You may have already decided to build your own website.
Now you must choose between using the free platform offered by WordPress.com and installing the WordPress.org software on a self-hosted website. What's the difference?
Before explaining this let's talk about the concept at a base level. WordPress is an open source content publishing and distribution platform. What's that mean?
This means that the software, available for download at WordPress.org, is free and open for the public to use to create and share content to millions of people across the world.
WordPress.com was created from this platform, “to bring the wordpress experience to an even larger audience,” by handling the technical backend development for you. This allows content creators to focus on what matters most.
The downfall to using the WordPress.com platform, is that you must play by their rules, meaning that you have less control over your content. For instance, plugins, custom domain names and premium themes are only available to those who are on a paid plan or the self hosted websites using the WordPress platform.
If you choose to go with the free platform, you should also be aware that third party ads will be displayed on your website.
If you are familiar with the concept of targeted ads, the very same search that led a customer to your site could cause ads to display selling the same product or service. For small businesses, it can be difficult to compete with these.
If this is the case for you, a self hosted website may be your next choice. This gives you a lot more freedom with your content and website, while at the same time, offering the full range of WordPress features.
If you want to read a more in depth breakdown. Elizabeth, an Engineer for Automattic has written a great article explaining the differences between the two platforms called “The $64,000 Question: WordPress.com or WordPress.org?”