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There seems to be a lot of confusion out there still between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Think of WordPress.com as the all-in-one site-building package that hosts all your content and design, pretty much everything! It’s a one-stop-shop that comes with WordPress’s own plugins like Jetpack and WooCommerce.
Keep in mind that Automatic is the company behind WordPress so if you see a plugin built by Automatic that’s essentially WordPress.
Now, think of WordPress.org as half of the core essentials of powering your website. You still need somewhere to store all your parts!
WordPress.org is both the blog tool and software engine
WordPress.org is merely the software engine powering your site. For instance, you need a browser to access the web — whether it be Safari, Chrome, or Firefox. Similarly, you need a tool to blog just like you need a car to drive. That tool or vehicle is WordPress, the backbone operating system integral to the entire publishing ecosystem.
The other half of the blog engine is your host, the critical piece that houses all the data living on your site including your theme and all your posts and plugins. There are a plethora of companies offering their services as hosts — I recommend WPEngine.
So why choose with WordPress.org + self-hosted if WordPress.com handles everything?
One of the perks of going self-hosted is that you can make your website fully customizable. You can choose from over thousands of third-party plugins with apps like the SEO optimizer Yoast, special sharing widgets like Social Warfare or monetize your site with Google Adsense. You can see more plugins here.
Keep it simple, get a WordPress.com Business account
What’s new this year is that you can use WordPress.com like a self-hosted site BUT only if you upgrade to WordPress.com Business!
Signing up for a WordPress.com Business account gets you the security of everything WordPress provides out of the box plus the ability to add from the 55,000 third-party plugins like those mentioned above so you can customize your site whichever way you want. Basically, WordPress Business is the best of both WordPress.com and WordPress.org in one place.
I wrote a whole post on why upgrading to WordPress.com Business is worth every penny. Find it here.
I hope the above explanation outlines the differences between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org. Keep in mind also that you can still blog for free on WordPress. WordPress.com will always offer a version that will always be free!