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What’s the Difference Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?

What’s the Difference Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com? When you’re new to WordPress, there’s a lot to catch up on. There’s a great deal of confusion about who owns what, what’s free, and what isn’t. Once you understand the difference between WordPress software, WordPress.org, and WordPress.com, you’ll have a much easier time building your website right. 

  • The Difference Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
    • WordPress.org — Software Support
    • WordPress.com — The Hosting Business
  • Self-Hosted WordPress is Free
    • What Still Costs Money?

The Difference Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com

WordPress — the software — is a popular site building framework released under the GNU Public License. Anyone can freely use it, develop it, and do all kinds of fun technical stuff with it as a basis, all free of charge. 

WordPress.org — Software Support

WordPress.org is a website set up to help you use WordPress software and keep up to date with the latest news. Think of ‘.org’ as a meeting place for WordPress developers and contributors. It’s a great resource for getting themes, plugins, and advice on using WordPress. It’s also where you can download the latest versions of WordPress software. 

WordPress.com — The Hosting Business

The site WordPress.com is owned by a business, Automattic. While this business was started by early WordPress contributors, the WordPress.com business uses the free software available on WordPress.com. On WordPress.com, you can buy web hosting, technical support for your site, and even get a free (if limited) site of your own — Automattic runs advertisements on these ‘free’ sites as a way to make money on free content. 

Remember, even though WordPress.com uses the free software, it’s still a business. Automattic does a lot for WordPress in terms of resources and talent, but they’re still a private business using the same free, publicly available software supported and maintained over on WordPress.org. 

Self-Hosted WordPress is Free

The ‘free’ WordPress over on WordPress.org is often called ‘self-hosted WordPress’. That’s because you can freely download the software, but you still need to find a way to get your site online — or ‘host’ it as we web designers like to say.

Now, you’re free to set up a server rack in your living room — pro tip: have really good air conditioning — but most people don’t have the time or interest to do that these days. Instead, they pay a web hosting company to run the technical side of things. That way all you have to do is manage your site!

WordPress.com is an example of paid hosting, but it tends to be relatively limited. It can work well if you’re happy with Automattic’s default configurations, but you have a lot more options if you go with a company that offers shared, private, or cloud based hosting. This gives you more control over things like your domain name, your personal data, and what software you can install on your site. 

What Still Costs Money?

So, aside from WordPress the software — which is free — and web hosting — which could be do-it-yourself but is best left to the pros — what do you have to pay for to make a WordPress site great? 

Well, you don’t have to pay for anything. You can get a great, functional site just using default and freely available material. Certain themes — which control site appearance — and plugins — extra apps you can put on your site — can cost money. 

It’s the same principle as the web hosting we talked about earlier. If you enjoy coding or graphic design, you may be able to add special features to your WordPress site yourself. Other times, you may find a plugin or theme that’s worth paying for. Why spend twelve hours coding a photo slideshow when you can buy a professional plugin that does everything you want for a few dollars?

As you get more experience with WordPress, you’ll have a better idea of what’s worth spending money on and what’s easy to do for free. Just remember that the software at the heart of it all — WordPress — is free for everyone.

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