When most people browse the web, I think they intuitively think that a “.com” website is going to be what they’re looking for. If you need to look something up, for example, you’re going to go to Google.com. Google.org will land you on the home page for their charitable foundation, and there’s not a search bar in sight.
WordPress is similar. WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two totally different websites, for two different platforms. And unlike Google, which is pretty open about the purpose of Google.org, WordPress’s two different websites are confusing. They do very little to educate their users on the differences.
So, I’m going to.
First of all, what is WordPress?
WordPress is a CMS, or Content Management System. It started way back in the early 2000’s as a blogging platform, but has since grown to manage all sorts of content – e-commerce stores, portfolios, members-only websites, and even discussion forums can all be run on WP.
So What is WordPress.com?
When you land on WordPress.com, you’re greeted with this:
Given that the headline (rightfully) claims that WP powers 29% of the internet, you’re probably thinking you’ve ended up in the right place.
Well, if you want a Blogger-like platform with limited customization options and features, you’ve arrived at the right place.
You see, WordPress.com is Automattic’s hosted platform. It provides you with a free blog that has very limited features. You can post pages and blog posts, upload media, annnd that’s about it. No custom features, no plugins, no e-commerce. Just a very basic blog or website.
It does have a few unique features. It functions almost like Tumblr, in that you can follow other blogs and discover content right on the platform. There’s a social aspect to it that self-hosted WordPress doesn’t have.
But if you’re after the flexibility and power that WordPress is known for, you’ll be sorely disappointed with WordPress.com.
And What is WordPress.org?
When you land on the WordPress.org website, in contrast, you get this:
Design wise, it’s very utilitarian – blocky, boring typography, not nearly as fun as inviting as WordPress.com. Its headline – “WordPress is open source software you can use to create a beautiful website, blog, or app.” is true, but it’s not nearly as impressive or inviting as “powers 29% of the internet”. And for people who aren’t familiar at all with the platform, it may seem that this – a “software” – is something they have to download and install on their computer, not something that lives on their own web host.
It seems confusing and uninviting.
But for most small businesses, this is exactly where they want to be. WordPress.org is where you can download WordPress, themes, and plugins. It has support forums and documentation, and is where you get everything you need to set up a powerful, kick-ass WordPress website on your own hosting.
So which do I need?
If you’re looking for a simple, basic blog with a limited feature set, you can get started on WP.com. You can even purchase its extra features as time goes on, adding premium themes and extra features as you pay more.
But if you want full customizability and the power WordPress is known for, you’ll want to download WordPress from WP.org and install it on your own web host.
If you’ve already started with one or the other and want to switch, don’t worry. Since they are developed by (mostly) the same people, you can export and import data from one platform to the other with relative ease.
Do you have any other WordPress.com/.org questions? Leave them for me in the comments!