What is WordPress?
WordPress is a free and open-source Content Management System, that developers all over the internet use to build websites. It was first released in 2003, and has since been tested and improved by thousands of contributors. It is now the most popular CMS in use on the internet by a large margin.
Why are there two versions?
In short, WordPress.org is where you can download a free copy of the current version of WordPress, along with thousands of plugins, to install on your website. There are some additional costs associated, like web hosting and domain registration, but you’ll find these with any website. To simplify the design process, there are premium themes and plugins that can be purchased.
WordPress.org is perfect for a “do it yourself” site owner, but the sky truly is the limit with it, so it is also a fantastic platform for high quality professional sites.
WordPress.com provides the hosting, and simple installation, but options are severely limited. It can be perfect for a solo blogger who is not looking to make money with the site,but it has some big drawbacks for a company or professional website. You’re severely limited in how much you can customize your website. You won’t have access to the CSS or PHP code, which is necessary for any sort of high level code or style customization. There may be ads, and to replace them, or upgrade to a custom url (yourcompany.com), you’ll need to pay for the premium service for $99/year.
HOSTING – Self Hosted. You choose the host and are responsible for maintenance and security. Full flexibility and control, the site is independent from any other sites.
HOSTING – WordPress.com provides the hosting, which is free for initial signup. Customization and flexibility are severely lacking, and your site is part of a larger network of blogs.
DOMAINS – You register your domain name with any domain registrar. $10-$15/year
DOMAINS – yourname.wordpress.com is free. $18/year if you want to use a custom domain name.
DESIGN – Thousands of free and premium themes available.
DESIGN – Limited selection of free themes, several premium themes starting at $20
CUSTOMIZATION – Full control over your files. Free to change anything in the WordPress code.
CUSTOMIZATION – No FTP access, so you cannot edit the code. $30/yr gives you access to the CSS stylesheet.
PLUGINS – Thousands of high quality free and premium plugins available.
PLUGINS – No plugins available, some plugin-like functionality included in the standard installation.
MONETIZATION – You are free to monetize your site with ads, products, or however you want. You keep 100% of any earnings.
MONETIZATION – Ads on your blog, or you can pay $30/year to go ad-free. If you reach 25k pageviews/month then you can monetize, but you split revenue 50/50 with WordPress.com
The Bottom Line
WordPress.com may be enough if you are a solo blogger or just looking to get a simple website up. WordPress.org may cost a bit more, but you’ll get a more professional, customizable website. Of course, you still need a little technical prowess and patience to learn WordPress, or you need to hire a developer.