For people who are interested in getting a blog started up, many choose WordPress over the competition for a variety of reasons. But once that decision is made, people often get confused on the differences between wordpress.com and wordpress.org (otherwise known as self-hosted WordPress). Well, here’s the main differences:
Hosting is a service that allows you to place your files and databases on servers so that they can be accessed on the internet. With wordpress.com, they provide the hosting free of charge. If you choose wordpress.org, you have to provide the hosting yourself, which is the only downside to choosing self-hosted, in my opinion. It typically costs about $5/month. If you’re looking for a host, I personally recommend HostGator (use coupon DIWW25PCOFF to save 25%).
With wordpress.org, you automatically are responsible for your own domain, which you will need to purchase. This gives your site a very unique and professional appearance. On wordpress.com, your blog will be a subdomain of wordpress.com (e.g. myblog.wordpress.com), unless you pay a premium fee to use a custom domain with your site (on top of the cost of the domain). So unless you’re happy having a wordpress.com URL, then you’ll want to go self-hosted.
On wordpress.com, you can’t install plugins. Plugins are the way in which you can unleash the true power of WordPress, so it’s a real setback if you can’t use them. You can use plugins to place ads on your site, add social sharing buttons, improve the search function, or set up custom redirections. With your self-hosted site, you are free to install plugins from the thousands in the official WordPress directory, and even plugins that aren’t in the directory. The ways in which you can extend WordPress truly are limitless, so long as you can install plugins.
Another limitation of wordpress.com is that you can’t modify the themes. You can select from about 170 themes, but you must take them as they are. With self-hosted, not only can you choose from thousands of themes (either from the WordPress directory, or from marketplaces like ThemeForest), but you are free to edit them if you want to tweak them. You can change the fonts, colors and styles using CSS, or the layout by editing the PHP files.
So, which one?
For me, there’s only one option: wordpress.org. The only setback to choosing wordpress.org is that you have to pay for hosting (at about $5/month). Other than that, wordpress.org wins out in every category and all of the advantages are well worth the small cost assocaited with hosting the site.
If you just can’t afford wordpress.org, you can still start on wordpress.com and then move to wordpress.org later, by exporting your site from wordpress.com and importing it straight into your new wordpress.org site.