in March 2010 - WP Smith
post

My First WordPress Crux: WordPress.COM & WordPress.ORG

When I first started blogging, I began blogging on Blogspot.com. Shortly, thereafter, it became part of Google and was re-branded to blogger.com though it has never lost blogspot. However, I thought it was cumbersome, heavy and man it seemed like a pain to blog sometimes. However, it did have some cool features like being able to email blogs that would post (but never seemed to post correctly). So finally I found WordPress, not through word of mouth, but by simply comparing various blogging platforms that were available. Soon after seeing WordPress.com, I became obsessed to learn more. Finally, convinced I switched over to WordPress.com only to see that I was slightly fooled and confused by WordPress.com and WordPress.org. And, I am not the only one to see this as an issue or a point of confusion.

So what is the difference between the two (WordPress.com and WordPress.org) or is there a difference? When people talk about WordPress, what do they really mean?

When people speak of WordPress, they could mean either and only context can reveal which one. Personally, I believe most are referring to WordPress.ORG and the capabilities of the WordPress software. Rarely will you see the community speak about WordPress.COM as it seems to serve as a stepping stone. However, to combat this and to bring in more revenue, WordPress.COM has started some more robust VIP components for a price. According to WordPress.com, here is a brief comparison.

WordPress.COM

site: http://yourname.wordpres.com

WordPress.ORG

site: http://yourdomain.com (.org, etc)

Benefits It’s free and much easier to setup Ability to upload themes
Everything is taken care of: setup, upgrades, spam, backups, security, etc Ability to upload plugins
Your blog is on hundreds of servers, so it’s highly unlikely it will go down due to traffic Great community
Your posts are backed up automatically Complete control to change code if you’re technically minded
You get extra traffic from blogs of the day and tags
You can find like-minded bloggers using tag and friend surfer
Your login is secure (SSL) so no one can get into your account if you use wifi
Cons We provide 70+ themes (and adding more every day) which you can modify and edit the CSS, but you cannot run a custom theme You need a good web host, which generally costs $7-12 a month, or thousands of dollars per month for a high traffic site
You can’t hack the PHP code behind your blog Requires more technical knowledge to set up and run
You can’t upload plugins You’re responsible for stopping spam
You have to handle backups
You must upgrade the software manually when a new version comes out
If you get a huge spike in traffic (like Digg or Slashdot) your site will probably go down unless you have a robust hosting setup

* The VIP program on WordPress.com for high-traffic and high-profile sites allows you to run custom themes, custom PHP code, ad code, and WordPress plugins.

So it comes down to these 3 things:

  1. Technical Knowledge: With WordPress.ORG, there is a need for more technical knowledge, especially if you desire a lot of customization. However, you don’t even need this if you have #2. And if you decide to go with WordPress.COM, there is little to no technical knowledge needed. All someone needs is the basic ability to search and click, drag and drop, and other blogging abilities.
  2. Money: This includes hosting costs (What’s hosting?), domain registration (I have to register my name too?), and sometimes setup/installation (though less often, unless you want to pay someone). Even though WordPress.org blogging platform is free, there are the other costs. And even though WordPress.com is free, it can cost money too (and I personally believe it is more expensive to go with WordPress.com VIP than do your own).
  3. Customization: WordPress.COM allows for little to no customization, except for VIPs (again refer to #2).

And the basic decision is not on cost per se, but on simplicity or flexibility; working within certain pre-determined confines or creating something yourself with complete control borrowing from the massive community. A better table found at blogmum.com is as follows:

WordPress.COM Self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.ORG)
Cost Basic blog is free; paid upgrades for various features. Hosting must be paid for; software is free.
Themes You’re limited to themes that WP choose to offer (currently around 70-ish); a paid upgrade gets you the option to edit the CSS. You cannot install themes of your own choosing, or custom themes made just for you. You’re free to install whatever theme(s) you like.
Plugins and PHP-hacking You can’t use plugins, though widgets do offer some of the same functionality. If there are specific things you want to do with your blog, check if WP.com will offer them. You can install as many plugins as you like, and even change the core PHP code of your blog. It’s yours to do with as you like.
Spam Spam-fighting done for you. You’ll need to use plugins to keep spam commenters off your blog.
Upgrades Your blog is automatically upgraded to the newest version of the software. You’ll need to click a button to upgrade to the newest version of the software.
Backups Your blog’s backed up for you. You’ll need to use a plugin to backup, or do it manually with FTP and PHPMyAdmin.
Storage space Various-sized paid upgrades available. As much as your host provides; if you’re running a photoblog, think about an account with unlimited storage.
Multiple users Up to 35; paid upgrade for more. As many or as few as you like.
Ads May be served up by WP on your blog; paid upgrade to remove them. You can’t add your own advertising (e.g. Adsense) or affiliate marketing, nor can you post paid-for posts (e.g. Pay Per Post). Up to you; if you want ads, you can sell ‘em.
Robustness Hosted across multiple servers, so if you hit the front page of Digg, you should be okay. Up to you and your service provider; unless you’ve done something to make your blog more robust, if you hit the front page of Digg, your site will probably go down.

Depending on your long-term goals, the best place to start is probably to begin with a wordpress.com to see how you like blogging. And because the software is the same between WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG, it makes for a very simple transition. However, when you make the transition from WordPress.com to your self-hosted WordPress site, it will set you back a little at the setout. However, I have seen people and have made these transitions myself very easily. One benefit is that you already have content at the start of the self-hosted and you just need to wait for Google or Yahoo! However, with social media, your community can make the transition extremely successful. So what do you think? Which would you choose?