It usually takes newcomers to WordPress a little while to understand the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, but it's an important distinction to understand when setting up your site or requesting support. WordPress is blogging software, and like any piece of software you'll need a computer (more specifically a web server) to run it on.
WordPress.org is the home of the free open source software project. When anyone refers to "self-hosted" WordPress, this is what they're talking about. You'll need a hosting provider, domain, and a willingness to learn. Many hosts will offer an automatic installer, but even manually installing WordPress is easy enough for the average computer user. Once you're running a self-hosted copy of WordPress, you have full control of your website. You'll be able to install or create your own themes and plugins to achieve almost anything you want to do.
Setting up and managing a site using WordPress.com is as easy as having a Twitter or Facebook account. There's no need to worry about things like updates and backups, but there's also a lot less flexibility. Your choice of themes and plugins is limited to those offered by WordPress.com. If you're looking for the easiest way to get a blog online, this is the way to go. If you decide to go with WordPress.com, I'd recommend paying for the upgrade to a custom domain. Not only will your site seem more professional, but it will also be easier to move your site in the future without losing visitors and links.
Head to Head
|Self-Hosted (WordPress.org)||Managed (WordPress.com)|
|Some setup required||Easiest setup|
|Manually upgrade, easy to use backup plugins||Automatic upgrades and backups|
|Thousands of themes to choose from or build your own using PHP and CSS||Hundreds of themes, paid upgrade for custom CSS|
|Choose from thousands of free and premium plugins to extend your site's functionality||Features limited to included plugins|
If you've never used WordPress before, WordPress.com is a great place to get set up quickly and give it a shot. You'll probably find everything you need if you're just planning to share some posts with a few friends for fun. If you're looking to build a more complex site or you're the do-it-yourself type who enjoys learning about the web, setting up a self-hosted installation is a fun challenge and offers more ways to create a truly unique site.
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