WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

Clients occasionally ask me what’s the difference between setting up a web site on wordpress.com as opposed to downloading WordPress from wordpress.org and installing it on your own server. Of course the answer is that there are many. Here are some…

Domain Name

  • By installing WordPress on your own server, you can drive traffic to your own domain and increase your web site’s overall search engine ranking.
  • On wordpress.com you can buy a domain name for $15 per year or map to an existing domain name for $10 per year. If you don’t have a domain of your own and don’t wish to purchase one, you can have a subdomain on wordpress.com (e.g. http://yoursitename.wordpress.com) for free.

Installation & Setup

  • Setting up on wordpress.com is as simple as providing a valid email address and filling out an online form. Just about anyone can do it.
  • Installing WordPress on your own server can also be very simple. Many web hosts provide an automatic installer, which again only requires completing an online form. I like Lunarpages because for only $4.95 per month you can get unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth, and an unlimited number of subdomains, add-on domains, POP email addresses, and databases. They also have an automatic installer that allows you to set up multiple instances of WordPress whether on one domain or different domains.

Disk space

  • You get 3GB of disk space for free on wordpress.com. You can add 5 GB for $20/year, 15 GB for $50/year, or 25 GB for $90/year.
  • On your own domain, you potentially have unlimited disk space. With Lunarpages, unlimited disk space costs $4.95/month, $59.40 per year, or $118.80 for 26 months (approximately $4.57/month).

Advertising

  • When you install WordPress on your own server, you can host ads and generate income from your site.
  • When your site is on wordpress.com, WordPress places ads on your site (they only show to visitors who are not logged in). If you don’t want the ads on your site, that will cost you $30 per year.

Users

  • When your site is on wordpress.com, you are limited to 30 users. If you want to remove the limit, it will cost you $30 per year.
  • When you install WordPress on your own server, you can have an unlimited number of users.

Privacy Settings

  • On wordpress.com, privacy settings allow you to make your site public, hide your site from search engines, or make your site only accessible by logging in.
  • When you install WordPress on your own server, you can make your site public or hide your site from search engines, but making it only accessible by login requires a plugin.

Themes

  • On wordpress.com, you can choose from over 60 themes, and you can customize the CSS.
  • When WordPress is installed on your own server, you can choose from literally thousands of free themes, purchase premium themes, or design your own themes. You can also modify the CSS as well as the theme scripts, which allows you to modify a stock theme to make it look completely original. Checkout the WordPress Themes Directory. You can also search Google or other search engines for Free WordPress Themes.

Widgets & Plugins

  • On wordpress.com you can choose from about 25 widgets. WordPress adds widgets to the list by popular demand. You can’t install plugins.
  • When you host your own WordPress site you can choose from thousands of free plugins that add functionality to your blog including email subscription managers, shopping cart, database tools, social bookmarking, photo galleries, event calendars, the list goes on and on. Many of these plugins include widgets that allow you to display additional information in the sidebar along with the standard WordPress widgets. Check out the WordPress Plugins Directory. You can also write your own plugins and widgets, or have custom plugins and widgets developed for you.

Upgrades

  • On wordpress.com upgrades are done automatically. You don’t even have to think about it.
  • On your own installation you simply click a link to upgrade WordPress or your plugins. Since version 2.7 there is no need to upgrade manually or install an automatic upgrade plugin. Automatic upgrading is built in.

Now that you know many of the differences, what do installing WordPress on your own server and hosting your site on wordpress.com have in common?

  • Create web pages, blog posts, or both
  • Pages and posts can be public or private (require user privileges)
  • Subscribe via RSS
  • On-site search engine
  • Allow users to add comments
  • Upload and insert media
  • Add links to your favorite sites
  • Your site can be public or private (hidden from search engines)
  • Same great support forums
  • Akismet spam filtering (optional on your own installation)
  • Import content from other blogs
  • Export content from your blog to another blog
  • Multiple user levels (visitor, subscriber, contributor, author, admin)
  • Delete your site at any time

Still can’t decide? Then start a site on wordpress.com, get your feet wet, and see if you want to dive in. It’s totally free to begin and you don’t have to register a domain name or find a hosting company. You can always export your content into a WordPress installation on your own server if you decide to do that at a later time. Conversely, if you find that hosting your own installation hasn’t worked out for you, you can always migrate it to wordpress.com.

This article copyright © John Nasta 2009 – All Rights Reserved
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