WordPress is Free Software hosted at WordPress.org, but a for-profit company named Automattic, Inc. runs the website WordPress.com. What are the differences these two sites and the services they provide?
How is it that WordPress can be free?
WordPress is Free and Open-Source Software, and it is administered by a non-profit organization called the WordPress Foundation. But there is another entity that was founded by one of the co-founders of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, and employs many of the primary WordPress developers. This entity, Automattic, Inc. is a for-profit company that provides a commercial service called WordPress.com that installs and hosts WordPress blogs for free.
What Is WordPress.com? Isn’t that WordPress? I’m Confused!
Many people regularly confuse the websites WordPress.org and WordPress.com, which is understandable because they are very similar and many people assume that websites should end in “dot com”. However, these two sites are very different – WordPress.org is the homepage of the WordPress Foundation and provides free access to the WordPress software, support for WordPress and other resources. WordPress.com is a for-profit service owned by Automattic.
Restrictions and Limitations
Although WordPress.com does allow individuals, companies and organizations to create and host WordPress blogs for free, there are significant restrictions and limitations to the WordPress.com service that render it an inadequate and/or inappropriate solution for many users, especially companies and individuals interested in creating for-profit blogs.
When you host your own WordPress-powered website or blog (with software downloaded from WordPress.org), you have complete control over every aspect of your installation. You can alter the files, the HTML markup, the theme and CSS stylesheets and you are free to install any plugin or widget that is compatible with the software. You can choose to host controversial or inflammatory content and advertisements and you can use your blog to sell products and services. Also, you are free to host your website or blog on any server or hosting provider you choose – this means that the only individual or company that can shut down your blog is your server administrator or hosting provider.
When you create a WordPress.com website or blog, many of these freedoms are restricted or unavailable to you while you use the WordPress.com service. You are issued a WordPress.com subdomain for your website or blog, although you have the option to use your own domain name for an additional fee. You are restricted from accessing or changing the installation files or HTML on your site. You are restricted to a set number of themes, and some of those themes require a one-time fee. You can alter the CSS, but you must pay an annual fee to maintain these changes on your website or blog. You cannot install plugins to expand the capabilities of your website or blog and you are restricted to a short list of approved widgets. You must abide by the WordPress.com Terms of Service in relation to the content you post and you are severely restricted in the marketing and selling of products and services, especially products and services produced by a third-party.
You have no control over where your WordPress.com blog is hosted – you are required to use the WordPress.com servers and the company reserves the right to shut down your website or blog at their discretion. Finally, WordPress.com may place ads on your website or blog for their benefit – essentially monetizing your content, although they allow users to block these ads for a fee and are currently testing an advertising program that would allow some WordPress.com users to share advertising products.
WordPress.com does offer a paid service that eliminates almost all of these restrictions and limitations placed on its free users. WordPress.com VIP is used by companies and individuals who want the benefits of the WordPress.com service without the restrictions and hassles. However, this VIP service costs $3,750 a month for up to five websites – well beyond the hosting budgets of many companies and organizations!
Since its inception, WordPress.com has expanded its selection of premium features and services to make the platform available to a wider range of users, but the restrictions and limitations that still exist make the service unattractive or even unusable for many individuals, companies and organizations.
So Who Uses WordPress.com?
WordPress.com is a good solution for amateur bloggers who do not wish to monetize their content or deal with the expense or hassles of hosting their own website or blog. These bloggers include hobbyists, amateur writers, diarists and activists. Some families use WordPress.com blogs to post pictures and accounts of family events, while some small non-profit and amateur groups and organizations may also find that WordPress.com suits their needs. Some celebrities even use WordPress.com to host a weblog, like “Weird” Al Yankovich ( http://alyankovic.wordpress.com/ )!
Help! I’ve Been Blogging At WordPress.com And Now I Want To Switch To A Self-Hosted Blog!
No problem! Although WordPress and WordPress.com are different in many ways, they both use the same core software at heart. This means it is easy to export your blog content from the WordPress.com service to a self-hosted WordPress blog or even a blog hosted using another blogging platform. Simply choose the “Export” menu option and you can either manually export your blog content yourself or you can utilize a WordPress.com support engineer who will export your content to an “approved” hosting provider.