I sometimes see that this is a very confusing question for people who’re just starting out or looking into web design for this business.
I figured it’d make a good info-post to lay it down in plain terms.
What Is WordPress?
WordPress first of all, it is a web software, a Content Management Suite (CMS) that is open source (that means it’s free for anyone to use)
Difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org
Let’s start with WordPress.org, also known as Standalone WordPress or a WordPress Installation.
WordPress.org develops and supports this CMS, there are regular updates, 100s and 1000s of plugins in their directory and tons of free themes.
You need to have a web-host and domain name for this, most web hosts allow 1-Click Install that makes it really simple to install it and get started.
You will self-manage the website or have a web designer work on it for you.
You have total control over the CMS without limitations (keep in mind your web hosting package limits)
Upload any theme you like, any plugin, customize however you want to.
This approach is the best way if you’re planning something solid and long term.
WordPress.com on the other hand is a hosted for you service which has free and paid packages. You sign up and start with your website, limited themes and plugins are allowed to be installed + They will display ads on free websites.
If you choose to get a paid package ($99/year) you can use a custom domain and bunch of more features like additional storage, custom fonts and advance editor permissions and if you go for their business package that lets you have eCommerce and more add-ons. ($300/year)
In a nutshell – Want something solid, go with WordPress Standalone Installation. And if you’re looking for cheap and simple, well… I still wouldn’t recommend giving WordPress.com a shot.
I hope that cleared the whole thing up! If you got any questions fire away!