What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? In a word, hosting.
It’s a question I’m frequently asked, and one that many WordPress beginners are confused about.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a program for creating websites. Any kind of website, WordPress included, must be hosted somewhere.
WordPress.com is a specific WordPress hosting solution. On the WordPress.com service, you can host a website that uses WordPress. WordPress.com:
- Supplies all the themes, plugins, etc, so you don’t have much selection
- Restricts what you can and can’t do when you use their service, so it’s not a good place for site you plan to make money with
- Provides a domain name that looks like yourdomain.wordpress.com.
In the world of WordPress hosting, WordPress.com is like renting an apartment. It gives you the housing you need, but you don’t own it and you can’t change anything that’s already there.
What you need to get started: just your own content.
WordPress.org is the web address where you go to download a copy of WordPress that you then run on your own server. This could be an actual server that you own and maintain (not recommended unless you’re a real IT geek). More often, it’s a hosting company.
There are zillions of hosting companies available, some better than others. Most people start with a shared hosting account, which is the cheapest. It means that your site is on the same server as many other sites. The price is offset by generally slower speeds, and more vulnerability to security issues. When it comes to shared hosting, I use Siteground (you can read my review here). Most of these will also provide email service so you can send and receive email as email@example.com.
Shared hosting is like making your internet home in a condo or townhouse. You own it, and you can do what you want with it, to a point. You can change the appliances, paint the interior, and pull up the carpet to install hardwood floors. You share walls with other units, and sometimes their stuff spills into your space. It’s a good place to start.
If you can afford it, you can look for “managed hosting” where the company specializes in hosting WordPress. They generally will take care of keeping your site secure, and some will make sure that WordPress, your plugins, etc., are all up-to-date with the latest versions. WPEngine.com is a good choice.
Managed hosting is a step up. It’s like living in a regular, single-family house. You don’t share any walls with anyone else, and you can do pretty much whatever you want with the property, inside and out.
When you use WordPress on your own server or server space, it’s referred to as “self-hosted WordPress,” or “WordPress.org.” Your domain name will look like yourdomain.com.
What you need to get started: A domain name, hosting and a WordPress theme
Specialized Hosting Services
Another option for WordPress is to use a specialized service like the Rainmaker platform [aff]. It combines managed WordPress hosting with premium themes from StudioPress, and offers built-in podcasting capabilities and membership sites. It also includes lots of business-building, content marketing education, and it’s the brainchild of Brian Clark and the crowd at Copyblogger. Cost is higher than the other options, but it’s an excellent value because it includes so much more.
In addition to the managed hosting solution, membership in New Rainmaker gives you access to an in-depth education about all things content marketing, with new information added regularly. Here’s a sample of the business education that’s offered.
Building your WordPress site on the Rainmaker platform is like living in a gated community with its own concierge service, a maid, a pool guy and a landscaper.
What you need to get started: A domain name.
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means, if you click and buy, I earn a small commission.
This article was updated on June 11, 2019.