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Why are there two versions of WordPress?

Did you know there are two versions of WordPress?

Maybe you’ve seen references to WordPress.org and WordPress.com and wondered why there are two entirely separate websites? Maybe you didn’t even realise that there were options?

Either way, it is important for any business owner or anyone who is about to have a website designed, to understand the different options and the pros and cons associated with each.

What is WordPress?

WordPress Training Course

WordPress was first created back in 2003 by Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg

WordPress is a web based content management system, referred to as a CMS. WordPress is sometimes mistaken as just a blogging tool, and although WordPress definitely has that functionality, it also allows you to create a static website with no blog content. It provides an all-in-one solution for businesses who want to create a customisable web presence.

"40% of the web uses WordPress, from hobby blogs to the biggest news sites online."

WordPress.org

WordPress is a free open source platform with a huge community of people contributing to the project.

The core WordPress functionality is simple yet effective so that users can get started easily. It also allows for powerful additional features to allow for the growth and success of a website.

I personally started using WordPress back in early 2014 with the idea to create my own blog website. It has steered me back into website design for clients which has been a fun and creative pathway.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the first version I would like to discuss. This .com version allows users to create a free account, where your website is hosted on the WordPress.com servers. There is no cost for this service and you are even provided with a free website address which usually ends in wordpress.com. For example, I have a demo account with WordPress.com and my website address is thetrainingladyblog.wordpress.com.

This is a GREAT option if you are looking to create a website to use for a hobby or anything which may not create an income for you.

As an example, a few years ago I was teaching a Microsoft Publisher course (yes people still use Publisher), and one of the participants had said that she had always created a yearly newsletter in Publisher which she emailed out to her family and friends to fill them in on her yearly adventures and travels. The Publisher file was getting too big to be able to email and she asked me for suggestions. As much as I love Microsoft programs, I pointed her straight towards creating a free WordPress.com account. She can create a free account, choose a basic theme for her website, add posts for each event or holiday she goes on and share the URL with friends. 

Let’s have a look at some of the pros and cons of using WordPress.com with a FREE account.

Pros

Cons

From the list above you can see there are quite a few limitations or negatives. I have had many people say “WordPress isn’t free, I had to pay for WordPress!”. Let me now explain the reasons you may pay for WordPress.

To be able to extend the functionality of any free WordPress.com account you must subscribe to a plan which provides additional features. In essence, you will have to pay depending on the level of extra functionality you want in your website when working with WordPress.com. Pricing ranges from AU$9.00 per month for a personal level subscription to AU$78 per month for an eCommerce level subscription. This is where people start “paying for WordPress”. 

OR, you can look into WordPress.org so keep on reading…

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is referred to as the “self-hosted” version of WordPress. There is where you can go and download a full copy of WordPress with no limitations and install the software onto your own website. You don’t even have to enter your details or email address to be able to download the file. 100% free and no restrictions.

In order to use this version of WordPress you will need a few things organised. 

  1. A domain name registered
  2. Your own website hosting account

In most instances I’ve encountered, it is more economical to register your own domain name, and get your own hosting account, than pay for the subscription plans via WordPress.com to gain the functionality your website needs.

Let’s do some calculations:

  • You can register a domain name (.com.au) and get a basic Australian based web hosting for around AU$140.00 per year.
  • Compare this to a Business level subscription plan via WordPress.com which costs AU$45 per month

You’re already AU$400 better off per year with no restrictions on the functionality of your website.

Pros

Cons

How to choose?

For me, the answer to this question is pretty simple. Go with WordPress.org.

Use the self-hosted version and maintain full control over your website functionality and what you can customise. There is nothing worse than a client asking me to add something to their website, and my answer is “your using WordPress.com and you cannot do that with your current subscription plan, you’d need to upgrade.”. 

If however you still want to look at using the WordPress.com version then be sure you sufficiently research the functionality you will require on your website and identify if it will be possible to use the free version or if you will need to pay for a subscription plan. 

Can I switch which version I'm using?

Yes absolutely!

In 99.9% of instances, businesses may want to move their website from a subscription-based WordPress.com account to use the self-hosted version with their own website hosting account.

This is absolutely a great way to go and any good website designer can facilitate this move for you. Some website hosting companies may even offer you a “migration” service where they can move your old website content into a new hosting account with them.

I generally don’t recommend trying to move a website across if you are not familiar with the process or understand website hosting and DNS settings. 

Conclusion

In the simplest of terms:

If you still need assistance and aren’t sure which version would best suit your needs, contact us for an obligation-free chat.

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