I love WordPress, but I’ll never understand what sort of myopic foresight allowed this naming convention to happen: WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org. Here’s the showdown.
First, an introduction. WordPress is a blogging platform software. This is crucial. It is not a website. It is not a service. It’s a software—that runs on a webhost to create a website.
So, in the left corner we have WordPress.com. This is a community blogging website much like blogspot.com. But, instead of using Blogger (also a blogging platform software), they used WordPress. There are pros and cons to it. Blogspot tends to be more user friendly, and has quite a few more gadgets than WordPress.com has widgets. When you register an account, it becomes part of the WordPress.com community, much like when you register an account with blogspot.com (essentially, Google) you also become part of a community. So when you visit a blog within that community, you have one sign in.
WordPress.com, just like Blogspot, allows you to only use blog features which they make available. That means you can only use the gadgets/widgets on your blog which the site offers. You cannot add your own.
In the right corner we have WordPress.org. This is the website where you can actually download the WordPress software. You do not need to register, and it does not cost anything. However, you do have to provide your own webhost. Again, you are getting the software from them. You have to have a way to run it. And this isn’t software that you install on your computer—it runs on a web server, so it can be accessed via the Internet.
So, you would need a webhost, which costs, roughly, around US$100/year. You would also need a domain name (the “www-thing”) which costs, roughly, around US$10/year. You will then need to upload and install WordPress into your account. Many webhosts actually have it uploaded already and you can bypass WordPress.org entirely for this part and just install it on your webhost with the files they have provided.
Either way, you will still be registering with WordPress, but the account will not be part of the WordPress.com community.
My blog is an example of this. You can register here if you want and log in, but that registration will not be the same as the one you register on WordPress.com even though I am using WordPress. I am not part of WordPress.com. I run my own blog using the software from WordPress.org.
There’s a few more things that complicate matters. One is WordPress MU. This is WordPress Muli-Site. It is, essentially, the software that WordPress.com runs. Whereas a normal WordPress installation on a webhost is a single blog (like this one), MU is a community where users can generate their own blogs (like wordpress.com).
So, if you have the server space and bandwidth, and time, you could actually start your own WordPress.com type service. I don’t advise it. But, they get their software from wordpress.org.
The other thing that confuses many people is the the domain. Normally, a WordPress.com (community) blog has “wordpress.com” in the URL. For example http://rainyofthedark.wordpress.com would be registered via WordPress.com. Much like http://rainyofthedark.blogspot.com is registered via Blogspot.
But, just like with Blogspot, you can register your own domain to point to the community blog, making it appear as if it is a webhosted (commonly called self-hosted or standalone) WordPress blog.
Now, why would anyone want to go through the trouble of setting up their own standalone WordPress blog?
Because a self-hosted (standalone) WordPress blog packs a punch.
While wordpress.com is a great community, and sufficient for many people, a standalone WordPress blog is like training with weights and one of those crazy yoga balls. It has strength, endurance, and flexibility.
There are many things that a standalone WordPress blog can do which the community one cannot. But, as with most things, the usefulness of that depends on what you want to do with it in the first place. Both serve a purpose; no one needs to tap out.
Do you or have you used WordPress? Which one? What is your opinion of it?