WordPress.com and WordPress.org are both important parts of the greater WordPress ecosystem, but they serve two very different purposes.
WordPress.org is where you can go to download, get updates and information for the WordPress CMS. It’s a great first step for any website builder that wants to create a new WordPress site on their server, customized the way they want with plugins and theme(s) of their choosing.
WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a place you can go to quickly create a WordPress site and have it hosted on the WordPress.com domain. It’s a great choice for very simple, small websites that don’t need their own domain name or advanced customization.
The folks at WebsiteSetup have created an infographic that breaks down many of the differences between these two options.
Hosting is handled for you, and if you don’t need a private domain or any advanced controls, it’s free. This makes WordPress.com a popular choice for small personal blogs and other sites that are frequented by a small number of people and/or serve solely as a place to display content.
Of course, you can spend $70/year (or $2.99/month with the Personal plan) to use your own domain name, but it does little to give you more technical freedom on the platform. You can also shell out $8.25/month for a premium account in order to have advanced design customization and monetization on your site.
WordPress.com offers you limited themes to choose from, both free and premium. You can’t, for example, download a theme from RocketTheme and install it freely on a WordPress.com site.
Plugins are also restricted on WordPress.com as they can affect the security and functionality of the website.
You are in full control over your website when you download WordPress from WordPress.org. You host it where you want, and add as many themes and/or plugins as you want. It is the optimal choice for a wide range of websites from personal portfolios to corporations.
The WordPress CMS is free and open source, and is currently the most popular CMS for independent websites with thousands of available themes and plugins.
You are responsible for the hosting and administration of your own website. This includes matters of security, applying updates, database management, and more.
There is a bit of a learning curve if you’re going to completely manage your own WordPress site. While not as steep as it is with many other content management systems, this creates a barrier to entry for many users.
Both of these options have their own unique sets of pros and cons. It's up to each user to determine their own needs, and which solution is best for them. Here at RocketTheme we believe in the ability to customize your site as you see fit - without sacrificing easy setup and intuitive user experience.