(The other one is multisite but you probably don’t need to worry about that.) So what’s the difference?
WordPress.com is actually a service that is offered by Automattic (the company created by Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress).
WordPress.com is a free, hosted blogging service.
The main benefit is that users can sign up at the URL, create a blog and start posting content in a manner of minutes!
Limitations of WordPress.com
As WordPress.com is hosted and maintained by Automattic, they limit the feature set they provide to reduce complexity.
- No custom domain – blogs are set up as a subdomain of WordPress.com (yourblogname.wordpress.com)
- Inability to sell things or perform any commercial activity
- 3 GB of space
- No installation of plugins
- No upload of themes – limited to what WordPress.com provides
- No custom design – changing of CSS and site fonts
- No VideoPress
Additional WordPress.com Tiers
There are additional for-a-fee tiers of WordPress.com (Premium and Business) which provide for additional features such as:
- Custom Domain – point any domain you own to your hosted site
- Increased or Unlimited Space
- Removal of Ads
- Custom Design
- Premium Themes
If you are just looking for a quick way to build a presence on the web with minimal overhead, WordPress.com is for you.
There have been and are other services that do similar things (Tumblr, Posterous, etc.) but WordPress.com gives you an easy upgrade path to WordPress.org should you need to take your site to the next level.
And as many folks can attest to, you never know what can happen if you are building on someone else’s platform (see Posterous).
So what is WordPress.org and how much does it cost?
It’s still free but what happens here is that you are provided the software to download.
And then you are responsible to install and configure it on a hosting service that you provide.
WordPress consists of a series of files that you upload to your server and a database that you install on your hosting site’s database server (typically MySQL).
As it’s under your control, you are not subject to any of the limitations that are associated with WordPress.com.
- Use your own domain or subdomain
- Use your site to do whatever you want (no limitations on commercial activity)
- Only limited by your hosting account space
- Ability to install any plugins you wish
- Ability to install any themes you wish
- Ability to change your code
You are responsible for the hosting, the configuration, backups and everything else though.
If you are a real business, you need to be using WordPress.org.
If the purpose of your site is to assist in your commercial efforts, WordPress.org gives you an intuitive, easy to use platform that enables you to create and maintain a professional, flexible, performant website.
And it’s not under anybody else’s control.
As startups (Posterous, Pownce, etc.) get purchased or close down all the time and platforms change their practices (see Facebook algorithm changes), you don’t want to be reliant on someone else’s good fortune or good graces.