WordPress.com vs. Posterous

It’s been a week since I switched this blog from Posterous to WordPress.com. I’m very happy with the change, but it is clear to me that Posterous offer very compelling features for a free service.

What follows isn’t a complete comparison of the two services, it just highlights what I consider the most important differences between the two services for a typical blogger.

WordPress.com Posterous
Big library of free themes (100+). Premium themes. No custom themes. Decent library of free themes (46). No premium themes. Custom themes.
Custom domain mapping ($12 per year). Free custom domain mapping.
Regular users may see ads on your blog. Signed in WordPress.com users won’t. ($29.97 to remove.) No on-site advertising.
No direct HTML editing. CSS access paid upgrade ($30 per year). Full free access to HTML and CSS.
Image-heavy posts are a pain to manage. Excellent, intuitive image galleries.
Excellent, but expensive HD video support (VideoPress: $60 per year). Free video uploads (100MB per video limit).
A basic stats tool in the dashboard. No export functionality. No Google Analytics support. Support for Google Analytics.
Threaded comments. No threaded comments.
Fantastic commenting and comment moderation features. Comments can be a bit buggy for users. Poor moderation features.
Both services offer great customer support and have good iPhone and Android apps.
Neither service permits the use of JavaScript.

Note that I stopped using Posterous just before it transformed into Posterous Spaces. Their blogging service remains basically unchanged, so these points are still valid, but there is now a whole social aspect you may want to consider.

So, Posterous looks pretty good actually

Looking at the table above, Posterous comes off a lot better than I expected it to. Even paying upwards of $70 per year for domain mapping, CSS access and no adverts still won’t get you access to your theme’s HTML or Google Analytics support.

Simplicity is a feature too – Posterous lets you focus on your blogging without worrying about tweaking all the knobs and dials.

However

I left Posterous mainly for performance reasons. Almost every time I wanted to write a blog post, the editor wouldn’t load. Sometimes, the edit window crashed and I lost an entire post. My site was usually sluggish, and sometimes pages would never load completely, leaving essential JavaScript functionality non-operational. Multiple times I had users complain that leaving comments was difficult, or that their paragraph breaks were ignored.

On August 5th I ran a page speed test on my Posterous blog. Out of interest, I’ve just performed the same test on this blog now:

Posterous page load time: 38.4 seconds (repeat test: 28.9 seconds)

WordPress page load time: 16.3 seconds (repeat test: 9.6 seconds)

Also, I’m not confident that Posterous have such a bright future. They started as a super-simple ‘start a blog by email’ service, then added groups and now have taken a sideways step into becoming more of a social network. Who knows if this change will be a big hit? Myself, I’m not feeling it.

In the meantime, it’s not really clear how Posterous is going to start making money without resorting to an ad support/pay model. They do make some money selling domain names, and there was that incident where they were turning bloggers links into affiliate links (without telling users), but what else? So far they seem to be floating along on $10m+ of venture funding, experimenting with their product.

Simply put, my confidence in Posterous has eroded away.

WordPress on the other hand has a healthy source of income, and the product is mature and proven. Basics like domain mapping and CSS editing should be free (they are on Tumblr too), but the free features they do offer (sidebar widgets, blogrolls, polls, post tools, commenting, spam protection, sophisticated themes) are rich and useful.

Perhaps the single best reason for using WordPress.com is WordPress.org. This is the ultimate WordPress.com upgrade, and although you’ll need to take responsibility (and pay) for hosting, all the shackles come off and a whole world of free (and paid) themes and plugins opens up to you. WordPress.com is the perfect training ground for someone who thinks they may want to get serious about blogging.

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12 thoughts on “WordPress.com vs. Posterous

  1. Really helpful comparison, self hosted WP is defintley the way to go if you want all the vital stuff for free and it’s pretty easy to maintain these days, you don’t need to resort to uploading anything manually if you don’t want too.

  2. And WordPress.com users enjoy many of the benefits of .org – a galaxy of themes, plugins, security fixes and functionality that all come from the development community.

    As well as performance I think your point about longevity is probably among the most important. Which blog platforms will still be serving in 20 years’ time I wonder?

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  4. I sympathise with your performance concerns, but I’m shocked someone as savvy as yourself was typing up posts in the editor on the website! I never trust those things, one wrong mouse-click and backspace press and you lose everything as your browser activates the back button…

    • Posterous didn’t work with Mars Edit. I could have done all my blogging via email, but I always found myself going into the post to clean a few things up anyway. It wasn’t a great setup.

      You could save drafts in the web editor, but the one time I did that it gave my final post a numeric URL instead of using the post title, so I never trusted that again.

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