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The Confusion Lingers with WordPress.com and WordPress.org


A few months back I was at a day-long conference for realtors and dropped in on a beginning WordPress session. The focus was on starting up a blog and the questions were pretty typical. As often happens, some of the same questions cropped up. One was, what is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

As the speaker began to explain it, I saw some puzzled faces. People were clearly confused, especially three beginning bloggers.

Then, about a week ago, a start-up blogger sent me an email. She was totally confused. Someone had told her that it “was better to use .org,” but didn’t tell her what that meant. Of course, she thought he was talking about .org on the end of her domain name (as opposed to .com). So she ended up buying the .org extension. When I asked her why, she said, “He told me I should be using .org instead, and that’s all he said.”

Now I will admit I have used that same line for a long time. All of us WordPress peeps do. But several months ago, I realized that it’s confusing to new bloggers, when we describe it as “WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org.”

So, I took it upon myself to change it. Now I explain it as:

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org a self-hosted WordPress blog

This explanation makes much more sense. WordPress.com is a platform that allows you to build your blog for free. Your site then resides on WordPress.com.

If you go for a self-hosted blog, you are taking the free software from WordPress.org (that is the only time I mention .org, as the WordPress site where you get the software) and install it on your own hosting service, such as Bluehost, Hostgator, or God forbid, GoDaddy. And, of course, you pay a small monthly fee to whichever hosting service you choose.

There are major differences, of course, in what you can do with a free WordPress.com blog and a self-hosted one. These can all be sorted out and you can decide for yourself which is best. After, that is, you understand that going the WordPress.org route does not mean that your blog will be on the WordPress.org site.

Just like all the themes, plugins and widgets there, you are simply grabbing and putting them on your own self-hosted site. I actually heard from a colleague who had discussed moving her blog to WordPress with her current webmaster. And he insisted that her site would sit on WordPress.org. Yikes!

So let’s settle this confusion once and for all, and tell it like it is. Got it?


  • kristinB

    Hey Bob, can you elaborate on your feelings for GoDaddy?  I use it and have not had any issues, but I’ve also not tried anything else.  It seems to be the black sheep though, on all of the blogs, so just wondering why.  

    • bobWP

       @kristinB I just knew someone would ask that : )
      Actually one part of it is personal, and how they do business. I’m not here to badmouth any service, but on the professional side, I have had nothing but issues with them whenever a client has hosted a WordPress site there. Support was horrible causing nothing but hours of headaches for me.
      On the other hand, I have heard from people who are perfectly happy with them. I just have a lot of colleagues that feel the same way I do. 
      Appreciate your question and hoping this doesn’t turn into a GoDaddy conversation here : )

      • kristinB

         @bobWP Bob, thanks for the response about hosting experience.  Didn’t mean to get sidetracked from the wordPress topic.  As a matter of fact, I was discussing the .com vs. .org option with a client yesterday and got the blank stare in return.  Hence, your article was very timely for me.  I like your suggestion of just using the term “self-hosted”.  Seems like it may avoid a lot of confusion.  Looking forward to trying that approach next time.

        • bobWP

           @kristinB No worries, it wouldn’t be the first time GoDaddy has distracted us : ) And glad to hear your found this helpful!

  • Pingdom

    We agree, it’s not completely straightforward. You might be interested in the article we just published about WordPress and the top 100 blogs: http://royal.pingdom.com/2012/04/11/wordpress-completely-dominates-top-100-blogs/

  • austingunter

    Hey guys, wanted to throw a bit more context into the ring for hosting a WordPress site.  GoDaddy is a popular option, simply because of their massive brand recognition.  For shared hosting, I personally recommend Bluehost, which I used for years, as well as Dreamhost.  
    On the managed side of WordPress hosting, there are some great options as well.  Managed WordPress hosts are more expensive, starting at $20/mo, and going up from there.  They aren’t the right fit for every site, but if you have a monetized site, or want to save yourself time supporting and managing WordPress, then $20-$30 a month can be a great thing for you.  
    A managed host will mean DRAMATICALLY faster site load times, often pages load in under a second.  They also give much greater support.  My company, WP Engine, has amazing support and is incredibly fast.  They pay my salary, so assume that I’m extremely biased about them.  Our competitors, ZippyKid and Page.ly, are also high quality hosts.  The right fit will depend on your site.
    Let us know if we can help.  We tweet a ton @wpengine and I’ll personally respond if you have questions!

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