Update: 11 Oct 2017: For a while now WordPress.com has made it possible to install themes and plugins on the WordPress.com Business plan. These new sites are a bit of a hybrid of .org and .com as described below. I will try to update the info-graphic soon.
debate confusion decision: do I want WordPress.org or WordPress.com?
Many people think the answer is always WordPress.org, and I used to be one of them. I have come to appreciate this is not necessarily the case.
For those that don’t even know what I’m talking about:
WordPress.org is the community website that provides the free WordPress software that you can install on any server and where you can use custom themes and plugins and basically do whatever you want.
WordPress.com is a hosted service for WordPress where WordPress is pre-installed and has a bunch of features built-in; they also provide support and manage software updates etc, but doesn’t allow 3rd-party themes and plugins to be uploaded.
I work for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, and my primary role is supporting WordPress.com customers. Some pretty common things I hear are:
- Where do I upload the theme I bought?
- Where do I install plugins?
- How do I get a refund? I didn’t realise I needed WordPress.org.
- This platform is so limited, it’s frustrating!
That last one, especially, can make me pretty sad because I think our platform is great, and we help produce excellent sites. However, it’s also true that WordPress.com is not for everyone.
As Uncle Ben said,
With great power comes great responsibility
Sometimes, the flexibility you think you want in a site comes at too high a cost. That could be: a security cost: when installing your own site, you are primarily responsible for the security of that site; a management cost: you need to keep your software, plugins, and themes up to date, backed up; and you may need to figure out how to do things without much help from your web host.
On WordPress.com we take care of the hosting, upgrades, backups, security, and we have live chat support (currently 24/5, and US business hours weekends, working up to 24/7).
There is a middle ground, and that is WordPress-specific hosting (such as Pressable and WP Engine). Usually, these combine the flexibility of WordPress.org with the benefits of WordPress.com that I’ve already mentioned, but for some people, these too will come at too high a cost… that is, the price tag. I think these services are actually great value, but they do cost more than cheap hosting.
There have been some great info-graphics on this subject before, but I think most are out of date, so I’ve made another for you!
WordPress in any format is an excellent publishing tool, but not everyone wants to use it the same way, and that’s why these different platforms exist! The other good news is that you can always transfer your content from one to the other if you find wp.org or wp.com isn’t working for you and you want to try the other.
Yay for freedom!