reddit.
  • Very few security risks.
  • No need to manage a server, or touch FTP.
  • Concentrate on your writing.

WordPress.com Disadvantages

  • Limited choice of themes, plugins, and settings.
  • You can’t make any money through advertising.
  • Custom domain costs $25/year and is essential for future proofing.
  • No control over anything.

WordPress.org Advantages

  • Full control over everything.
  • Install anything you want.
  • Customize themes and plugins, or code your own.
  • Learn PHP programming.

WordPress.org Disadvantages

  • Heightened security risks from malicious themes, plugins and core hacks.
  • No one will help you if things go wrong.
  • Depending on your hosting, costs may be on you when additional bandwidth is needed.
  • Slower at the cheap end; you need to expend effort and money for a fast self-hosted site.

Explaining the difference between the two is actually quite easy, but choosing between them may prove more difficult.

WordPress.com = Hosted for you 

WordPress.org = Open source, self-hosted

WordPress.com is a hosted blogging platform – which means the WordPress.com site hosts your blog for you. Similar to Blogger or Tumblr, you are free to focus on your blog posts without a care in the world for how the system actually works. It is by far the easiest way to get a blog up and running for a complete beginner.


wordpress or wordpress.org

WordPress.org is where you can download the open source version of the software that drives WordPress.com – you can upload this to your own web hosting and run everything yourself.

difference between wordpress and wordpress.org

So Which To Choose?

It really depends upon you.


How Much Control Do You Want?

A hosted WordPress.com blog will handle all the technical aspects, but this means you’re only given a limited set of plugins and themes from which to choose. You get what you’re given, and that’s it. Chances are, if you find a cool “Wordpress plugin” (such as those on our list of best WordPress plugins ever), you won’t be able to use it.

As a result, WordPress.com sites tend to be somewhat “cookie cutter” – you can tell when a site is hosted on a free blogging platform, and it may affect your perception of that site. Personally, I give more credence to something I read on a “real website” – after all, anyone can start a free blog and write anything they like pretty easily.

How Much Money Can You Spend?

A basic WordPress.com is completely free, but you’re going to be stuck with http://yourdomain.wordpress.com, which is basically the worst thing in the world you could ever do. Why? For the simple reason that if your blog ever gains some traction, and you want to add advertising and host elsewhere – get a little more creative control over everything –  you’ll lose all the SEO value and traffic you’ve built up to that point. At the very least, you should purchase a custom domain for your WordPress.com site – but this is an optional upgrade that costs $25/year.

On the other hand, the cost of purchasing your own web hosting on which to install WordPress.org varies wildly depending on your needs. Personally, I pay $100/month for a virtual private server The Various Forms Of Website Hosting Explained [Technology Explained] Read More upon which I can host up to 100 of my own domains and WordPress sites, with full control over the server architecture – and it can easily handle a few hundred thousand pageviews a month. That’s a little more than most people will want to spend of course, but remember if your blog is popular the advertising will pay for all that and much more.


On the lowest end of the hosting scale, GoDaddy has some ridiculously cheap unlimited hosting for about $5/month (though I really don’t recommend them for anything other than just buying domains). Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the best web hosts here, so you needn’t spend too long looking around. The point is though – hosting your own WordPress.org will cost money. 

difference between wordpress and wordpress.org

How Much Effort Are You Willing To Put In & Are You Happy To Learn?

With a WordPress.com hosted site you’ll never need to worry about upgrading plugins or core WordPress files, because it’ll all be done for you. You won’t need to scramble to upgrade when a new security exploit is found, and you’ll never have to wake up to find your entire site has been overtaken by Russian hackers and is currently redirecting everyone to an obscure scam phishing site. You won’t need to double check any themes you install for malicious links and obfuscated code – because they won’t be available to you in the first place.

When you host your own WordPress.org site, you are of course free to install any plugin or theme you want – so malicious code is something you need to be aware of. Thankfully, WordPress now has an bright yellow warning at the top of the admin panel if a core upgrade is available – either for new features or security patches – but when you manage hundreds of sites, those upgrades can be overlooked for quite a long time.


There is a security risk in hosting your own site – no doubt – but regular backups, keeping up to date, and sticking to only themes and plugins found on the WordPress repository can mitigate this risk 99%. Sometimes though, you will need to dip into FTP or the command line on your server in order to fix things. If you’re not willing to do a few Google searches to figure out why your site is currently showing a blank page, for instance, it’s best you just stick to WordPress.com. Things can and will go wrong with a self hosted install, and it’ll be on you to fix them.

difference between wordpress and wordpress.org

Scalability should also be mentioned – if you hit the front page of Digg Reddit for instance, you’re going to see a huge influx of traffic just dying to see your new cat meme. If you were hosted with WordPress.com, there would be no problems. WordPress.com is built on cloud hosting, and whether you have one visitor a day or a million, it will cope just fine. You won’t need to pay overage charges for additional bandwidth. If you were self hosted on a budget web host, your website would simply collapse.

Now, there are certain things you can do to scale a standard WordPress.org install – after all, MakeUseOf handles millions of pageviews daily on a WordPress.org install – but these cost money. More powerful servers, complex caching plugins such as W3 Total Cache Vroom, Vroom: A Comprehensive Guide To Speeding Up A WordPress Blog MakeUseOf serves hundreds of thousands of visitors everyday, and we do it all on Wordpress. Wordpress can and does scale from tens to millions of pageviews, but you’re going to need some heavyweight plugins and... Read More , a CDN to host your image, CSS and Javascript files, different server software, using CloudFlare Everything You Need to Know About Content Management Systems For the average internet surfer, viewing content is easy. You open a link, and the page appears. But what is taking place behind the scenes? Here's how your favorite CMSs take care of business. Read More to provide a backup copy of the site in case you go offline. It’s possible to scale a self-hosted WordPress.org, certainly – but just more difficult.

Still Can’t Decide – Just Make This Choice Easy, OK?

Do you just want to write? If the sole purpose of getting a blog is to provide a creative outlet for those thousands of words that pour from your mind everyday, WordPress.com will handle your needs just fine. If however, you want to create a popular and profitable website, something you can perhaps learn a little web development on, experiment with different plugins and have full control over – then you’re looking at WordPress.org. 

If you do decide to go the self-hosted route, my complete guide to WordPress Set Up Your Blog With WordPress: The Ultimate Guide Want to start your own blog but don't know how? Look to WordPress, the most powerful blogging platform available today. Read More is also pretty much essential reading.

wordpress or wordpress.org

I hope that’s explained things clearly for you. If you have any question, or you think I’ve missed out some important differences, then please do add them in the comments because we’d love to hear from you.

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  1. Tan
    March 10, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    This is awesome! And you have done superbly! Thanks a lot :)

    I have a question. First promise me you will not be mad at me reading this question.
    Done? OK, thanks!

    I was wondering, if I can go for free hosting sites like 000webhost etc and avoid paying for the hosting altogether. I know what you would ask next. See, I am looking at a webpage which has a landing page, a page or two to showcase my work - which will have only a couple of pictures (reduced size) and one contact page. That's it! Not much of text or writing. I want this to be a profile or portfolio and I would direct people to this site myself - not looking for people to search me on the net.

    Can you now suggest, if I can go with free hosting?

    If YES (I am sure you won't say Yes, though) will these site support WordPress.org themes and plugins?

    I'm very novice and I need your help with the above. Thanks, for your time and effort.

    • James Bruce
      March 10, 2016 at 2:51 pm

      Possibly. But it'll be quite embarassing when you've given your professional link to someone and an advert is injected in the middle of page or a popup appears, as free hosts will commonly do.

      You'd be better off forgetting wordpress though, which would be completely overkill for what you need, and using something like http://flavors.me/ instead.

  2. Sai
    August 26, 2013 at 3:09 am

    Thanks for the information. This article really did help me understand the difference.

  3. Valeria G
    July 26, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Hello, I'm sorry I'm posting under the wrong article but under the right one the comments are closed already.

    I'm trying to make work sticky menu here and I used all the options mentioned in the comments there, yet it doesn't work.

    Could you help please? Thank you.

    • MakeUseOf TechGuy
      July 26, 2013 at 9:47 am

      Hi Valeria. For a start, I believe you've copied incorrect quote marks on this line:

      var stickyHeader = jQuery(‘#access’).offset().top+288;

      See how they're curly? They should be just plain ones like '. You'll need to search/replace those on all the script you copied. Apologies, that might be my fault with some code formatting issues as we recetnly switched the syntax hightlighting plugin.

      • Valeria G
        July 26, 2013 at 9:51 am

        Hi, thanks for your promt reply.
        I fixed the marks but nothing changed. What else could it be?

        • MakeUseOf TechGuy
          July 26, 2013 at 10:07 am

          You;re not running the default theme, so you need to adjust the code to suit your theme. This line, for instance:

          var stickyHeader = jQuery('#access').offset().top+288;
          Uncaught TypeError: Cannot read property 'top' of undefined

          Has an error because there is no element with ID "access", which the default theme does have. Change that, and any other references elsewhere, to things which actually exist.

        • Valeria G
          July 26, 2013 at 11:09 am

          The problem really was in the name of the div which I wrote incorrectly (access_container instead of access), parent theme doesn't have it either, I should have noticed it myself. )

          Thanks a lot for your help.

      • Valeria G
        July 26, 2013 at 9:57 am

        Cleared cache, must be seen now.

  4. Ellie K
    June 24, 2013 at 11:54 am

    This is a good post, Bruce. If I remember, I'm going to share the URL in the chat room for WebApps or WordPress StackExchange. People ask the same question, "what's the difference between wordpress dot com v. dot org" over and over. I didn't understand, for nearly 6 six months, why I kept reading about the version updates for WordPress, and what I should do. (The answer was "nothing", as I had dot com, not dot org).

    One question please? I'm sorry, I know this is very late, since you wrote this! You said (about how you paid $100 per month for a Virtual Private Server),
    "That’s a little more than most people will want to spend of course, but remember if your blog is popular the advertising will pay for all that and much more."

    I don't question why you'd do this. You said you can host up to 100 domains, and can accommodate 200,000+ page hits per month. Can advertising *REALLY* pay for that and then some? I'm sure it depends on what ads you use, but I don't know anyone who clicks on banner ads! There are lots of other sorts though.

    This was a good post. Electrical engineers are awesome!!!

    • James Bruce
      June 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      Hi Ellie, thanks for commenting. Advertising can absolutely pay for a VPS and more; my site receives 150k pageviews a month, and makes on average $1500 in ad revenue. The key difference is that I don't use Adsense or traditional banner ads, I use directly sold ad slots that I have complete control over (from http://buysellads.com ). Because my site is quite niche, and the ads are highly targeted and respectable, they perform excellently for the advertisers. Users dont hate them because they're relevant and non-spammy. Specifically, I only allow game ads, not gambling, not deceptive "download now" things, not autoplaying flash videos, not "lose belly fat now!" - just great, relevant ads for my readership. Most don't pay per click either - they are "rented" on a monthly basis, regardless of how mnay clicks or impressions they get.

      • Ellie K
        June 24, 2013 at 3:27 pm

        Wow, thank you so much for your prompt reply! I was curious what other articles you had written here. Under your author profile, there was one link with just your name, which took me straight to Google+.

        So I was browsing through your Google+ posts for awhile, and found that interesting Easter Egg you wrote about. I never knew about it either! I didn't recall much about the concept (cellular automata? automatons?), definitely didn't know that there was a Google Search game for Conway's Game of Life! But here's the most synergistic part, or better yet, serendipty: In the comments following your post,


        which was a long time ago (July 2012?), you actually answered much of my question, the one that I asked here, earlier today! Someone else had asked you something similar, on that Conway's Game of Life post, even though it wasn't relevant.

        THAT is the sort of discovery, small world-effect that I like! Unless the search engines and social media/ machine learning/ natural language processing algorithms are more sophisticated than I realize.... No, I doubt that (I am your new Google+ follower).

        Thank you for informing me of so much useful knowledge today!
        P.S. I wish I were an electrical engineer. EE's, ME's and Civil/ Structural Engineers are essential to modern life. Y'all should be earning what hedge funds managers earn; you contribute so much more than they do ;o)
        P.S. I hope this doesn't embarrass you. It is true though!

  5. Don Jones
    June 1, 2013 at 8:01 am

    When I began using WordPress, I didn't realize it was usually hosted using one of these options, so I did what I knew to do, which was to host the sites on another server altogether. I have been using GoDaddy hosting for WordPress sites for years, and I did eventually learn of the WordPress official hosting. My point is, there are more than these 2 choices. WordPress can be hosted just about anywhere, and that makes this decision a little more complex, depending on your sites' purpose(s).I believe GoDaddy.com will provide free hosting with a domain registration, but it is very basic and carries some GoDaddy branding. Ordinary (non-branded) hosting can be had for well under $10 a month, and GoDaddy's self-installer for WordPress and other CMS-type managers do most of the work for you. BTW, I am not a GoDaddy employee, just a customer.

  6. Raazan Malla
    April 26, 2013 at 4:26 am

    I am currently on free blogspot. So if I move to wordpress.org, besides paying for domain and webhosting, do I need to pay for using wordpress too? Apart from domain and webhosting costs, will there be any extra costs for a beginner?

    • James Bruce
      April 26, 2013 at 6:36 am

      WordPress itself is open source and completely free. There are thousands of free themes and plugins too, however you can also get premium themes and plugins. So short answer is no; long answer is that you can spend as much as you want to!

  7. Mike
    April 16, 2013 at 1:19 am

    Woah! 1 in 6? I did not expect to read that, even though I do use WordPress for my website.

  8. Aaron Couch
    March 25, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Excellent job on this article, James!

  9. Garris Rago
    March 25, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    I've never used wordpress so actually didn't realise there was any difference between the two, but this is helpful as I am soon to be transferring my mothers site over to wordpress.

  10. imota
    March 25, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    This is a good article. Since I am using Blogger (and happy about it) I would also like to see how Blogger compares to WordPress in terms of features, security, usability, etc. Blogger is an excellent choice, but considering Google's tendency to kill some applications at least once a year, I am , honestly, afraid to use any Google's services anymore, especially those essential to me such as Blogger.

  11. Barrie McNaught
    March 25, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Have just launched my blog running wordpress on a raspberry pi server. It's not too bad takes a little time to load the pages but it's only a slightly cheaper alternative to paying for hosting.

  12. Joel Thomas
    March 25, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for verifing my doubts.Good article

  13. Sam Smith
    March 25, 2013 at 9:05 am

    This has help simplified things greatly, Thanks!

  14. macwitty
    March 25, 2013 at 8:50 am

    When it comes to advertising, one should not forget that with free WordPress.com you can get advertisements from competing "businesses" or with things you not support

  15. Nevzat A
    March 25, 2013 at 7:14 am

    This always caused some confusion, thanks for the article.

  16. Chris Marcoe
    March 24, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Great breakdown. Once I start a blog for building my Raspi, I'll certainly come back here to decide exactly what I need....

  17. NotoriousZeus
    March 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    good article.. Even though I registered for both.. i still didn't get the complete picture.. Thanks for the clarification

    • Chris Marcoe
      March 25, 2013 at 2:17 pm

      Which do you like better? And what is your blog address/about?