If you are new to the world of websites and have heard this buzzword called “WordPress” it can be easy to get confused by the nuances of the WordPress ecosystem. One of the biggest areas of confusion can be the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
If WordPress is nothing more than a buzzword to you, your first stop should be WordPress.com. It is the home of free websites that come with wordpress.com as part of the web address by default (e.g., example.wordpress.com). The .com extension indicates that this is a commercial venture. These sites are hosted by a company called Automattic, whose CEO Matt Mullenweg was one of the original developers of the WordPress code base.
WordPress.com offers one of the easiest and cheapest (it’s FREE for Pete’s sake!) ways to get started on the Internet. If you are looking for a simple yet powerful blogging platform it’s the perfect place to start. For many people, it’s all they ever need. But if you find yourself looking for more flexibility in themes or plugins – for instance you want to set up ecommerce for your business – you’ve outgrown WordPress.com and it’s time to begin looking into owning and hosting your own installation of WordPress. Time to look into WordPress.org.
The code that goes into every WordPress website is part of an open source project called WordPress.org that volunteers from all over the world contribute to. The .org extension indicates that it is NOT a commercial entity, it is an organization. It could even be called a movement. People who work with WordPress closely are careful to be clear when they are talking about WordPress.com or WordPress.org.
WordPress.org is where you go to download the code that is installed to create WordPress websites. It also hosts directories (called repositories) of plugins and themes that have been vetted and are free to use. WordPress.org is powered by a community of people that help out on the support forums, contribute to the Codex (WordPress documentation), and work on the core code base itself. It’s WordPress.org that now powers 22 percent of the web.
In summary, and to be clear, Automattic is not WordPress. WordPress itself is not a commercial product. WordPress.com is more of a service than a product and a unique subset of the much larger WordPress.org. Each has found it’s place and serves an important purpose. They compliment and support each other. While it’s easy to be confused by the names, they do serve different roles. Hopefully it’s all a bit clearer now.
Note: if you’re using a CyberChimps theme that you’ve downloaded, you’re in the WordPress.org sphere.