Term Confusion: WordPress vs. WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com

Have you ever said or heard someone say “WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com”? If so, we need to talk.

What is the difference between WordPress, WordPress.org, and WordPress.com? Many things, but most importantly that these three terms refer to three entirely different entities. Let me explain.

Though I now work as a web designer, developer, and educator, my formal education is in philosophy with a speciality in philosophy of science and philosophy of language. One of the main focuses of philosophy in general is to find a way for people to communicate without confusion, ambiguity or misunderstanding.

What I’m seeing around me is a confusion and often misuse of the three terms “WordPress”, “WordPress.org” and “WordPress.com” that keeps being perpetuated and causes more confusion. So allow me to clarify the terms and hopefully put an end to this mess:

Here are the three terms, what they refer, and how they should be used correctly:

WordPress

Reference: A PHP based Open Source application used to publish websites and blogs on the web. WordPress powers millions of sites world wide.
Suggested use: “My website runs WordPress.

WordPress.org

Reference: The official website from which you can download WordPress and find themes, plugins, support forums and other information.
Suggested use: “If you want to download WordPress, go to WordPress.org.

WordPress.com

Reference: An online service running WordPress that offers free and paid solutions for building your own website or blog in a network.
Suggested use: “I used to have a WordPress.com site, but I’ve migrated to a self-hosted WordPress site for more control.

So what’s the big issue you ask?

Why am I bringing this up? Simple answer: I keep seeing people make the following comparison: “WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com”. What they mean is “WordPress as a self-hosted solution vs. WordPress.com”. Instead they say “The website where you can find information about and download WordPress vs. WordPress.com”. This is incorrect and confusing. Don’t believe me? Just go to the WordPress forums and search for “WordPress.org”. What you’ll find is a wild mix of people (incorrectly) referring to self-hosted WordPress sites and people (correctly) referring to features on WordPress.org itself.

OK. Give me a solution I can work with then.

The solution is simple: When referring to WordPress (the application), say “WordPress”. When referring to a self-hosted site running WordPress, say “WordPress self-hosted” or “self-hosted WordPress” or some variant. When referring to WordPress.com, say “WordPress.com”.

The biggest culprits here are authors, educators, and conference speakers, and I must admit when I started out I used to make the same mistake. So if we all just step up and start using the correct references, this whole mess will be sorted out in no time at all.

That is all.

11 thoughts on “Term Confusion: WordPress vs. WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com

  1. Morten,

    Excellent thoughts, and a great guide for those not in the know.

    However, I think one element is missing from this article. Who is the intended end user for each?

    I think WordPress.com is great for your casual users, such as individuals and small businesses who are happy enough with a basic template to choose from.

    Those who download WordPress and make use of the materials on WordPress.org are power users, who want to go above and beyond the basic blog. I see power users as those who want greater functionality and who are concerned about branding.

    Morten, thanks again for this article. I think it is a useful guide to those new to WordPress.

  2. I am a big fan of clarity and always happy when I see someone take the time to…well….clarify something as you have here. With more clarity there is less need for agreement.

    WordPress.com has never appealed to me as a solution so I know very little about it other than what it is. When I hear someone talk about WordPress I assume they are talking about the self-hosted solution or they are talking about the CMS in a general way such that the distinction is unnecessary. Then again, I don’t get around as much as you.

    Keep up the great work. I’m a huge fan of your Lynda.com tutorials.

  3. Well said!
    When getting acquainted with WordPress, I (like many others I presume) spent way too much time on the confusion between WordPress and WordPress, according to how it’s used on the www.
    I can’t help but thinking how much clearer this would have been had WordPress.com be named something else.

  4. Very well said morten people are always coming to me wondering why they can’t get plugin on their WordPress.com site. Finding out they meant to get the self hosted site.
    I do wonder how long WordPress.com will be around.

  5. When I started my blogging journey then my first question was, Why I should choose WordPress.org and not other CMS softwares.

    I searched a lot about it on Google at that time and I found that everybody is recommending to use WordPress.org and I started doing the same.

    Now today I know that why people should choose WordPress.org . Because WordPress is an independent and easy to use content management system.

    The best thing about it is, We can bring any feature in our website with just using a single plugin. That’s really good. 😀

    I am using WordPress.org since last 3 years and I loved it. 😀

  6. Great to see a solid comparison between WP.com and WP.org. For someone who started in the WP.com sphere, and later moved his assets to WP.org, its important that the differences between platforms is understood. There is no denying the power that WP.com has, especially with its solid infrastructure and the simple fact that you have its brand backing your own, but WP.org just offers unlimited possibilities, assuming people are willing to explore and experiment.

  7. When getting acquainted with WordPress, I (like many others I presume) spent way too much time on the confusion between WordPress and WordPress, according to how it’s used on the www.
    I can’t help but thinking how much clearer this would have been had WordPress.com be named something else.

  8. I think WordPress.com is great for your casual users, such as individuals and small businesses who are happy enough with a basic template to choose from.

    Those who download WordPress and make use of the materials on WordPress.org are power users, who want to go above and beyond the basic blog. I see power users as those who want greater functionality and who are concerned about branding.

    Morten, thanks again for this article. I think it is a useful guide to those new to WordPress.

  9. When I started my blogging journey then my first question was, Why I should choose WordPress.org and not other CMS softwares.

    I think WordPress.com is great for your casual users, such as individuals and small businesses who are happy enough with a basic template to choose from.
    I searched a lot about it on Google at that time and I found that everybody is recommending to use WordPress.org and I started doing the same.
    Now today I know that why people should choose WordPress.org . Because WordPress is an independent and easy to use content management system.
    The best thing about it is, We can bring any feature in our website with just using a single plugin. That’s really good. ?

  10. I think WordPress.com is great for your casual users, such as individuals and small businesses who are happy enough with a basic template to choose from.bigo live download download for pc and get this app in your bigo live
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