The decision to use WordPress to power your blog or website is an easy one. It’s free, frequently-updated and many plugins are available to accomplish everything you want to do with your website. However, the choice to use WordPress’s free hosting or self-host your website might be tricky, especially if you’re not familiar with the script.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com
The difference between the domain extensions is simple once you understand it. WordPress.org provides the script or software for you to install WordPress on your own website, whereas you sign up on WordPress.com, which hosts your blog. If you decide to self-host, you’ll need your own personal website. Generally, this means paying for hosting and a domain name, and this might be through two companies. The hosted version of WordPress (.COM) now also allows you to use your own domain name through a process known as name mapping. Existing domains cost $13 per year, while you can pay up to $25 for a domain through WordPress. It’s generally cheaper to buy your domain from a registrar such as GoDaddy than through WordPress, so choosing the existing domain option or simply self-hosting might be more cost effective. If you don’t mind your blog being on the “WordPress.com” domain as in “YourSite.wordpress.com”, you won’t have to pay anything.
With WordPress.org, you can install the WordPress script to any directory or subdomain on your website. Furthermore, the multi-user feature that was added into version 3.0 offer the ability to create communities. Hundreds of plugins are available for self-hosted installations, and you can install any of them from directly inside your dashboard. Similarly, you can download WordPress themes for use with your WordPress-powered site. You have control over every piece of code in every file you add to your installation, which makes self-hosting the better solution for users who are more experienced with programming, who have specific needs, or simply want the flexibility to be able to modify their site as they wish.
The appeal of going with the hosted WordPress version — aside from saving money if you use the free hosting — is the ease. Installation requires only a few clicks, and you don’t have to download anything or edit code. The dashboard is relatively the same, but you have access to analytics tools with WordPress.com that require an additional plugin when you’re self hosted. Your blog and content show up in the global search with WordPress.com, which can help you to increase traffic to your website.
What’s Best For You?
The plugins available with self-hosted WordPress sites let you turn your site into a blog, or directory, or community, or online store etc. Expect that a hosted WordPress blog is exactly that — just a blog. Limited options exist when it comes to themes when WordPress hosts your website, and you’ll pay extra to edit your theme. However, you can rest assured that your installation is always up to date, and you don’t need technical knowledge.
The ability to completely customize self-hosted WordPress installations requires coding knowledge, and owning your own site offers more risk in terms of hacking, especially if you don’t choose a good WordPress web Host. However, you might prefer the stronger branding, cheaper domain prices and absolute control over WordPress that’s provided with a self-hosted WordPress website.