Online Software

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: What’s the difference?

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
Code may be poetry, but that ain't gonna pay the bills - WordPress.com will

Powering (at the time of writing) 28.8% of the internet’s top million sites, WordPress is a dominant force. Despite that popularity, people are hard-pressed to tell the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, and what they represent. But, before I explain, let’s talk a little about the history of WordPress first (it is relevant, I promise).

Back in 2003, a young San Francisco developer called Matt Mullenweg created a new version of the open source b2/cafelog software, which was named WordPress. Wishing to monetise the product, Mullenweg created Automattic, where he could provide add-on services and products. To ensure WordPress maintained independence, he also created the not-for-profit WordPress Foundation, with Automattic donating the WordPress copyrights to the foundation – on the understanding that his company could continue to use the brand itself.

So, that’s the history – now a little information on how WordPress itself is used. Unlike traditional software, which you download to your computer and install, WordPress is designed to be ‘hosted’ on web servers. You can do this yourself, if you’re brave, or you can easily (and quite cheaply) find a company who will host it for you.

Many hosting companies will provide simple control panels from which you can automatically install such software, and WordPress is often one of the options provided. However, if you can’t do this, or want to host it yourself, then you can head to WordPress.org and download it.

WordPress, to this day, is developed and supported by volunteers and the ‘.org’ site is where they can be found. Whether you place WordPress on your own server at home or are getting a hosting company to do this, these are known as ‘self-hosted sites’.

In comparison, WordPress.com, owned by Automattic, hosts the WordPress software for you, available in packages from free to full-blown VIP enterprise level (The Sun, for example, is hosted at WordPress.com).

Other companies exist that do the same, such as Bluehost and WP-Engine. These are different from the general-purpose hosting I mentioned before as these companies manage and maintain the WordPress software for you, rather than simply giving you a space on the web to add whatever software you want.

WordPress.com also adds its own modifications to the base software, including a completely new interface. Many of its modifications can be added to your own sites, if they’re self-hosted, using a plugin named Jetpack. Using WordPress.com or a Jetpack powered self-hosted site allows you to use the WordPress mobile and desktop apps as well, all for free.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org in a nutshell

  • WordPress.org  WordPress can be downloaded for free for anyone to use but hosting is required. Development and support all voluntary. Support is by forum but you’ll be responsible for most technical issues that arise.
  • WordPress.com  Commercial hosting of WordPress. Includes email, forums and live chat for support.

Disclaimer: David Artiss, the author of this article, works for Automattic Inc.

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About the author

David Artiss

Currently working for a technology company based in San Francisco, David has worked in IT for nearly 30 years. He is a keen gamer and happily admits to being a gadget nerd too.

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