Working with so many entrepreneurs and small businesses, we very often come across business owners and even web developers that aren’t aware of the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Unfortunately, these differences are significant, and these two domains function as completely different businesses with completely different business models. On the one hand, WordPress.com is a subscription service that is marketed for those who don’t necessarily have the know-how to create an intuitive website design and user experience. On the other hand, WordPress.org is an entirely different beast – completely free, used by professional web developers all over the world, and it is the platform that makes up nearly half of all of the internet.
Today on The Launchpad Blog, we want to offer some insight into the similarities and differences of WordPress.com VS WordPress.org so that you can understand what is best for your business and what is most suitable for your needs.
Note: This article reflects pricing as of September 7th, 2021.
Use and Application
The first important consideration is the use and application of each of these platforms. Let’s distinguish between the two: WordPress.com is a subscription service, offered by WordPress and/or bitnami. WordPress.com is used by newer entrepreneurs, small businesses that maybe don’t have the budget for a comprehensive website build, and freelancers who maybe aren’t as specialized in website design, but offer it as an add-on service. The .com version of WordPress is essentially B2C (Business to consumer). This varies from the .org version, which makes up nearly half of the internet and is used for both small businesses and multi-million dollar corporations alike. WordPress.org functions solely as a Content Management System or CMS – but we’ll get into this more in a second.
Next, let’s consider pricing, as this is really where the differences will become apparent. WordPress.com is a subscription service that has several different pricing packages. Within these pricing tiers, customers are required to pay a higher monthly fee for access to business and enterprise features that would otherwise be free on WordPress.org. However, WordPress.com is essentially designed to be an enclosed system. Meaning, it doesn’t act as just a standalone CMS, it also includes a hosting environment as well as some basic options for services that might generally be handled from an IT department. WordPress.com also includes features for redirect rules, which can come in handy as your site and brand grows and develops. However, all of these features incur an additional cost, so it’s not necessarily cost-effective as the business scales and grows. It’s also particularly noteworthy that WordPress.com uses shared hosting, so your website environment is sharing bandwidth with others that use the service. Last, WordPress.com pricing isn’t necessarily competitive to the rest of the market – the personal plan starts at just $7 per month, but that’s really just for that hosting. You’ll still have to pay to register your URL, and you won’t have access to some of the most basic functionality, such as Google Analytics. The prices only go up from there – $14 / month for the premium plan, $33 / month for the Business plan, and $59 / month for the eCommerce plan. In order to get access to the marketplace of more than 50,000 plugins, you’ll have to opt for the Business plan. If you have an online store and need to integrate with shipping providers, you’ll need the eCommerce plan, which is $59 / month. Compare that with Shopify’s basic plan that starts at just $30 / month. What all of this pricing effectively means, is that as your business scales, you’ll need to pay a higher monthly fee that isn’t necessarily proportionate to the features you’re getting and what the rest of the market is charging. WordPress.com is certainly priced at a premium.
Let’s compare this pricing with that of WordPress.org, which is entirely free. WordPress.org is a standalone CMS, which means that you’re installing it on your own server, you already have the website registered with a registrar of your choosing, and a hosting environment ready to go for it. WordPress.org is a platform that there are countless developers creating a variety of plugins and tools for – so, while some of these plugins and tools may incur an additional cost, that cost is paid to the development team whose tool you are using (Furthermore, most of these integrations are less than $30 / month). In terms of loading WordPress.org as a CMS onto your website, you can do this for free if you have the web development knowledge.
So let’s talk about the functionality – .com is meant for those with less experience, while .org is completely free and used in professional settings all over the world. From a functionality standpoint, using the .org version of WordPress gives you total and complete access to their marketplace of more than 50,000 plugins & integrations. These do everything from sync with your calendar, to handle product purchases & payment portals, integrate with social media, and so on. By comparison, getting access to this marketplace on the .com version of WordPress would require you to pay for the Business or Enterprise tier, which starts at $33 / month. This .org version also opens up the CMS for custom code, meaning you can create truly custom solutions for the user experience that you’d like to design. Taking this a step further, utilizing WordPress.org also means that you can use premium / professional 3rd party plugins and themes that exist on marketplace’s other than the WordPress marketplace. This is of particular importance, because the majority of the solutions that a professional developer or designer are going to use do cost money.
If we were to consider those redirect rules again, you’ll start to see how these costs add up. Redirects are a very common part of web development. As websites & brands change, so does their domain and their URLs. It’s very common to have to “write redirect rules” for old domain URLs to point to newer, updated URLs. These redirects can be created via free plugins on WordPress.org. However, on WordPress.com, this same functionality costs $13 / year if you don’t have access to the plugin marketplace.
All in all, WordPress.com and WordPress.org both definitely have their purpose. We’re not particular fans of WordPress.com, though, as they tend to charge customers pricing that isn’t really comparable to other shared hosting, registrar, and website development services. A dedicated Virtual Private Server (VPS – the higher performing alternative to shared hosting) will generally start at around $30 / month for a professional service, but then tasks like redirect rules don’t incur additional fees, nor does the customer have to pay more to gain access to necessary features. WordPress.com might be a good solution for the solopreneur or freelancer who wants all of their web management tools in one place and is willing to pay a higher price for that environment, but if possible, we recommend WordPress.org. New Moon Strategy builds best practice websites by utilizing the WordPress.org Content Management System.