Karol Krol

Staff Writer

If you’re new to the WordPress space, you’re probably wondering what the difference is between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org.

In this post, we reveal all the secrets and go in-depth into the fine differences between the sites. But before we do that, here’s what you need to know in a nutshell:

  • WordPress.com is an all-in-one “build-your-own-website” platform. It’s free to get started with, and you don’t need any external hosting or external domain name. All you have to do is go to WordPress.com, sign up for an account, and you’ll be able to start building your site or blog right away.
  • WordPress.org is an open-source website software – an operating system for your website or blog. This software doesn’t cost you anything by itself, but you need to have a hosting account (a web server) in order to use it, which often comes with a price tag.

The inner workings of both platforms are very similar and allow for mostly the same level of customization.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org in Detail

Here’s what we’re going to cover:


1. Cost Comparison -Which One is Cheaper?

Let’s find out how much would it actually cost you to build a website on each platform.

WordPress.com:

WordPress.com offers both free and premium plans:

  • The Free plan is indeed 100% free with no strings attached. As part of it, you can set up a website on WordPress.com’s subdomain (e.g. YOURSITE.wordpress.com), use up to 3 GB of disk space, and you have to be okay with WordPress.com’s own ads throughout your site.
  • The premium plans go from $4 – $45 per month and come with different features and perks. Even the cheapest plan (called Personal) comes with a free domain name for one year.

WordPress.com pricing

WordPress.org:

The WordPress.org software itself is 100% free.

However, if you want to make your site visible to the public, you’ll have to get web hosting and a domain name – and those come with a price tag.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org in Practice:

Here’s how the cost comparison between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org plays out in practice. This is what it will roughly cost to start a basic website with a custom domain name on either platform:

  • WordPress.com Personal plan = $4/mo. = $48/year. This plan already comes with a custom domain name included.
  • WordPress.org + entry-level hosting from Bluehost = $2.75/mo. = $33 year. However, you need to buy it for three years upfront to get a price as low as that. Buying for a shorter time will be more expensive. This plan comes with a custom domain name included, too.

One cost that you need to add to both options is the price of domain name renewal after the first year. This is usually in the range of ~$15 annually.

Conclusion: Which One is Cheaper?
      • If you just want to get started with a basic personal website, WordPress.com is cheaper
      • In any other scenario, WordPress.org is going to be cheaper and has more value for money overall.

2. Setup Process – Which One Is Easier?

You don’t have to be tech-savvy to set up WordPress. It’s a relatively simple step-by-step process.

Let’s see in more detail how’s it done.

WordPress.com:

Getting started with WordPress.com is as simple as it can be. Just go to WordPress.com, and click on the Start your website button.

WordPress.com homepage

WordPress.com will take you through the steps, one by one, letting you configure your new website in an easy-to-grasp way. Just enter your email, a name for your site, and pick a design from a set of pre-made themes.

After a couple of minutes, you will walk out with a functional website or blog that you can start using right away.

WordPress.org:

The setup with WordPress.org software isn’t as straightforward.

First off, in most cases, you don’t actually go to the WordPress.org website to begin your adventure with the platform. Instead, you start by going to your web host of choice and signing up there.

During the setup process at the host’s platform, you’ll get access to one or more methods of installing WordPress on your hosting account.

If you’re going to use a hosting platform such as Bluehost (which we recommend), you’ll get access to a one-click installer. In this case, similarly to WordPress.com, just provide a name for your site, fill out a couple of forms, and have your site ready to go.

Your experience may vary with different hosts. Some might give you a script installer tool called Softaculous, which does basically the same thing as Bluehost’s installer, only in a less user-friendly way.

softaculous app installer

Conclusion: Which One is Easier to Set Up?
      • WordPress.com. The platform has been built to make the setup process as easy as possible.

3. Number of Themes – Which One Is More Customizable?

Themes are all-in-one-box design packages for your WordPress site. You can install them in a couple of clicks.

WordPress.com:

The number of themes you’ll have access to will depend on the specific WordPress.com plan you choose:

      • the Free and Personal plans give you access to 150+ free themes
      • the Premium, Business, and eCommerce plans give you access to all the free themes plus 200+ more premium themes

WordPress.org:

To put it simply, the number of free and premium themes available for the WordPress.org software goes to thousands.

First, you can pick from 8,000+ free themes from the official directory at WordPress.org. Then, you also get to install any other free theme that you find elsewhere on the web – there are thousands of those as well.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: themes

Lastly, you can choose from thousands more premium themes. For example, ThemeForest (the leading marketplace for WordPress themes), offers more than 11,000 themes.

Conclusion: Which One Has More Themes to Choose From?
      • WordPress.org. There are thousands upon thousands of themes available online.

4. Number of Plugins – Which One Is More Flexible?

Plugins are installable packages that extend your WordPress site’s default feature set.

WordPress.com:

It allows you to install plugins only if you’re on the Business or eCommerce plan, which goes for $25 and $45 a month, respectively.

On these plans, you get access to 50,000+ plugins.

WordPress.org:

You can install new plugins on a WordPress.org site no matter where you host your site or how much you pay for that hosting.

By default, you get access to 50,000+ plugins (the same ones you get with the Business or eCommerce plans at WordPress.com), but you can also install thousands of other free as well as premium plugins from around the web.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: plugins

Conclusion: Which One Has More Plugins to Choose From?
      • WordPress.org. With no additional payment, you can choose from tens of thousands of plugins – both free and premium ones.

5. Customization Options

Under the hood, both WordPress.com vs WordPress.org run the same software – the native WordPress software. However, there are some limitation differences.

WordPress.com:

The key detail about WordPress.com is that it puts a number of various mechanisms, interfaces, and limitations on top.

At the end of the day, the customizations available for WordPress.com websites are a subset of what can be done with websites running on the WordPress.org software.

WordPress.org:

With WordPress.org, since it’s entirely open-source, you can get into the nitty-gritty of your site, change the themes, install new themes from the web, install and configure plugins, hire professionals to custom-code on your site (if needed), or work on writing custom code on your own.

In a nutshell, with WordPress.com, you can only do what WordPress.com allows you to do. With WordPress.org, you can do whatever you want to do.

Conclusion: Which Has Better Customization Options?
      • WordPress.org. You’re not limited by anything.

6. Support/Help Available

Customer support is essential to have in case something goes wrong and you need immediate help.

Let’s see what support options the WordPress platform offers.

WordPress.com:

There are no email or live chat support options available for the Free plan. However, there is a WordPress.com forum available, which can come in handy if you get stuck with some issues.

If you sign up with the Personal plan (from $4/month) you’ll get unlimited email support and a live chat option starts from the Premium plan ($14/month).

WordPress.org:

There’s no support from the official WordPress.org channel itself. Where you can get support, however, is your WordPress web hosting provider.

Most web hosts offer 24/7 support. If you pick a host that knows about WordPress, you will also get access to skilled WordPress custom support teams.

Hosts that are known for their WordPress support:

However, you can make use of the online forum/documentation where many WordPress users go to seek help.

Apart from the official support channels, you’ll also find a wealth of advice and tutorials on WordPress-related topics throughout the web.

Conclusion: Which One Provides Better Help?
      • This we still have to give to WordPress.com – considering the fact that there’s no official support from WordPress.org at all but only from third-party hosts.

7. Maintenance

Maintaining a website can be a hassle, especially for someone who is just starting out. That said, let’s check out how WordPress.com and WordPress.org differ in that area.

WordPress.com:

With WordPress.com, you get basic security options and backups built-in right from the get-go.

You’re basically relying on WordPress.com’s internal security and all the mechanisms that the company built around its service. It’s more or less a black box, but there haven’t been any serious breaches or break-ins reported yet.

WordPress.com will also take care of updating the software running under the hood.

WordPress.org:

The WordPress.org software itself is transparent (everyone can see the source code), and it is built with care to adhere to modern security requirements and standards.

A clean WordPress install is already pretty secure and doesn’t make it too easy for hackers to break in. It’s going to be more than enough for a personal project.

To further improve your WordPress security (if it’s a business site we’re talking about, for example), you can install an additional security plugin (like Wordfence or Sucuri).

Backups are also something that you’ll need to take care of on your own – via a plugin. Again, you have many options to choose from (such as Backup Guard or UpdraftPlus).

When it comes to updates, you need to do them semi-manually. Whenever there’s a software update available, you’ll see an update notice in your WordPress dashboard. You can install the update with one click.

WordPress plugin updates

Conclusion: Which One is Easier to Maintain?
      • WordPress.com. You simply don’t have to do anything at all in terms of maintenance. The same goes for security and backups.

8. Monetization Options

Lastly, let’s check out the monetization options WordPress offers.

WordPress.com:

Free and Personal sites cannot be monetized at all.

If you want to make money from your WordPress.com site, you’ll need at least the Premium plan.

WordPress.com monetization

Also, on the Free plan, WordPress.com will even display its own ads on your site, and you can’t disable them.

WordPress.org:

It can be monetized in any way you want. There are no limitations whatsoever. Since WordPress.org is open-source software, you can install/enable/add whatever method of monetization you wish.

Conclusion: Which is Best for Monetizing?
      • WordPress.org. You can do whatever you wish in terms of monetization when running WordPress.org software.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: SUMMARY

If you haven’t been keeping track, here’s the summary:

CategoryWordPress.comWordPress.org
Cost comparisonStarts at $4/mo (including the domain name)Pricing depends on which hosting you’re using+domain name
Setup processVery easy, no technical skills neededEasy, some technical skills are needed
Number of themesHundreds of themes availableThousands of themes available
Number of pluginsThousands of free and paid optionsThousands of free and paid options
Customization optionsLimited100% customizable
Support/help availableEmail, forum, and live chat optionsExternal help from your host, forums, and developers
Backups and security optionsIn-house maintenanceYou need to take care of the maintenance yourself
Monetization optionsLimited depending on the plan you chooseNo limits

As you can see, both WordPress.com and WordPress.org have their pros and cons, and there’s no clear winner. It all depends on what you expect from your website platform, what your budget is, and what sort of website you want to launch.

Here are some points that might help you decide:

        • If you just want to launch a personal project, either for testing, sharing your thoughts, hobby site, etc., do it on WordPress.com. You can get started for free, the setup is easy, and you don’t have to worry about any maintenance at all.
        • If you want to launch a more serious website – be it a business site, a project site, a pro-blogging project – do it on WordPress.org software. This is also your choice if you want to monetize your website in any way, or if you want to get an unlimited number of possible customizations.

If you want to migrate from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, read this guide.