The distinction between WordPress.com and WordPress.org can cause some confusion for people. Let’s clear it up.  WordPress.com is brought to you by some of the same folks who work on WordPress, the Open Source blogging software.  WordPress.com utilizes the same
WordPress software which you can download at WordPress.org.  With WordPress.com the hosting and managing of the software is taken care of by the team here at Automattic.  With WordPress.org you need to install the software on your own server or with a 3rd party provider.

 

WordPress.com Benefits

  • It’s free and much easier to setup
  • Everything is taken care of: setup, upgrades, spam, backups, security, etc
  • Your blog is on hundreds of servers, so it’s highly unlikely it will go down due to traffic
  • Your posts are backed up automatically
  • You get extra traffic from blogs of the day and tags
  • You can find like-minded bloggers using tag and friend surfer
  • Your login is secure (SSL) so no one can get into your account if you use wifi

WordPress.com Cons

  • We provide 70+ themes (and adding more every day) which you can modify and edit the CSS, but you cannot run a custom theme*
  • You can’t hack the PHP code behind your blog*
  • You can’t upload plugins

* The VIP program on WordPress.com for high-traffic and high-profile sites allows you to run custom themes, custom PHP code, ad code, and WordPress plugins.

WordPress.org Benefits

  • Ability to upload themes
  • Ability to upload plugins
  • Great community
  • Complete control to change code if you’re technically minded

WordPress.org Cons

  • You need a good web host, which generally costs $7-12 a month, or thousands of dollars per month for a high traffic site
  • Requires more technical knowledge to set up and run
  • You’re responsible for stopping spam
  • You have to handle backups
  • You must upgrade the software manually when a new version comes out
  • If you get a huge spike in traffic (like Digg or Slashdot) your site will probably go down unless you have a robust hosting setup

WordPress.org is free blogging software. With WordPress.org, you can install themes and plugins, run advertisements, edit the database and even modify the PHP source code. WordPress.org is the home of this software. Anyone can download the software for free but it must be installed on a web server before it will work. Web servers are generally not free. Hosting your own WordPress software can be fun and rewarding; it also places full responsibility on the blogger. If you mismanage your web server, you can lose your entire blog.

For no charge, WordPress.org provides downloadable blog software, community mailing lists, community support forums, documentation, and free themes and plugins.

WordPress.com is different. You do not have to download software, pay for hosting or manage a web server. When you sign up for a WordPress.com blog, you will get a URL like “andy.wordpress.com” or you can map a domain so your blog is available at “example.com” without the “.wordpress.com” portion.  You do not control the software or the database; FTP and shell access are not included. WordPress.com is based on a multi-user version of the WordPress software which does not permit uploading of PHP themes or plugins (although many popular plugins are built into WordPress.com ).  Popular javascript embeds such as YouTube are supported, but for security reasons some of the lesser known embed codes will be stripped out.  CSS is also restricted by default for security reasons, but you can purchase a paid upgrade to gain the ability for full CSS editing.  What you can do on WordPress.com is blog for free.

For no charge, WordPress.com provides web hosting, unlimited database storage with redundancy and backups, automatic software upgrades, community support forums, multi-lingual administration and themes, real-time traffic stats, comment tracking, blog and post rankings and other features not available anywhere else. These features will always be free for blogs started on WordPress.com; if you ever find yourself being charged for these at WordPress.com, pinch yourself and wake up!

WordPress.com is a commercial enterprise owned by Automattic, a company started by the founding developer of WordPress and staffed by full-time developers, designers and support agents. It runs a multi-user version of WordPress called WordPress MU. WordPress MU is also free, Open Source software. Developments sponsored by Automattic are regularly contributed back into WordPress.org so the community can benefit.

WordPress.com offers paid upgrades as a way to provide premium features without forcing bloggers to host their blogs elsewhere. These upgrades are optional. Basic blogs will always be free on WordPress.com and the basic services will continue to be upgraded with better features.