I recently asked why people haven’t switched over to WordPress.com for their blogging service, and their answers all seem to be the same. The lack of customization, using a WordPress.com sub-domain, and the expense of features.
I guess this really goes to show for me how much work Automattic still needs to do on marketing the service.
Your Own Domain
WordPress.com allows you to use your own domain. They have no problem with that and the fee is fairly reasonable. If you don’t like bloggername.wordpress.com as your URL, you can change it.
There is a great article on WordPress.com about mapping a domain for WordPress.com. The cost if you bring your own domain is $10 a year, or if you want to have Automattic register the domain for you, the price is $15 a year. Which when you really consider it, you are getting unlimited bandwidth to your site as part of that price, and they provide a fair bit of flexibility on what can be done.
Here is a sample from the article to answer a previous visitor’s question:
Q: I own domain.com, and want to map a subdomain of that to my WordPress.com blog. Is that possible?
A: Yes. You will need to add a DNS CNAME at your DNS provider before the domain mapping will work. You should not change your nameserver information if you just want to map a subdomain. The CNAME should look something like the following:subdomain.domain.com. IN CNAME [your-blog].wordpress.com.Once that DNS entry has been added login to your WordPress.com Dashboard, click on Settings > Domains and enter subdomain.domain.com into the box. If everything is setup correctly, it will allow you to map the subdomain to your blog. If things are not quite right the system will let you know and provide suggestions on what you need to do to remedy the problem.
Note: You cannot map only the “www” subdomain since we remove the www from all the URLs at wordpress.com.
Limited Design Customizations
Another misconception seemed to be that you would be stuck with one of the WordPress themes that Automattic has applied to the service, but with the Sandbox theme, and the CSS editing upgrade, that point becomes moot.
Custom CSS access is $15 a year, and while I feel that might be a little steep, it is an expense that not everyone really needs to do as many themes come with a variety of built-in customization options.
But if you do pay the money, I don’t think the themes will be the limiting factor anymore. Find a CSS expert that knows the basics of the Sandbox theme, and pretty much anything is possible.
I agree with everyone that not having our favourite plugins can be a huge hinderance, but as with everything WordPress related, Automattic is staying on the ball when it comes to user related requests and has said that things like the popular related posts feature as well as a better post and page search is coming very soon.
This is no doubt the tip of the iceberg as Automattic is continually developing the service, and really, how many plugins do you currently run that are essential to your blog and are you sure most of the results can’t be replicated by the many widgets that WordPress.com includes?
This is and always has been the deal breaker for me when it comes to using WordPress.com, but it makes a fair bit of sense, especially if you’ve seen the amount of spam that I have seen in browsing through Blogger’s many blogs.
Limiting advertising to nothing reduces the changes that WordPress will become a spam haven. I don’t think their approach has been all that great, but hopefully sometime in the future this will change.
So the fact is that you can map your domain to your WordPress.com account, you can customize the look and feel of the site, and add in a variety of features. The system is always been developed with new features, themes, and advantages rolling out all the time, but like you, I agree that until there is an advertising system either built-in or allowed to be used on their service, WordPress.com remains mainly a no-go for me.
If you aren’t worried about advertising, give the service a try, as you might be surprised by both the features and the quality of service. Though, if you are looking for total control, well WordPress will never have that, and that’s not really their target market anyways.