Which is better — WordPress.com or a self-hosted website?

Katharine asks…

“Is it better to go with WordPress.com or a WordPress.org self-hosted website? What’s the difference between them?”

I wouldn’t recommend self-hosting unless you’re technically minded and have an active interest in the technical side of websites. And even then I wouldn’t really recommend it haha :-)

wordpress-org-comIn my opinion, self-hosting is really only for people who have very specific requirements for their websites. There are only really two big reasons to go self-hosted…

Flexibility is perhaps the biggest. Having a self-hosted site means you can hack and edit your site to your heart’s content because you have complete access to all the source files. However, this requires quite specific technical knowledge, and these days WordPress themes and widgets offer such flexibility that it’s rare that you need to dive “under the hood” in this way.

Advertising is the other big reason people go self-hosted. With WordPress.com you’re limited to their own WordAds system, which is quite limited in nature, or selling your own products. Affiliate linking to products on other websites — where you’re paid a percentage commission for referring buyers — is against the WordPress.com terms of service.

If you go the self-hosted route, you’ll need to keep your WordPress software and plugins up to date and there’s a very real chance you’ll get hacked.

This is not only incredibly unsettling, it can take a long time to get things back to how they were. That’s if you or your hosting company even have a good, recent backup to work from! And what’s to say it won’t happen again? Our Happy Guide website got hacked twice, before we decided to permanently switch to WordPress.com.

The JOY of WordPress.com is that all the technical details are taken care of. You don’t need to worry about software updates and security, so you’re completely free to focus on your site’s content.

Some will tell you that if you’re serious about your website, for example if it’s a business site, you need to go self-hosted. I don’t agree with that at all. There’s no difference in the appearance of a WordPress site, based on where it’s hosted. And in fact WordPress.com is often a better bet for businesses because the site isn’t at risk of going down under the strain, if you get a sudden surge of traffic from somewhere.

There are plenty of big businesses, authors, photographers, journalists (the list is endless) who use WordPress.com. In the month of February 2014 alone, there were 1,670,000 NEW WordPress.com websites setup. So it’s a platform that’s not going anywhere any time soon :-)

WordPress.org is the site where you download the WordPress blog software for a self-hosted site. As a result, this question is also referred to as “WordPress.com vs WordPress.org”. The difference between the two options is also summarized by WordPress themselves here…

WordPress.com and WordPress.org

Hope this helps!

All the best,
James

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2 thoughts on “Which is better — WordPress.com or a self-hosted website?

  1. Great useful info James. I love WordPress, and especially .com. Each website is mirrored in 4 locations/servers, so your site is literally bomb proof. And I love that WordPress was founded on strong ethics. It seems to me they are service oriented, and that’s fairly rare in today’s world.

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