Okay, I've been using my WordPress.com Blog for about a day so far, and other than the nice Ajax effects, there's really no benefit to using it. The wizzy-wig editor is pretty cool at first, until you realize that it outputs invalid code. For instance, if you end your article with a list, it will place an empty set of
UL at the end of the content. In light of that, I find it incredibly ironic that there is typically an XHTML validation link on each and every page. Due to Live Search, some of these templates don't even validate by default.
Unlike a self-installation of WP, you are unable to easily access and make changes to the look and feel. Sure, you can pick one of the cool templates that have been provided, but there is little additional customization that can be done. I am also very confused as to why there are
BR tags everywhere, even right before the ending of a paragraph. It wasn't until I turned off the visual rich editor that I actually got the page to work correctly. It seems to me that Textpattern has far superior text-parsing, when it comes to determining where to begin a paragraph, or when to just have a simple line-break.
The one thing I do like is that if you are logged in, there is a link to edit whatever post you are on. Likewise, if you are viewing someone else's WordPress.com blog, there is a top-bar, much like in Blogger, allowing you to go directly to your WP admin area (presumably to cut and paste something from their blog). That's the only point to it that I can see so far, as there's nothing distinctively different about the top-bar when you're on some else's blog. It would make more sense to me if there were options like Blog This or Flag (ala Blogger). As it is now, there's really no point in having that top-bar present, other than to remind me that I've not yet left the WordPress.com domain.
So, my final verdict on the WordPress.com venture is this: If you have the know-how, and are really dead-set on using WP, just go to WordPress.org, download a copy, and install it on your own server. You will get far better flexibility and functionality than if you go with the hosted sub-domain option. Sure, it may cost you a bit extra for the hosting, but at least you will have your own domain. However, if you are tech-savvy enough to do that, you might as well go ahead and get Textpattern up and running instead.
If you're just the Average Joe and you don't want to mess with all the hosting and installation headaches, I'd recommend using Blogger or LiveJournal, because your chances of actually getting an account there are significantly higher. Or, if you have a little money to spend, go check out TypePad. No doubt some of you hard-core WP users out there will disagree with me, so feel free to leave me some feedback below, and convince me why I'm wrong.