WordPress is not WordPress.com

The domain ending .com is not optional as it is usually—it is a key differentiator.

Omitting “.com” when you mean to refer to WordPress.com is as inaccurate as omitting “wash” when you mean to refer to “car wash”. The two are not the same.

WordPress is a Free Software project

WordPress lives and grows on WordPress.org.

Thousands of volunteers contribute to its development, translation, community events, and many other aspects. The software itself is licensed under the GNU General Public License and comes with Four Freedoms.

WordPress is yours for the making

WordPress, the software, can be downloaded and customised.

You can download a .zip file from the home of WordPress, extract what is inside, install it on a web server, and make a website with it—free of charge. You will have to pay a fee to a third-party hosting provider of your choice for your own domain and server space. Your data is always yours.

WordPress is a trademark

The use of “WordPress”, the trademark, is overseen and protected by the WordPress Foundation.

No one is allowed to use the term “WordPress” for any commercial purposes without explicit permission from the WordPress Foundation. According to the WordPress domain policy no one is allowed to use the term “wordpress” in any top-level domain. Exemptions are the WordPress project itself, the WordPress Foundation, and—WordPress.com.

WordPress.com is powered by WordPress

WordPress.com, you guessed it, lives on WordPress.com.

WordPress.com is powered by WordPress, the Free Software, and owned by Automattic Inc., a company based in San Francisco. Hundreds of employees and contractors work for Automattic, some of which also contribute to WordPress, the Free Software.

WordPress.com is Software as a Service

You can’t download WordPress.com, just like you can’t download Facebook.

It just sits there on the internet. You can sign up and make a website, within the range of service plans it offers—free of charge. You will have to pay a fee for your own domain, but (other than on a self-hosted WordPress website) also for service addons to be able to design your website as you see fit. Your data still is always yours. The use of Plugins (i.e. extensions/modules/addons) is only possible on an advanced pricing plan.

WordPress.com is WordPress, but WordPress is not WordPress.com

While WordPress.com is built on WordPress, it does not own or distribute WordPress, the Free Software.

No one will blame you if you have confused WordPress and WordPress.com up to now. Who would name two different things practically the same, right? Yeah, it’s complicated …

However, now you know. 🙂

Most of those thousands of voluntary WordPress contributors mentioned earlier give their time and talent without any financial compensation or public recognition, just so we all can have WordPress, the software, for free.
Now imagine a company used the name of a non-commercial project you contributed to for commercial purposes—the very name you had put your love, sweat, and tears into.
This situation kind of sucks, and getting the names confused makes it worse. You can help by saying or writing “WordPress.com” when you mean the web service, and “WordPress” when you're referring to the software.

WordPress powers 40% of the web.

That’s not WordPress.com alone.
It’s all of WordPress. Yours too.
(Though it’s also not quite true.)