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.
What is the Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
WordPress.com is where you can create your own WordPress website ( via free or premium hosting plans). WordPress.org is where all free WordPress resources like themes, plugins, WordPress downloads, guides, tutorials etc. are available.
What Is WordPress.com
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.
WordPress.com is a service package for those who are looking to set up a WordPress blog. In other words, WordPress.com offers the mechanism and tools for websites to run on. You can register for a not paid account and get a fully functioning website. For a free user, you are allowed only to use WordPress.com subdomain—name.wordpress.com. For premium users, you are allowed to use your own domain plus a pool of premium features. You are not paying to use WordPress the software, but paying for file hosting, use of the subdomain and running of the software.
WordPress.com is a great way to go if you want to test the waters and get started with WordPress with minimal fuss.
Bear in mind though, with WordPress.com, you are not allowed to install random WordPress plugins of your own choice, there are a fixed set of WordPress plugins that will be made available to you. This is not a self-hosted arrangement, so you have no access to the file manager too.
What Is 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.
So basically, WordPress.org is where the WordPress software project is based, where you can download it, view the documentation, and participate in the forums etc.
This is your go-to place for free WordPress themes, free WordPress plugins, WordPress documentation,support and trouble-shooting.
Summarizing – WordPress.com Vs WordPress.org
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.