WordPress.com v. WordPress.org: What’s the difference?

I think one of the most intimidating things when starting a WordPress website is setting it up and it seems like no on can explain it in anyway that regular people can understand. As a non-technical, non-professional I somehow managed wade through it, understanding very little even though I asked a lot of questions.

I don’t know if any of you have tried and can relate, but I remember repeatedly asking different people what a FTP was:

Jaded IT guy: It’s your File Transfer Protocol
Me: What?
JITG: The FTP is how you put stuff on your website.
Me: But how?
JITG: Using an FTP Client.

It literally meant nothing to me. Before I go into the difference between wp.COM and wp.ORG, let me explain a few things. (If any informed tech person stumbles upon this and wants to correct me, feel free. I’m just going to describe these things in terms of how I know and use them as a muddler). And your you’re not happy with my explanations, thousands of other people have probably explained this as well.

Domain Names: Your domain name will be the address/URL to your website. And example is “facebookl.com” or “rif.org.” It’s both the name and the end tag thing (.com, .org, .gov, .net). You can buy your domain name from sites like GoDaddy or even WordPress.

Server: Servers are mysterious things that hold internetz. As regular people you never actually interact with one, but they’re like the hard drive on your computer–a place for storing all of your information. Everything on the internet takes up space and it all needs to be stored somewhere and I’m pretty sure servers do other stuff too, but whatever. Google has over 2.4 million servers as of 2010.

Hosting/Hosts: Hosting is…owning that server space? Something like that. So different hosts you might have heard are GoDaddy (I personally don’t like GoDaddy for hosting but they have cheaper domain names*), HostGator, and Media Temple, but they’re are plenty of others. You some space from these places and then you can self-host your website. When/if you purchase server space, it’s through this host that you’ll be able to access a bunch of back end stuff from something called your “control panel.” [I personally use Just Host, it’s just the one I picked when I bought one in high school and haven’t moved. I like it and I’ve used some other places for clients]
*Your domain name is completely separate from your host. You can buy your domain name from one place and host your website somewhere else.

FTP: This was seriously the hardest thing for me to understand. I didn’t know what was or how to use it.  It’s basically the way you see things on your server and put things on your server. Think of this way: all of your files and stuff are stored on your computer in your different folders: desktop, documents, music, photos, etc. (harddrive); but since your website isn’t stored on your computer/hard drive, you need someway to see and move around your files that are stored on your server. Neat! So you could do this all through your host, but it’s really much simple to use an ftp client. An FTP client is something you download to access your server, free ones are FileZilla for windows and Cyber Duck for macs. [I use a paid one called Transit]

Ok, we have basic definitions!

SO, what’s the difference between wordpress.COM and wordpress.ORG!? Both are free. Both have the same back-end interface…why pick one over the other?!

wp.COM is hosts your website for you. Like blogpost. In exchange for this free service, you have to keep their “wordpress” tag so your website will look something like: “corgisaregreat.wordpress.com.” Although now wp.COM let’s you purchase a domain name so it might look like corgisaregreat.com, but it’s still hosted by wp.COM.

wp.ORG users must host their own website. This means buying a domain name, getting server space, a host, and an FTP client. In exchange, they have a much more control of their website. They can make more changes and add additional features. In this case, wp.ORG acts a lot more like a “content management system:”  it makes the internet and making changes to your website easy. Instead of having to code all of the changes you want to website and formatting it, you can log on to your wp.ORG and insert a new blog post just as easy as creating a Word document! If you want a robust website, but don’t know much/any coding, this is a fantastic, user-friendly solution. I thought this article had another great quick-and-dirty list of the differences.

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