Most of the world agrees that WordPress is an excellent platform on which to base a website, whether it’s simply informing readers of your services or is a fully functioning eCommerce site with interactive elements.
But what’s less clear is that three little letters make a big difference to the way WordPress is hosted and run. We’re talking about org and com. So what difference do these seemingly similar domain names make?
The overarching difference is that a wordpress.org site is self-hosted, while wordpress.com is hosted by Automattic, the company that owns both.
Imagine you’re having a party at your house (self-hosted). You need to arrange the food, the drinks, the music, the security and the hygiene, which you’ll need to do separately. That’s wordpress.org.
Alternatively, you can hire an all-in venue and they’ll sort everything out for you; you might choose your own DJ and ask for certain table arrangements and food options, but you won’t have to worry about actually doing the work (although the more you pay, the better it’ll be). That’s wordpress.com.
Essentially, with wordpress.com, you create an account and choose a name, then you can start populating the site with your own text, images, video and interactive elements. WordPress handles all the back end, so you don’t need to worry about hosting or performance and security updates, or even make backups. It will all be done Automat(t)ically for you. And you can even do it for free.
There’s a catch, though. If you do opt for the free package, you’ll be limited to 3GB storage (enough for most sites) and your web address will be a subdomain of wordpress.com, for example samsfishingtackle.wordpress.com, which can be quite a mouthful and doesn’t look professional.
However, if you choose the paid option, you get hosting, more storage and various other benefits, plus you can choose a separate domain name, such as samsfishingtackle.co.uk, which looks much better. There’s a range of prices for the various services, starting at £3 per month.
WordPress.org is the downloadable version of the platform. You buy hosting, then download the WordPress software and install it on your server (or do an install via your host’s control panel). It’s free and open source, so there’s no cost involved with obtaining the software or updates, but the important distinction is that you are responsible for all the updates, maintenance, hosting speed and such like.
You can set your installation to auto-update, but this can be risky as it can sometimes break a site if you have plugins that rely on older versions, so it’s usually best to do it manually and monitor the effects, and/or test it on a staging site. The main benefit is that you are completely free to choose the way you run your site, where it’s hosted and how much you pay for it. You can of course use the services of a professional WordPress developer to keep your site maintained and to code original bespoke plugins for you.
Which one is best, then? If you’re just starting out, with limited technical skill and a website that’s just an augmentation to your other marketing or a brick and mortar business, .com will probably be enough, perhaps with the minimum paid tariff. If your website is your business, you need complete control over it and you probably want to hand the responsibility for operating it to as few third parties as possible, in which case .org is the one for you.
If you’re still confused, why not get in touch? We might be able to get your WordPress site off the ground.