The Difference Between WordPress and WordPress Dot Com Accounts Explained

wordpress dot org vs dot com

One of the most frequent things I run into with various clients is explaining the differences between their WordPress account and their WordPress.com account. A lot of people think it’s all the same thing. It’s an understandable confusion as both share a lot of similarities, and both say “WordPress.”

There are some very important difference between self-hosted WordPress and WordPress.com of which many are unaware. Here’s a brief rundown of these differences, and how to connect your various accounts.

First, self-hosted WordPress is the opensource framework that is either downloaded via WordPress.org and installed via FTP, or installed via some easy installation button via your web host. It is not hosted by WordPress, hence the term self-hosted. The account that is created is stored in your server’s, or a site to which you contribute, database and is unique to that website. You log into the website via http://mysitename.com/wp-admin/ (unless you have hidden the login URL with a security plugin). You are creating an account with yourself. You may have multiple self-hosted WordPress accounts, each unique to that website.

WordPress.com, on the other hand, is an account you create with WordPress to manage free WordPress.com-hosted websites*. Those are the sites you see with http://mysitename.wordpress.com. Though, thanks to the magic of domain mapping, you can setup a purchased domain name to use on WordPress.com to have you website URL be http://mysitename.com. Regardless of URL structure, because that account is created and hosted on WordPress.com, that account information is stored in WordPress’ databases and is only connected to any website that you created that had the original URL of http://mysitename.wordpress.com. And you login at WordPress.com.

What this means is, you cannot sign into WordPress.com using the login credientials for your self-hosted WordPress, and vice versa. A lot of people never have a WordPress account, but they think they do because their self-hosted website is built using the WordPress framework.

You can, however, connect your self-hosted WordPress account(s) with WordPress.com, thanks to the WordPress REST API. Doing so allows you to manage multiple sites, both self-hosted and WordPress.com-hosted, from one control panel on WordPress.com. It also allows for some extra bonuses, like automatic updates of plugins found within the WordPress.org repository.

Connecting your self-hosted WordPress account(s) to one master WordPress.com account is simple:

  1. Via your self-hosted WordPress dashboard, install the Jetpack plugin by WordPress.com.
  2. Activate it.
  3. A message should appear saying something along the lines of, “To take full advantage of Jetpack, connect to your WordPress.com account” with a big “Connect” button. If you don’t see it, click on “Jetpack” in the left menu, and the “Connect” screen should be there.
  4. Sign into your WordPress.com account. If you don’t already have one, the page you are taken to after you click “Connect” will allow you to setup an account.
  5. The rest is pretty self-explanatory.

If you are brand new to Jetpack, then it will automatically be setup to update all WordPress.org plugins as updates are available. This is great because it helps to keep your self-hosted WordPress installation secure. You can always turn off automatic updates in your master WordPress.com control panel, but I don’t recommend it.

There are other benefits, too. Like the ability to compose blog posts for all of your websites in one place, change settings, edit menus, and much more. In a follow-up post, we’ll walk you through the WordPress.com desktop app, which is exactly the same as what you see when you log into WordPress.com.

*There are other differences between self-hosted WordPress and WordPress.com, like the level to which you can customize your website, the ability to install plugins, and more. There are also some extra things you can do with WordPress.com, like VIP hosting. However, for the purposes of this post, we thought it best just to keep to the simple basics of account-type.

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