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Bill Bennett


Why I use WordPress.com not WordPress.org

WordPress is the top online publishing software. It comes in two similar, yet distinct, flavours. Both are free.

  • WordPress.com is the hosted version, the software is so simple you can have a site online minutes after signing up. Anyone can use WordPress.com, it requires little technical knowledge. Although WordPress.com offers thousands of design choices, there are restrictions.
  • The software at WordPress.org is similar. There are minor differences, but you have to find your own host which usually will cost you money. This gives you far more flexibility over the look of your site and the way it functions. There are thousands of plug-ins and themes — some free, some paid-for, to spruce-up your site.

The price you pay for flexibility is complexity. While WordPress.org can be straightforward, it can get technical. If you like, you can dig around in the code to your heart’s content.

My WordPress journey started with the free .com version. After a year I wanted more flexibility and moved to .org. I still run a few .org sites, but this site has been back to .com for a little over a year.

WordPress.com is a better choice for my needs because it lets me focus on writing and not the mechanics of running a website.

What I gained moving back to WordPress.com

Time. Self-hosted WordPress lets you tinker with site design and functionality. I would spend hours each month tweaking — trying to make the site look better or work better.

That was great for learning more about WordPress. It wasn’t great for productivity. Now I spend that time on other matters, including writing more posts. That paid off with higher traffic.

Reliable. WordPress.com is rock-solid. In the past year I’ve seen just 85 minutes of downtime — some of that was scheduled. During my time with two New Zealand-based hosts I could see that amount of downtime in a single month.

Uptime measured over one year with WordPress.com

Compare those figures with those from the last twelve months of my self-hosted site.

Uptime measured over one year with a New Zealand web host
Uptime measured over one year with a New Zealand web host

Performance. WordPress.com is faster than any New Zealand web host I’ve used. This graph from Google Webmaster Tools shows how much:

Time spent downloading a page
Time spent downloading a page

Switching from self-hosted to WordPress.com saw the average page download speed drop from 2200 milliseconds to 400 milliseconds. I posted about this after moving a year ago. Since then the average page speed has crept up to 600 milliseconds, some of that is because I now post more images.

Money: Cost wasn’t my reason for switching back from self-hosting to WordPress.com. I paid around $160 a year for local hosting on a shared server, WordPress.com is free. You can’t argue with the price — the downside is WordPress sometimes inserts ads on my site. I expect to pay US$30 a year for the no-ads option in the next few months.

Custom design

Last year I paid US$30 for the custom design add-on. This allows me to tweak designs and use different fonts. I played with it for a while, but decided not to use it because I was in danger of being dragged back into the WordPress tinkering black hole that sucks all life out of the universe.

I paid my NZ host around $30 a year for my domain name — I now pay US$13 to WordPress. Again my choice is about convenience not saving pennies.

Conclusion: Moving back to WordPress.com worked well for me. I may change back if circumstances change, for now this is the best option: Faster, more reliable, less distracting and cheaper.



8 thoughts on “Why I use WordPress.com not WordPress.org

  1. I’ve never used paid WP.com, but looked at the prices and was pleasantly surprised at how reasonable they were (I was expecting that people would be getting fleeced for the convenience, but WordPress have as you said made it cheaper rather than more expensive). While I’m too much of a geek to do anything rather than self-hosting, I would definitely recommend WP.com it for people considering having a WP-based site. (And for blogs the downtime you pointed out has to be an advantage).

    1. You’re right. WordPress prices are reasonable. I guess when millions of people are paying a few dollars here and a few dollars there it all adds up to a decent business model.

  2. Hi Bill,

    A key thing is branding, WP.com does not allow for much customization without payment, and if you are wanting a decent amount of customiation the self hosted is the best way to go.

    As a developer of sites I am biased, as I can see the functionality and design choices I can offer to my clients. WP.com just doesn’t allow the same flexibility


    1. That’s right, I use .org for the sites I build where branding is important. For this site, the key is to get information out quickly and efficiently.

  3. If you ever need more from wordpress you get the same benefits by using managed hosting for a price (like >$350US per year) with all the uptime and speed of wordpress.com

    For people that don’t need more wordpress.com is of course a very good option.

    1. It depends on what you want to do. For personal blogging, I’d stick with the free service unless you need heavy branding.

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