One of the biggest points of confusion people have is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. I think the best way to explain all of this is to back up a little bit and talk about what WordPress is exactly.
What is WordPress
WordPress is an open-source CMS platform written in PHP and MySQL by Matt Mullenweg and Mile Little. It was first released in 2003 as a fork of an older blog engine b2/cafelog with some improvements. Over the years, WordPress has evolved into arguably the most used platform for blogging and in the last few versions it has proven to be a worthy CMS for non-blog based websites. With multi-user support and extensions for BuddyPress, it has a great amount of versatility for many different options of websites and online applications as well.
Open-Source means its completely free to use. You can download the code, set it up on a server and use it to power your website and write content. Developers contribute to regular updates and upgrades including those that keep it safe and secure. Its a labor of love. So if all of this is free, what is the incentive and how would anyone make any money on a project of its size? There’s bandwidth to pay for, not to mention the time involved in keeping the software current and updated.
WordPress.com VS WordPress.org
Well there’s 2 ways to use WordPress. Yes they give it away and you can download the code at WordPress.org. They also provide WordPress.com for those who want a blog, but don’t want to deal with how to host it. The .com version is also free on the surface, but it provides a simple setup for people who want to start a blog and just go.
The money comes from the .com side. It is free, but there are limits on features and bandwidth. If your site starts getting popular, you’ll need to upgrade your account. Its still a great deal and very practical. Other features such as custom URL’s and video hosting have annual fee’s associated with them. There is a complete list of features on the WordPress.com site. Honestly, having hosted my own version of WordPress on many websites over the years, I think their prices are very fair.
So Which Should I Use?
Well its an interesting question. I think they have a great business model. There aren’t many organizations that give away their core product while doing very well on services around it. WordPress is amazing in this regard.
I would say the hosted .com version is best for those who want to customize, but don’t have the technical knowledge to make it all work. The pricing is very fair and its simple as pie to deal with. Plus you can grow your site naturally. Start it for free and when you need to add options you can do it as your popularity grows.
But for people who like to tinker and aren’t afraid of some set up and maybe some light coding – I think downloading for free on the .org site is without a doubt the way to go. You’ll be able to customize everything from the word go and you’ll get to where you want to go much faster with your site.
Having said that – yes there is a cost. The software might be free, but the services you’ll need to run it are not.
You can add these ala-carte as you need them through the .com site, but you will pay for them eventually and things like custom theming will require a service to do it at all. So what are the costs for setting it up on your own?
I recommend several things to get going quickly that won’t break the bank.
I prefer Bluehost. They offer shared hosting accounts for a very low rate and do the trick just fine. You get unlimited hosting and unlimited sites. You could put many different wordpress sites all on your account and your cost per site comes down considerably. All with their own URL’s. And Bluehost offers 1-click installs which simply installs wordpress on your server with the click of a button. That’s it – couldn’t be more simple.
2) Domain Name
You’ll need to get yoursite.com – or whatever name you want to use. Keep this simple and use Hover.com. Their prices are as good as anyone else, its simple to set up and they are a great company. They don’t pay me to say this – I really love their service so I recommend them to you. Just use them – forget any of the others. Trust me – I’ve used them all.
If you don’t design or code, you’ll probably want a theme for your website. I recommend for people to use ThemeTrust. They have some wonderful themes, they have custom options and many of them are responsive design. Responsive design means the layout adjusts for the screen size. This means your site will look great on an iPhone, Tablet or PC. No more tiny text when trying to show your site on a mobile phone.
I hope this clarifies things a bit. WordPress really is the best platform out there. Use it!
I've been working with WordPress since it came out back in 2003 on various design and photography sites that I've had over the years. Check out my Google+ Profile