WordPress comes in 2 distinct flavors:
1. WordPress.org the free and “self-hosted” option: with this version you have complete freedom and control over your site, but you have to install it yourself on your own server and you take responsibility for any updates, security issues, hosting issues, etc. It’s free, but you’ll have to pay for a web hosting provider to host your website. (We’ve got a web hosting guide for you to help you choose between those too.) We also recommend purchasing a professional backup and security plugin for WordPress. You may also need to purchase a professional theme you can trust over the long haul for your site. So, “Free” only if you’re good enough at the technology that you don’t want to pay for any of the good stuff.
2. WordPress.com the “a little too simple” option: with this version you don’t have to worry about hosting or setup at all, they take care of everything for you. However, 1. you have to pay a few bucks a month for it (the same price as your host provider would charge for the self-hosted option, so this is a wash) and 2. you have less freedom and control over your site because they limit the plugins and themes you can use. This means no significant customization. If you’re a business builder and you want to go with wordpress, I recommend going with option 1, the self-hosted option because this one is just a little too limiting for where the future might take you. (Of course, you could always start here and migrate to self-hosted wordpress. That’s very easy to do.)
Here’s how WordPress the mothership defines the difference between these two options:
WordPress is a publishing platform that makes it easy for anyone to publish online, and proudly powers millions of websites. It comes in two flavors: the fully hosted WordPress.com, and the self-hosted version, whose software is available for free at WordPress.org.
Focus on your beautiful content, and let us handle the rest.
Get your hands dirty, and host your website yourself.
Premium hosting, security, and backups are included. You can even upgrade to a custom domain, like YourGroovyDomain.com. You’ll need to find a host, and perform backups and maintenance yourself. We offer VaultPress for security and backups. Choose from hundreds of beautiful themes. Make it your own with Custom Design. Install custom themes. Build your own with PHP and CSS. Integrate your site with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social networks. Install a plugin, like Jetpack, to enable sharing functionality on your site. Popular features like sharing, stats, comments, and polls are included. There’s no need to install plugins. Install plugins to extend your site’s functionality. Personal support and the WordPress.com forums are always available. Visit the WordPress.org support forums for assistance. You must register for an account on WordPress.com and abide by our Terms of Service. No registration with WordPress.org is required.
WordPress is a community-driven project that’s developed by and for people like you. Many thousands of people from around the world contribute to the project, and many millions of websites are powered by it — 25% of the web, in all. From large company websites to personal blogs, and everything in between, everyone can publish with WordPress.
There are two ways to get started with WordPress. You can host a WordPress installation on your own server, or you can host your site here at WordPress.com and let us handle the technical bits.
Hosting your own WordPress site can be fun and rewarding, but it also requires some technical knowledge and places more responsibility on you, the publisher. You can download the WordPress software for free at http://wordpress.org, but it must be installed on a web server before it will work. You will need to research and install your own themes and plugins. Many hosting providers offer a one-click installation of WordPress — here are a few examples. There are also many web development agencies that specialize in building WordPress sites.
WordPress.com is different. Here at WordPress.com, you don’t have to download software, pay for hosting, or manage a web server. You can instead focus on creating wonderful content, and let us handle the rest!
WordPress.com is a great choice for bloggers, photographers, artists, plumbers, doctors, restaurateurs — almost anyone. However, techies that prefer to maintain full control over their code, should consider hosting their own WordPress installation. We provide a large number of themes and built-in plugin functionality so you won’t need to upload your own.
Publishing your website is always free here at WordPress.com, and premium upgrades are available to help you supercharge your site. These upgrades let you use a custom domain (like YourGroovyDomain.com), extensively customize the appearance of your site, upload HD video, and lots more.
WordPress.com is a commercial enterprise owned by Automattic, a company started by the founding developer of WordPress and staffed by full-time developers, designers, and support engineers. Automatticians (employees of Automattic) regularly contribute back to the WordPress software so that the entire community can benefit.
Not sure which way to go? Find out more about WordPress.com and WordPress.org to see which is best-suited for you.