“The distinction between WordPress.com and WordPress.org can cause
some confusion for people.” – Automattic’s WordPress.com support pages
The WordPress community worldwide is at odds with itself, separated by a chasm that threatens to tear us all apart, leaving us wandering the online world, unable to communicate with each other. (OK, I’m exaggerating a bit here.) This chasm is the split between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
The split goes by many names – “hosted” WordPress vs. “self-hosted” WordPress, WordPress.com vs. “real” or “true” or “full” WordPress. These are simply different ways to try to describe a confusing reality.
When WordPress was introduced in 2003, it was made available as free, open source software that people could install on any Web host. This gave users a choice:
- Take on some technical chores and run the WordPress software yourself for free, on your own server (this has some costs and hassles of its own);
- Pay someone else to host the WordPress software on their server, provide access to your blog to Web users, and do some or all of the technical stuff for you.
Millions of people chose the first option, many really pushing themselves technically to get it done, but the vast majority succeeding. Millions more chose the second option, finding a host that handled most of the technical issues and paying for the resulting ease.
This was great, but the growth of WordPress was beginning to be hampered among the vast majority of people who didn’t have their own server. Too many people were afraid of either setting up a server to host WordPress themselves, or trying to find a suitable host, understanding all the options, making choices, and paying the monthly fees involved.
So Automattic decided to become a WordPress hosting provider themselves. In 2005 they introduced WordPress.com, which has many cool features: it’s free; it’s hosted for you by Automattic; it’s backed up for you; it’s spam-protected for you. Hundreds of thousands of users have created blogs hosted on WordPress.com.
However, as Automattic would know, being a WordPress hosting provider is expensive and hard. So Automattic covered its bases by restricting WordPress.com blogs: Automattic sells ads which appear on your blog; you can’t run your own ads or other forms of commerce on your blog; you can’t use the thousands of themes available for WordPress.org blogs, but only 70 or so themes that Automattic has pre-approved; and you can’t use the thousands of plug-ins available for WordPress.org, but only a few dozen widgets – simplified plug-ins – made available for WordPress.com.
This causes some problems for WordPress.com users, but it’s a free service, so they can hardly complain. There’s another problem, though, which affects the whole WordPress community: massive confusion. The main, long-standing WordPress community has a lot of choices – themes, plug-ins, and more – and a certain amount of technical knowledge about their blogs. But now there are an added few hundred thousand people consider themselves WordPress users, but have much-reduced choices, and lack the technical knowledge to even really understand what they’re missing, or how to move forward.
If this describes you – if you’re a WordPress.com user who wants to do more with your blog – we urge you to upgrade to WordPress.org, or “full” WordPress. You can start the upgrade process by asking friends for recommendations, or with a Google search, as many people do. Alternatively, you can contact us today. Use the Quote Request at the bottom of this page.
We’ll provide you with information about how to find a trustworthy, reasonably priced hosting provider, and get access to the full power of WordPress, as well as the services that we at WP1Stop and thousands of other WordPress support businesses provide.
And for Automattic, we recommend that you rename WordPress.com to “WordPress Lite”, or some other name that embodies truth in advertising. Let people know, right from the start, that your hosted service has a lot of good things going for it – but that it’s not full WordPress.