There’s an excellent breakdown of the pros and cons of WordPress.com and WordPress.org on the wordpress.com site, but for those who don’t quite yet know what a plugin will do for you or what it means to “only” have 100+ themes to choose from, I’ll put the discussion into my favorite housing analogy: the house.
Simply put, with wordpress.com, you’re renting, with wordpress.org you own.
At wordpress.com, you’re living in the building and no, you can’t tear down the wall to the bathroom, add a jacuzzi to the roof deck, or change cable companies. That said, you can have a fully functional, highly sophisticated website. There are a select number of models to choose from but there’s a doorman who’s going to keep out bad guys and there’s free parking. If there’s a light bulb out, the building manager will fix it–in fact, he’ll probably have already fixed it before you even noticed it was out.
With wordpress.org, you’re free to tear down the whole thing and start over. You can rip out walls, dig into the foundation, and plant bamboo around (or even in) the property. You can move it out to the country and build a farm. You could transplant it downtown and turn it into a members-only organization. Move it to the mall and create a T-shirt selling shop. It’s yours to play with. Of course, you have to know how to play. If you get robbed (OK, hacked), it’ll take some time to get back things into shape. If you don’t pay the rent, your site will go down. The upkeep of the place is up to you.
One idea, if you’re unsure where or how to start, is to go get an account at wordpress.com, play around, see if you can max out the features, add some content, choose a theme, and live in it for a month. If, after some time, you find that you just really want to dig up the garden and put in a basketball court, you can always (easily and cheaply) move your place to a wordpress.org site.
I bet you wish we had an infographic for this …
Big thanks to Mike Wallagher for the beautiful work! Check out his complete guide to getting started blogging with WordPress at “How to start a blog.”