Using WordPress has been an exciting experience and as a programmer and developer, WordPress has given me the opportunity to add functionality to my client sites, at a reasonable cost. With more than 75 million websites using WordPress (37.5 on WordPress.com), WordPress is used on 30% of all CMS websites in the world.
My overall experience has been with WordPress.org and until recently, WordPress.com didn’t interest me because of the limitations that I had read about.
Not too long ago I learned something about WordPress.com that peaked my interest and I signed up for WordPress.com and began to use it more than before.
Here is what I learned.
WordPress.org software must be downloaded by you or a programmer and installed onto your web hosting server. However, many hosting companies are now offering One-Click Installs and WordPress Management Tools. This hosting fee might be a deal maker in your decision to use WordPress.com since hosting is included in all their plans, including FREE.
WordPress.com software doesn’t need to be downloaded or set up by you. It’s ready to go and totally web based!
WordPress.org is free to use, modify and re-distribute.
WordPress.com is free also, but limited. If you want to do what you normally do with WordPress.org, then it will cost you more because it includes a web hosting fee.
Free – $0 for life, with limits
Personal – $4 per month, billed yearly
Premium – $8 per month, billed yearly
Business – $25 per month, billed yearly (Most open)
Business Plan is the only option that allows you the ability to Upload Themes, Plugins or remove WordPress.com branding.
WordPress.org has the familiar dashboard since 4.0. On the left is the main menu which gives access to sub menus. On the right side of that menu is where all the work takes place. It’s definitely behind when it comes to application design in the world of mobile apps.
WordPress.com has a very different interface, called Calypso. Calypso looks very nice and clean and it is open source as well. Automattic gets cudos for pushing Open Source, including even Gutenberg being made to run on Drupal.
I really liked the Calypso interface and within a few minutes or 10, I was able to navigate to the familiar areas I had grown accustomed to in WordPress.org. If you don’t want to use Calypso, then you can choose to use the common WordPress interface, by navigating to WP Admin within My Sites.
Most of the dashboard tools you get with WordPress.com can also be achieved through various plugins from the WordPress.org repository.
WordPress.org editor is heading for a huge change with the Gutenberg editor scheduled in the next major release. Unless you have the Gutenberg plugin, the basic Editor is neat, but old and very linear. I normally use page builders, so the Basic Editor is pretty much basic.
When Gutenberg arrives for real, the visual of the Editor will change and look very similar to WordPress.com
WordPress.com editor is similar in it’s clean design to Gutenberg. WordPress.com is slowly rolling out Gutenberg to their websites. By switching to the WP Admin, you can Activate the Gutenberg Editor (the plugin is already installed). To switch out of the regular WordPress Dashboard, click on the My Sites icon on the top left WordPress Menu. Select any option from the pop out menu (colored to match the Calypso interface).
Because WordPress.org is set up and run by you, the only ads you have would be those you set up and place. All branding will be based on the tools, themes, and plugins you use.
WordPress.com has the right to place ads on your website (unless you pay for the ad free tier). Normally, this is WordPress footer ads, but according to WordPress.com’s TOS, they reserve the right.
WordPress.org is just software, you create and manage the content, including what other people do with your content.
WordPress.com is a little different. You own the content that you originally create, however, WordPress.com reserves the right to use your content for self promotion and can allow others to display your content on their WordPress.com website. Once you cancel your account, that content is no longer available on WordPress.com so make sure you copy down that content.
Is this a major concern? Maybe. WordPress.com is a community of websites so that community can subscribe or share within that community. If it’s not something you are comfortable with then you should probably not use WordPress.com.
You will always be the owner of the content, though you may not have absolute power over where it’s used.
WordPress.org puts security entirely in yours and your web hosting company’s hands. Set up Wordfence or even JetPack to make sure your site is safe from hackers.
WordPress.com already uses JetPack and other Security features so you are as safe as possible. Since WordPress.com is the hosting company, you have a seemless system that works with the hardware (servers) and the software (WordPress).
Which is best?
It is hard to say what is best when everyone’s situation is different. Be confident that both tools provide you with enormous options and both have limitations and costs. Which ever you choose, make sure it fits where you are at. You can always grow into it later.
If you’re a blogger, WordPress.com is your best choice. Specifically because you have access to a connected community.
If you’re a business owner with big dreams, WordPress.org is your best choice, because you will have the ability to take control and fine tune every detail.
If you’re a non-profit, WordPress.org is your best choice, because you can leverage time and money on a limited budget.