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Key Differences and How to Choose in 2022

Struggling to understand the difference between vs and which one is the best place to make your WordPress site?

This has long been one of the most confusing things for WordPress newbies. Trust me – you are not alone.

To aggravate the issue even more, the differences between vs have been blurring and slimming as time goes on, so the two are more similar than ever.

But at the same time, there are still some very important differences between vs that might make one option better than the other for your specific situation.

In this post, I’m going to try to help you understand the meaningful differences between them. Then, I’ll help you pick the right option for your website in 2022 and beyond.

To accomplish that, I’m going to cover the following information for both platforms:

That’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s dig in! vs Basic Introductions

Here’s the high-level difference between vs

  • is the non-profit home of the free, open-source WordPress software. Anyone can download this software for free and use it to make a website. is administered by the non-profit WordPress Foundation.
  • is a for-profit business that gives you one way to create a website using the WordPress software. However, is not the only way to create a website with WordPress. vs

If you want to make a website with, you need to install the WordPress software on your own web hosting. Purchasing web hosting is essentially renting space on a computer (called a server) that you can use to power the software.

Because of this, you’ll also see called self-hosted WordPress. If you ever see someone say “self-hosted WordPress”, they’re always referring to installing the open-source WordPress software on your own web hosting.

As it exists currently, you can kind of think of as one option for hosting the WordPress software. However, unlike a regular web host, does a lot to simplify the process of creating and maintaining a WordPress website. vs

I like to describe like this – “it’s like the open-source software and Squarespace had a baby”.

All websites use the WordPress software, but not all sites that use the WordPress software are built on

When you see stats like “43% of all websites on the internet use WordPress”, that stat is referring to the software and not

In fact, most websites built with WordPress are self-hosted websites and do not use

Why Do They Have The Same Name Then? That’s So Confusing!

If you’re wondering why and have the same name when one is an open-source non-profit project and the other is a for-profit business, you’re not alone.

The reason behind the naming confusion really comes down to the person/people behind each project.

In May 2003, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little released the first version of the open-source WordPress software.

Then, in August 2005, Matt Mullenweg created Automattic, which is the company behind Basically, it gave Matt a chance to monetize the open-source project that he co-created with Mike Little.

Since Matt is both the co-founder of the project and the founder of the business, that’s where the naming confusion comes from.

As of 2022, and are supposed to be separate entities (though there’s obviously some overlap, with a lot of Automattic employees working on the open-source WordPress project).

How You Make a Website With vs

Here’s a quick rundown of what it’s like to create a website with both self-hosted and

I’ll start with…

Self-Hosted Setup

To get started with self-hosted WordPress, you’ll first need to purchase web hosting from one of the many WordPress hosting providers.

We’ll discuss pricing later on, but this can cost under $5 per month for a very cheap WordPress host.

Once you have your hosting, you need to install the WordPress software on that hosting. While that sounds complex, it really isn’t because virtually all web hosts nowadays offer simple WordPress installers.

For example, here’s the WordPress installer at Kinsta, a host that we’ve reviewed:

Kinsta WordPress installer

Once you install the WordPress software, you can log in to your WordPress dashboard to manage your site and start creating content:

Self-hosted WordPress dashboard

Overall, it’s pretty dang simple! Setup

While setting up self-hosted is already pretty easy, makes things even easier by eliminating the hosting part of the equation.

Instead of needing to purchase hosting and then install WordPress, you just register for a account and then you can instantly start building your site.

When you register for, you’ll see a simple setup wizard to help you configure the basics of your site: setup wizard

You can easily configure key basics like your blog name and design:

Choosing theme

After running through this short wizard, you can manage your site from a dashboard that is almost exactly the same as what you’d get with a self-hosted WordPress site: dashboard

However, does make a few of its own tweaks, such as changing the interface that you use to manage images and other media files.


Here’s a quick comparison of the features that you get access to between, Pro (the paid plan), and Free (the forever free plan). PRO FREE
Custom domain
Install plugins
Install themes
Monetize website
eCommerce store
Membership site
FTP access
Full technical access

As you can see, the Free plan is incredibly limited and doesn’t really give you access to the full flexibility of the WordPress software. However, the Pro plan gives you close to the same functionality that you get with self-hosted

However, there are still some important differences where self-hosted is more flexible…


While beats when it comes to simplicity, the big advantage that self-hosted has is that it’s more flexible.

Don’t get me wrong – if you pay for the Pro plan, you do get a lot of the flexibility of WordPress. You can install plugins and themes, upload files via FTP, and so on.

But you’re still using’s platform, which means you only get the flexibility that gives you.

With self-hosted, on the other hand, you have pretty much limitless flexibility.

There are three ways that this can impact you:

  1. Rules around monetization – this can be an issue if your primary goal is to earn an income, especially with affiliate marketing or sponsored posts.
  2. Some blocked plugins – this won’t affect most people, but it is worth checking before you decide.
  3. Technical access – this will really only affect advanced users as most casual users will be fine with the level of access that the Pro plan offers. Rules for Monetization

If you want to use, you’ll need to abide by the Terms of Service, which includes some added restrictions for monetization:

  • While you can add affiliate links to your site, does “not allow sites that exist primarily to drive traffic to affiliate links”.
  • While you can sell sponsored posts, WordPress does “not allow sites where the vast majority of content is sponsored content”. monetization rules

How do you define if a site “exists primarily to drive traffic to affiliate links”? Well, if you use, you’re leaving that definition up to them.

These types of restrictions are why I do not recommend for websites where your primary goal is monetization.

You can display ads from third-party providers such as AdSense, Mediavine, and AdThrive, though. So if you’re exclusively using display advertising, you should be fine with either. Blocked Plugins

While the Pro plan does let you install custom plugins, does still ban some plugins from its platform.

Many of these bans are simply because the plugin overlaps with features that offers (such as backups). However, there are some plugins that bans for other reasons.

Here are some examples:

  • Caching plugins
  • Backup plugins
  • SQL heavy plugins – e.g. WordPress Popular Posts, WordPress Classifieds Plugin, and others.
  • Automatic content plugins – e.g. WP RSS Aggregator, Woozone, and others.
  • Database/file system altering plugins
  • Security plugins

I encourage you to read the full list because there are some other incompatible plugins such as AliDropship, Event Espresso, WP Staging, and more.

If you specifically need one of these plugins, you’ll want to use self-hosted

Limited Technical Access at

The last limitation is that doesn’t give you full access to your site’s underlying hosting like you’d get at a true web host.

This won’t really affect regular WordPress users, but advanced users might be put off by it. Here are some examples of what you will not get with

  • SSH access
  • WP-CLI
  • Custom databases (you do get phpMyAdmin, though).

Ease of Use (Maintenance and Security)

Whether you use or, you’ll use the same basic dashboard to manage your site, so there are no major differences in terms of ease of use when it comes to creating content and managing settings.

However, where there are differences is when it comes to maintaining and securing your website. I’m talking about things like:

  • Backing up your data
  • Applying updates
  • Implementing security hardening
  • Removing malware (if needed)

With self-hosted, the responsibility that you’ll shoulder for maintaining and securing your site depends on which host you choose. 

With a cheap host, you might have to do much of that work yourself. 

On the other hand, if you use a type of hosting called managed WordPress hosting, the host will do a lot of that for you (but it costs more money).

With, however, you don’t need to worry about any of that stuff because does it for you.

Honestly, I think that this is one of the biggest advantages of While you do sacrifice some flexibility in exchange for this simplicity, not having to think about basic maintenance and security can be really nice, especially if you’re not a very technical person.


In terms of vs pricing, I’m going to ignore the Free plan because it’s not a viable option for a serious site. But obviously, if the Free plan works for your needs, is going to be cheaper.

In terms of the paid plans, it’s a bit tricky:

  • can be cheaper than So if you’re looking for the cheapest way to make a WordPress website, self-hosted is the winner.
  • But at the same time, can also be cheaper than in certain situations.

Really, it all comes down to what you pay for hosting.

With the Pro plan, you know exactly what you’ll pay – it’s $15 per month, billed annually at $180. pricing vs

With, it depends on which host you choose. A cheap WordPress host could cost you ~$5 per month, but a premium managed WordPress host could easily run $30+ per month.

Here’s a quick comparison table of the yearly cost:

Type of hosting Yearly cost
Cheap hosting (GreenGeeks) $70 Pro plan $180
Premium managed WordPress hosting (Kinsta) $300

For low traffic sites and/or simple sites (e.g. a blog or portfolio) a cheap WordPress host like GreenGeeks is all you need, in which case is cheaper.

But for higher-traffic sites and/or more complex sites (e.g. an eCommerce store), you’ll probably need hosting that costs more than the $15 per month Pro plan.

Unique Advantages of Each Platform

As we near the end of our vs comparison, let’s recap some of the unique advantages that you get with each platform.

If I had to sum these differences up in a few words, I would say it like this:

  • Self-hosted gives you flexibility.
  • gives you simplicity.

But let’s go into a little more detail…

Advantages of self-hosted

  • More flexibility. You have full access to the flexibility of the WordPress software with zero restrictions on what edits you make, which plugins you install, and so on.
  • Monetize your site however you want. You can use any monetization strategy and don’t need to worry about following any rules.
  • No content restrictions. There are no rules for the types of content that you post. Your host might block certain content, but you can fix this by moving to a host with different policies.
  • More technical access. For more advanced users, you get much fuller technical access to your site and hosting. For example, you can use SSH, WP-CLI, etc.

Advantages of

  • Simpler setup. You can create a website just by registering for a account.
  • Worry-free security and maintenance. With, you pretty much don’t need to think about basic security and maintenance because the platform handles all of that for you.
  • Don’t think about technical stuff. Tying with the point above, you just really don’t need to think about the technical aspects of your site with, which can be appealing for non-techies. Remember – it’s like and Squarespace had a baby.


To finish out our vs comparison, let’s run over a few common questions.

Can you transfer a site to

Yes! If you start on and change your mind later on, you can migrate to with minimal fuss. The same holds true for moving from to

Is free to use?

The WordPress software that you get from is 100% free and open-source. However, to power that software and create a functioning website, you’ll need to purchase web hosting.

If you use a cheap web host, you can pay just a few dollars per month, though.

Is free to use? does have a free plan, but it has very large limitations so you can’t use it for serious websites. For example, you can’t install plugins on the Free plan. Serious sites will need the paid Pro plan.

Final Recommendations on vs

In the past, I believed that pretty much everyone who wanted to make a serious WordPress website would be better off using (self-hosted WordPress).

In 2022 and beyond, though, I no longer think that. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still think that self-hosted WordPress makes sense for a lot of people. 

But the new Pro plan can also offer really good value in certain situations.

Basically, here’s how I see it:

When to Use (Self-Hosted WordPress)

If you’re creating a WordPress website to build some type of business that earns revenue, I would still recommend going with self-hosted because it will give you more flexibility and control over your business. Examples here include…

  • A blog where your primary goal is to earn an income (rather than just sharing your thoughts with the world)
  • An online course or membership site
  • An eCommerce store

While using self-hosted WordPress does add a little more complexity vs the Pro plan, it’s still something that a non-technical person can handle.

By using self-hosted WordPress, you ensure that you have 100% control over the foundation/platform of your business. You can make any edits that you need, monetize however you want, fully access your hosting environment, and so on.

If you want to make a self-hosted WordPress site, check out these posts:

When to Use Pro Plan

On the other hand, if you’re just looking to “hang your online shingle”, so to speak, then I think the Pro plan might be a better option because of its simplicity. Examples here include:

  • A simple restaurant website with contact details, a menu, etc.
  • Any basic business brochure website. For example, a website for your plumbing business.
  • A simple personal portfolio or online CV.

For these types of sites, you really don’t need any flexibility beyond what the Pro plan offers. With the Pro plan, you can still install your own themes and plugins, upload files via FTP, etc.

By going with, you’ll benefit from the simplicity of the platform when it comes to maintaining and securing your website.

And with the new pricing of just $15 per month, you’re really not paying much of a premium.

If you want to get started, just sign up for a account.

When to Use Free Plan

I do not recommend the Free plan for any type of serious website. The only situation where I would recommend the free plan is some type of hobby blog where you’re just looking for a simple way to share your thoughts or content with people (and you have no plans for monetization).

Building a travel blog so that you can share pictures and stories with your friends and family? Sure – you can use the Free plan.

Building a travel blog so that you can make money? Use self-hosted WordPress instead.

And that wraps up my thoughts on choosing between vs for your website.

If you still have any questions about your specific situation, let me know in the comments!

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