At WPBeginner, one of the most commonly asked question by our users is whether they should use self hosted WordPress or get a Free WordPress.com blog. We have covered this topic in detail and have discussed pros and cons of both options. However it seems that we usually get a follow up question along the line of how are WordPress.com and WordPress.org related? Which one is the official WordPress that everyone is talking about? What is this WordPress foundation? If you ever had these questions, then you are in the right place. In this article, we will explain what is the relationship between self-hosted WordPress (aka WordPress.org) and WordPress.com. Hopefully this will clear any confusion that users have in mind.
What is Self-Hosted WordPress (WordPress.org)?
WordPress.org is home to the most popular Content Management System (CMS), WordPress. Founded by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little in 2003, WordPress was initially a fork of another blogging software called b2 cafelog. WordPress was started as a blogging platform however it has evolved into a powerful publishing platform that goes far beyond simple blogging. WordPress is an open source software which means any one can contribute to it, use it, copy it, build upon it and redistribute it without any restrictions. Over the years WordPress grew, became popular, and today it is the most commonly used publishing platform to build websites throughout the world. When you hear folks talking about WordPress at conferences, meetup groups, blogs, youtube videos, and other places, then they are most likely talking about the self-hosted WordPress. If you are thinking about creating a website or blog for your company, and you want to use all the cool plugins that you hear about, then you need to use the self-hosted WordPress. Plugins are NOT allowed on WordPress.com.
Self-hosted WordPress is free for everyone to use in any way they like. Read: Why is WordPress free? What are the costs? What is the catch?
What is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com is a proprietary blog hosting solution with limitations. Despite the same name, WordPress.com and WordPress.org are NOT directly related. WordPress.com does use the open-source WordPress platform at its core to power all the blogs they host, but they have restrictions such as you cannot upload plugins, custom themes, etc until you pay high premiums. Many users use WordPress.com to get started, and then migrate over when they realize they want more features, functionality and control. Here is a guide on how to move your blog from WordPress.com to self hosted WordPress.org.
WordPress.com is owned by a company called Automattic which was founded by Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress).
How are WordPress.com and WordPress.org Related?
They are NOT related. The reason why people confuse the two together is because they both have the name WordPress, which is actually a registered trademark owned by the WordPress Foundation. Another reason for the confusion is that Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress) is the founder of Automattic which owns the blog hosting service, WordPress.com. Lastly, a lot of the Automattic employees are regular contributors of WordPress.org. Despite these common grounds, the two projects are totally different entities.
WordPress.org (aka self-hosted WordPress) is home to the highly extensible and powerful content management system. On the other, hand WordPress.com is a service built upon the open source WordPress at its core. WordPress.com does not offer you the freedom to modify your source code, or upload your own plugins, or extend the features.
Update March 26, 2013: If you use Jetpack plugin, or WordPress.com Stats plugin, then you are required to connect your self-hosted WordPress site to WordPress.com in order to use their services. By doing this, you do end up giving WordPress.com access to some of your data such as stats (if you are using the stats plugin).
What is this WordPress Foundation?
WordPress is a registered trademark owned by WordPress Foundation which is a non-profit organization. The foundation’s goal is to make sure that WordPress is freely available, maintained, and developed. In their own words:
The point of the foundation is to ensure free access, in perpetuity, to the software projects we support. People and businesses may come and go, so it is important to ensure that the source code for these projects will survive beyond the current contributor base, that we may create a stable platform for web publishing for generations to come. As part of this mission, the Foundation will be responsible for protecting the WordPress, WordCamp, and related trademarks. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the WordPress Foundation will also pursue a charter to educate the public about WordPress and related open source software.
It is important that we mention that WordPress foundation is registered by Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of WordPress). The current person in charge of dealing with WordCamps and other WordPress foundation duties is an Automattic employee.
Why is there so much confusion?
For one, people often associate .com sites to be official. Whereas in this case, WordPress.org is the official WordPress platform. Another reason for confusion is when you attend conferences like Blogworld or SXSW, then you notice one WordPress booth that has Automattic on one side, and WordPress foundation on the other.
Having a booth like that make users think that Automattic, WordPress, and WordPress foundation are all connected entities. This causes a lot of confusion for new users.
So What’s Right For You?
We always recommend our users to use WordPress.org aka self-hosted WordPress. It is very easy to install WordPress, and you have full control over your site. You can add plugins, custom themes, monetize your site, create your own membership site, and/or use one of our WordPress tutorials to extend the functionality without any restrictions.
Since there are so many other people familiar with WordPress, it is very easy to get WordPress support granted that you ask the right questions. Read our guide on how to properly ask for WordPress support.