It is very easy to distinguish between websites or blogs that are powered by free WordPress.com from self hosted WordPress.org at least from the way the back-end is managed. It may be pretty difficult though to notice any difference from the structural design outlook especially when the WordPress.com site has been upgraded or changed to a custom domain.
Nevertheless, there are numerous features that differentiate WordPress.org on self hosted server from WordPress.com site that is pre-managed on behalf of the supposed owner.
Before I go into the differences between the two blogging platforms, let me share features they have in common and why people opt for either of the two in my opinion, talking from experience.
The similarities between WordPress dot com and dot org
1. The two platforms are content management software.
2. They are both founded by the same person – Matt Mullenweg
3. They have the same blogging features like comment box, post editor, admin panel, subscribe tendency, brand inclination, etc.
4. They also have SEO features if well utilized.
5. They both require domain name and hosting server to run effectively.
As a matter of fact, both are full-fledged website in every sense from the angle of content management.
Why people especially beginners prefer WordPress dot com to dot org?
Let truth be told, most professional bloggers of today started from free WordPress.com or even blogger (own by Google), especially people like me who wanted to test the waters before launching into business blog.
I started by blogging career on blogger and after some months I migrated to free WordPress.com without a custom domain before I finally move to WordPress.org where I founded this web design services website with a touch of blogging element.
If you do not have a mentor to guide you through the elementary stage of your blogging career, chances abound that you’ll follow the way of the crowd especially when there is no cost involve.
Won’t you go for a service that allows you explore a tool you’ve heard so much about without paying a dime? Will you want to gamble with your hard earn money on something you’re yet to know how it will add up to your business prospect? I doubt, if you ask me. So, it is only logical and economical to opt for WordPress dot com if you’re a beginner in the world of blogging.
However, as times pass by and your knowledge about blogging industry begins to broaden, then you might choose to either stay on the platform or upgrade within or better still, move up to WordPress dot org. This depend greatly on the reason why you blog and the purpose you want the blog to serve. The decision is entirely yours. But, there are certain factors you might have to consider when you want to select which one to settle for.
This will take us to analyse the differences between the two blogging platforms. So, let’s ride on.
WordPress dot com versus WordPress dot org
There is really only one major difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org website in my opinion, but this difference encapsulates many other factors that require deep thought consideration.
Let me use the following analogy to explain this major difference.
A site built on WordPress.com is like a tenant that rent a room in a big mansion. To crown it all, the landlord said you don’t have to pay for the room allocated to you except in an event where you desire extensions like larger rooms, split air conditioner, change the paint of the room, boiler, etc. In the same vein, you are not allowed to alter the construction or redesign the room and fittings.
However, the room is big enough for you to rest your head, sleep and wake-up, cook your meal and serve your visitors with numerous delicacies.
It implies that the landlord used his money to provide free accommodation for you and gave you the opportunity to live in a beautiful mansion where you pay only when you need extra features. This is what site built on WordPress.com is like.
Now, the same landlord in conjunction with community volunteers developed an expanse of land that has no limit. They dish this property out free of charge to as much people that desire to build their own house so that they can become landlord too.
In this case, you’re responsible for the foundation, construction and design outlook of the building, security against robbers, the need to always renew the soil texture against erosion, etc. This is what WordPress.org looks like.
In clear terms, WordPress dot com site are sites that are managed on behalf of the owner while WordPress dot org sites are managed fully by the owner.
I know you would like to ask me how, when you can log in to the back-end of the site and publish blog post on WordPress dot com? Never mind, I’ll explain.
Every website on World Wide Web has two parts upon which they run. For WordPress, whether dot com or dot org, both have the server or hosting side and the admin back-end side. The hosting side is the power house upon which the back-end operates.
The self hosted WordPress dot org site owner has access to both the hosting and back-end sides while WordPress dot com site owner have access the admin back-end only. It’s more or less like creating blog post contributors on self hosted dot org site. They work on the site within the limit or extent of permission granted to them.
In nutshell, WordPress dot com sites are not in full control of their blog. That is why the site can be deleted sometimes without notice if you contravene their policy and you won’t be able to have access to the site again. Why were they able to do that? It’s just because they have access to the hosting side and you don’t.
Below is an infograph by WPBeginner that shed more light on the pros and cons of the two blogging platforms. Study it carefully to see if there is a need to either swap or stay on the platform you are.
It is important to note that running a website on self hosted WordPress dot org comes with a whole lot of responsibilities. As the landlord that has full control on what goes on your site, you have to keep the site up-to-date, prevent it from spam and security threats, ensure the content on the site are searchable and SEO friendly, ensure content backup and so on. These things are perfectly done on your behalf on WordPress dot com by your landlord.
Why bloggers move from WordPress dot com to self hosted WordPress dot org
Irrespective of how easy to run a site on WordPress dot com, business oriented people still prefer to move to a self hosted site even when they have a blog on dot com. Below are some of the reasons why they do so.
1. Control: Control and brand inclination are the two major reasons why an average blogger would want to opt out of dot com site for dot org.
How do I mean? People desire control especially on something that revolves around their brand. You would want to access the server end of your site, determine which hosting company to use, the hosting package you want, at what price and the ability to fine tune the server for the best blogging experience for you, the website and your web visitors.
On WordPress.com, these are done on your behalf though effectively. That is why you see posts or content on WordPress dot com sometimes rank even higher on SERP for some long tail keywords.
2. Additional functionalities: The fact that you are not allowed to install plugins that have the capacity to enhance site functionality and user experience could make an average blogger swap to dot org.
3. Limited themes: On dot com, you are limited to the themes in their theme repository whether free or paid. You are not allowed to install premium themes from other sources because of likely vulnerability issues. While on self hosted dot org site, you can install themes from any source in as much as they are compatible with WordPress.
4. Cost implication: People consider the cost of upgrading within WordPress dot com to access features that could make it compete effectively with sites on dot org.
For instance, to get custom domain, you’ll pay $17 dollars/year; to remove advert on your site, you’ll pay approximately $30 dollars/year; to get custom design which is more or less like CSS upgrade, you’ll have to pay another approximately $30 dollars.
Conclusion: Where would you prefer your website or blog to be? WordPress dot com or WordPress dot org? The platform you choose in my opinion will depend on what you want to use the website for.
If you want to start a blog on a casual note or you don’t intend to make money from the site neither do you plan to turn blogging into career, I advise you stay on WordPress dot com. But, if you want to use the site to enhance or promote your business or make money out-rightly from it or better still, you desire to turn blogging into a career, don’t hesitate any further to build your website on self hosted WordPress dot org.
It will give you the control needed to develop business inclined website that will build credibility on your brand. What do you think.