In this video, we’ll explain the differences between these two related — but distinctively different — versions of the popular WordPress web publishing software.
As you already know by now, WordPress is free web software you can use to create a beautiful website, blog, or app. You can build and manage your website’s content using just your web browser. WordPress is available for download from WordPress.org.
You can download WordPress for free, but it must be installed on a web server in order to work. You’ll need a web host for your WordPress site, which can cost anywhere from $5-50 dollars per month. Today, there are several companies who provide Managed WordPress hosting, including installing WordPress and ensuring it’s always up-to-date.
Once WordPress is installed, you’ll have complete control over every aspect of your website. You can install custom themes and plugins to add new features to your site, or even modify the underlying CSS and PHP files to create a completely custom site.
If you plan to customize your site by installing a premium theme or plugin, or you want to ensure you’ll have the most flexibility down the road, you’ll want to use the self-hosted version of WordPress, available for download from WordPress.org.
WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a free, hosted version of WordPress that enables you build a simple blog or website in just a couple of minutes.
During the signup process, you’ll choose a name for your site, which will then automatically include “.wordpress.com” at the end of your site’s web address. You can purchase an upgrade which will enable you to use your own domain name, without this xxx.wordpress.com portion.
After you select a name for your site and finish the signup process, you’ll choose from a set of pre-selected themes, which control the look and feel of your blog or website. Again, you can purchase an upgrade which will allow you to customize the design of your site, but you won’t be able to install premium themes from 3rd-party theme companies.
There are a number of other upgrades available for purchase, including video hosting, space upgrades, removing ads that are shown by default, and more. And should you ever decide to transfer your site from the fully-hosted WordPress.com service to a self-hosted WordPress.org installation, you can even have the WordPress engineers handle the entire move for you for a small fee.
WordPress.com also includes the ability to collect feedback from your readers through polls, or ratings on your posts. You can also enable a mobile theme, which will ensure that your site is optimized for display on mobile devices.
While WordPress.com includes many features that are perfect for beginners, keep in mind that you can’t install premium themes or plugins from 3rd parties, monetize your site through ads, or customize the underlying files that power your site.
So, if you’re looking for a free, easy way to get started with a basic blog or a very simple website, WordPress.com includes free hosting, automatic upgrades, and a number of built-in features that will help you create a site in just a few minutes.
But, if you prefer complete control over your site’s content—and presentation, and you’d like to take advantage of custom themes and plugins to help make your site even more unique, you’ll be much better-served by the self-hosted version of WordPress, available from WordPress.org.
Hopefully, this helps clear up some of the confusion about the differences between the two versions of WordPress, and you’re now able to decide which one best serves your needs, as you build your blog or website.