Instead of immediately answering the question imposed by the title, I am instead going to ask you a question of my own.
What’s the difference between peanut butter and jelly? A lot right?
Even so, they go together, they always have. If we start us a good old fight between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, we might as well be starting a new civil war. No, these two sites do not exist as some experiment of identity; they do indeed have their separate purposes and differences.
That being said, those differences do make them stand out as two extremely different options.
Don’t worry, you know that On Blast Blog, and more specifically, Matt Banner, are here to lay bare the secrets of building a blog and understanding the secrets behind it. It’s no secret that WordPress is the king/queen of blogging platforms, but what’s going on with these websites?
Well, if I told you now it would spoil the whole article! Let’s examine WordPress as a whole, then boil it down to the two sites so you fully understand what each one offers.
In General, What is WordPress?
WordPress in general is a free and open source blogging tool, in addition to a content management system. It is based on two types of coding known as PHP and MySQL. The structure of the program encompasses an easy to use interface and plugin system with themes included as well.
This is the preferred program of the most well-known websites on the internet. To give you an idea, over 22% of the top 10 million websites utilize this platform. At the end of the day, it is by far the most popular blogging system used on the web.
Total, there are more than 60 million websites running on this program. Before we get into the two different versions, let us first become more acquainted with this mysterious and enigmatic program. The whole story began on May 27, 2003, when Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little started WordPress. Here are the main features of WordPress and their respective meanings.
Themes are an exciting and accessible method of making your blog stand out from the rest. On WordPress, themes allow you to change the entirely look of the website without ever having to change the actual coding of the program.
The cascading style sheets of CSS can be altered here to tweak the program to your liking, but let’s save that for later. Essentially, with either version of the program (.com or .org) you can have access to both free and paid themes that allow you to create a blog that stands out from the rest.
Can I stand out for free? Well, Daniel from Daily Blog Tips put together a sweet resource of the top 50 free responsive WordPress themes.
The nature of plugins on WordPress allows you to change or augment the program to extend the features. There are over 30,000 plugins on WordPress, allowing you to add features, functionality, and new uses to the program. You can even use SEO or search optimization programs, and client portals.
These are invaluable when it comes to customizing and creating more options for you blog. A great example: you can add a share widget to your pages that allows fans to share each of your posts with ease.
Ease of Use
This normally wouldn’t be considered a feature, but after having a lot of experience with the program, I have to add it in as a general bonus for using either version of WordPress. When you want to create blog post, let’s say, the process here is incredibly simple.
The dashboard is easy to understand, and when you’re writing your post, the tools are all laid out for you like you’re writing it in a more simplified Microsoft Word document. It’s truly fantastic because you don’t need to utilize any coding whatsoever to accomplish what you want.
Surprisingly, a lot of blogging platforms don’t offer this. WordPress offers the ability for you to add multiple authors to a single blog. This extra feature is crucial for massive blogs that require a lot of posts on a daily basis. By allowing multiple authors to login and create posts, you can ensure consistent content from all of the contributors without having to upload it yourself.
One Side of the Coin: WordPress.com
You’ve probably heard of free blogging websites, and while the term “free” does sound exciting, you always need to read the fine print. In this case, if you were to head over to WordPress.com, the page will tell you that you can “create your new website for free.”
True, very true, but again, there’s fine print. It’s actually not on the page, so instead of trying to make you go and find it, I’ll run you through the characteristics of the service. It beats trying to hire a lawyer to read the terms and conditions for you, doesn’t it?
Using WordPress.com will get you a blog up and running before you can say “why is that cat looking so suspicious?” Inside joke for my dedicated readers out there. Creating a blog using this method allows you to have a sub-domain through WordPress.
This means that, while free, your blog won’t be entirely yours. Sure, you’ll have control, but the web address is going to have an uninvited guest. Here’s an example to help you understand:
See how WordPress is inside the link? That’s a result of the blog being free. Since they are hosting the blog for you (because it’s free) then they get a slice of the pie. It’s only fair, and while you can pay to have the domain become your own, at that point, you should switch to WordPress.org.
Let’s not jump the ship though, we need to see what else this version can do for you.
Having a free blog offers a lot of benefits to you. You can have full control of a blog without any of the technical responsibilities or costs of hosting yourself. This is a great opportunity for you to get your feet wet and see how you like the world of blogging.
Anything that goes on behind the scenes is handled for you. Think of it like going out into the wild jungle fully equipped with weapons, and you have a guide to show you everything. It may scary and unknown to you, but the guide is there is make sure you don’t eat any poisonous mushrooms.
If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because there are a number of free blogging websites out there. WordPress.com is very comparable to sites like Tumblr and Blogger. These are surface level options that offer a great way of getting into the world of blogging in mere minutes.
Once you’re in, the options won’t be as varied as they could be, but you do have access to all the basic tools to get started.
Advanced users will find themselves frustrated since you cannot alter any of the themes or modify the coding to tweak things to your liking. You can pay for things like plugins and themes, but these are all widely available when you choose the other options (and for a lot less money) so hold off on subscribing as a premium member until you see if the grass is truly greener on the other side.
For beginner bloggers or someone who is unsure if blogging is for them, this is the best way to try it out with no obligation. Before we move on to the .org version, here’s a final rundown of what you’ll be getting from WordPress.com
- A free hosted blog on a sub-domain where you share the URL with WordPress
- Quick and easy setup
- Paid options for extra storage and customization options
- 200 Free and paid themes to customize your blog
- 20-30 plugins (for paid members only)
- You can only make money if you get over 25,000 views a month or more
- Automatic updates and backups of your content
- 3GB of storage
The Other Side: WordPress.org
Do we all remember the analogy of the jungle expedition? Okay, well if the .com version is you going out there fully equipped with a guide, then WordPress.org is skydiving from a plane that’s going down and landing in the forest with nothing but the shirt on your back. No guide, no tools, just your bare hands and endless possibilities surrounding you.
This is the option for pioneers who don’t want any help. You craft your own tools, fight your own battles, and rock the world with your blog/hunting in this analogy.
Sounds cool right? It really is. Self-hosting a blog is not only empowering, but it opens up every single option you can possibly imagine. If you’re nervous about setting up everything, that’s understandable. Luckily, I’ve already prepared a step-by-step guide on how to create a blog that you can use to set everything up.
WordPress.org essentially connects you to a free download of the actual program.
Once you have the program, you need to set it up with a domain and a hosting service. My guide above will walk you through it in detail, but let’s touch on it briefly here as well. As far as money goes, this will cost you some, but not a whole lot.
For the domain, or URL, you’re looking at about $10 per year. The hosting service can be provided to you from a lot of different services, but you may be a little shocked at some of their prices.
The easiest way to do this is to buy your domain and your hosting service from one place. Having both of those will allow you to install WordPress into the domain and at that point you’re ready to get started.
By clicking that handy-dandy link there, you can also save some money off of your service. What, a discount just for being awesome? Well, yeah, that’s about it. I want to say thank you for reading and visiting, so click that link and grab your domain and hosting service from one place for a great price.
Once you have the blog setup, you’re going to notice that this DIY version of WordPress offers you a lot more features that its cousin. There are thousands of free plugins that you can use to add space and features to your blog.
If you’re unfamiliar with plugins, they are essentially additional add-ons that can do anything from adding a share button, to helping optimize your articles for search engines to find them easier. You also have access to a huge number of free themes that you can tweak to your liking if you know how to modify the coding.
The beauty of WordPress.org is that you have the full program at your fingertips. Everything that it does can be tweaked or modified to meet your needs. While you will be paying a little each month to host the blog, it will be under your name and your control.
You can make a lot of money by creating a website or blog this way, and many huge Fortune 500 companies use WordPress to run their websites. We’re talking CNN, Forbes, BBC, and The New Yorker, to name just a few.
Let’s rundown a final list of the things you can do with this self-hosted, fully controllable version of WordPress:
- A self-hosted program that is fully under your control with your own domain URL
- Free download, the only cost is your domain and hosting services
- You can set everything up and begin blogging within 30 minutes
- Over a thousand free themes are included
- There are over 10,000 plugins available
- You can make money through ads and affiliates
- Updates and backups must be done manually
- Unlimited storage
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Which One is Right For Me?
Now that we have a grasp of what each version of WordPress does, how do you know which one is right for you when you decide to make a blog? To make things easy, since I know this is a lot of information, let’s walk through some variables that can help you decide where you are on your path to the promised land of blogging.
These may not all apply to you, but consider each one and where it places you.
This one is a big thing to consider. How much experience do you have with blogging? If you just discovered the term, you may want to try out a WordPress.com blog since that has no obligation attached to it.
That being said, if you want to skip the training wheels and go straight to WordPress.org, your hosting service can be cancelled at any point, there’s no contracts or anything. For most people though, blogging is as natural as breathing. We create a blog for a lot of reasons, but mostly because we have something to say.
Your experience with blogging platforms does come into play, but ultimately your level of passion for the craft decides if you want something casual (.com) or something with limitless possibilities and career potential (.org).
Your long-term goals
You can make a living off of blogging; people do it all the time. Not just a handful either, we’re talking millions of people. It takes time to get it off the ground, but if you’re serious about doing this for a living, don’t bother with the WordPress.com.
Get yourself situated with a hosting service and a domain, like the ones offered through Web Hosting Hub at a sweet discount, and self-host your blog from the get-go.
If you have a WordPress.com blog and you’ve decided that you’re ready for the next level, you can have your domain switched over, no problem. Think long and hard about your goals in the world of blogging, and then make a blog on the corresponding website.
How sure are you about your niche?
If you have an idea for a blog topic, how confident are you in the popularity it can achieve? Have you done research into the general interest of the topic? Do you feel like you can bring something new to the table and really pull some serious views each month?
As I’ve said countless times before, WordPress.com is ideal for someone who wants to get their feet wet. If you want to test the waters of your idea, maybe start there and see how things go. You can always switch to .org when you see the upturn of views and page hits.
What Choice is Right for You?
Choice #1 – If you’re serious about starting a blog, and you want to make passive income on a long term scale, then head back here and start yourself off with a self-hosted blog using Web Hosting Hub.
Choice #2 – If you don’t have any intention to commit to blogging more than a couple of months, then follow this tutorial and set up a limited free blog.
Still not sold? Check this out…
Personally, I prefer WordPress.org over the two. I’m not a control freak or anything, but I do like the countless options it has and the flexibility to do almost anything.
The hosting service and domain URL isn’t too expensive and for all the benefits you receive, it makes more sense to go that route. When people ask what the outcome of WordPress.com vs WordPress.org is, I have to shrug, because there’s not a clear cut winner or loser here. Like most things worth talk about, it’s not black and white.
Is WordPress.org better? Oh yeah, but it’s also not for everyone. Whether it be the investment, the time or the process, some people would rather just try things out for themselves, and that’s fine. If you’re serious about blogging though, chose the .org version and start out on the right foot. Thanks as always for reading.
It’s Time for You to Weigh in!
I love to hear your thoughts and input, especially when it comes to internet showdowns! What did you think of my article? Which one do you prefer of the two? If you have any other questions, comments, or concerns, you know where to voice them: right here!
Post a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Think of it like an answering machine for the internet, only way cooler.