Why is WordPress Free? What are the Costs? What is the Catch?
One of the most often asked question by our users is “Do I have to pay to use WordPress?”. We tell them that WordPress is a free and open source software, which is usually followed by, “Why is WordPress Free?”.
In this article, we will discuss why is WordPress free, what’s the cost of running a WordPress site, and what’s the catch?
WordPress is an open source software. It is free in the sense of freedom not in the sense of free beer. You may ask what is the difference between these two?
Open source software comes with the freedom for you to use, modify, build upon, and redistribute the software in any way you like without paying any fees.
However, there might be costs involved in other areas. We will discuss the cost of using the open source WordPress software later in this article.
Why Don’t They Sell WordPress as a Software?
We often get asked, why don’t people and companies behind WordPress sell it? If WordPress is as good as everyone says, then they would obviously make a lot more money by selling it.
This statement would make sense, if a single company or an individual owned WordPress.
WordPress is an open source community project where tens of thousands of talented people have made contributions to make it into a great software that it is today.
There is a core team of developers that lead the project development, but anyone can contribute patches, fix bugs, make features, suggest features, etc.
Furthermore, project leaders change from one version to another. If you get deeply involved in the community, then you can become a core contributor to WordPress as well.
The Philosophy behind Open Source Software
The philosophy behind Open Source software movement is that software are not like other tangible products. Once a software is created, it can be copied many times with little cost.
Let’s take the example of a toy factory. Each toy manufactured has different parts and each part has a cost. The manufacturing cost of these parts can be calculated by the factory to decide a reasonable profit margin for the product.
On the other hand, the cost of creating software and making copies of it is not the same. Some groups believe that with each copy sold, the profit margin of the software becomes more unfair.
To understand more about open source software ideals, check out GNU’s Philosophy.
How Do People Make Money with WordPress?
The two main profitable parts of any open source software are products and services based on the same open source software.
People often confuse WordPress with WordPress.com, but they’re actually two different things. WordPress (often referred to self-hosted WordPress or WordPress.org) is a free blogging platform and website builder.
Matt Mullenweg, co-founding developer of WordPress, launched a company called Automattic which provides “restricted” free blog hosting service at WordPress.com, and you can pay / upgrade to unlock features and remove ads.
However, to get the full power of WordPress on WordPress.com platform, you’ll need to sign up with their WordPress VIP service. This costs over $5000 per month for hosting + $5000 set up fee.
Automattic has raised a total of $317.3M in funding over 7 rounds. Their latest funding was raised on Jan 1, 2015 from a Venture round. (Source)
Other developers have also gone ahead to build successful multi-million dollar businesses around WordPress by creating commercial plugins, commercial themes, and even offering WordPress hosting.
Some examples of successful multi-million dollar WordPress companies are:
- WPEngine – a managed WordPress hosting company that has raised over $290 million dollars and now also own StudioPress commercial themes.
- Awesome Motive – led by Syed Balkhi is another multi-million dollar company based around WordPress. The company manages WPBeginner, OptinMonster, WPForms, MonsterInsights, SeedProd, and other popular WordPress plugins.
- Yoast – is the company behind the popular WordPress SEO plugin that’s used by over 5 million websites.
- ElegantThemes – multi-million dollar theme company behind the popular drag & drop page builder: Divi and several other plugins.
Related: See our list of 20 top WordPress companies.
Good WordPress developers and consultants also make a comfortable full-time income by building custom websites, applications, and plugins around WordPress for their clients. A lot of them are making over six-figures in annual earnings by themselves.
Is WordPress Copyright Free?
No, WordPress is not copyright free. It is licensed in a way that allows everyone to use it, but each contribution made to the software is copyrighted.
It is released under GPL, so you are free to use, modify, and redistribute the code. You will have the copyright to modifications you make to the software, not the entire code.
GPL requires that any derivative work you release or distribute should be licensed under GPL as well. You may have the copyright to do anything you like, your derivative work automatically inherits the GPL license, so others are free to use, modify, and redistribute your code in any way they choose.
Does this mean that all premium WordPress Themes and Plugins are Licensed GPL?
While some folks do not agree with that, most trusted WordPress businesses follow and abide by the community guidelines.
The Content Published with WordPress also inherits GPL?
No, you are entitled to license your content any way you like. Unless the content you are publishing is actually a derivative work of WordPress or any other GPL licensed work.
For example, if you are sharing your articles, photos, or any other artwork on your blog, then you own full copyrights of it.
However, if you are writing a blog post showing people how to use a WordPress function with examples, then that particular blog post could be licensed differently. The code used in examples is actually derivative work and automatically inherits the GPL license.
The WordPress Trademark
The code of WordPress as a software is released under GPL but the words WordPress, WordCamp, and the WordPress logo are registered trademarks owned by the WordPress Foundation.
To distinguish between a site or resource that is official or community run, the foundation asks folks to not use “WordPress” in their domain name.
This is the reason why our site is called WPBeginner instead of WordPressBeginner. Any website, training course, or resource that you see has WordPress in their domain name is probably being run by someone who doesn’t know enough about WordPress. This means you probably shouldn’t pay them any of your money
Most legit businesses built around WordPress are aware of the trademark policies, and they respect the rules.
Cost of using WordPress
WordPress as a software is free for you to download and use. However, to use WordPress on the web, you will need WordPress Hosting.
You can use WordPress.com to create a free blog, but be aware that there are some differences. See our comparison of WordPress.com vs WordPress.org for more details.
The cost of using WordPress is relatively minimal and hold true for running any other type of website as well. The only real cost is web hosting ($7.99 per month) and domain name ($14 / year).
However WPBeginner users can get a free domain name and 60% off web hosting from Bluehost which means you can start a website for as low as $2.75 per month. Bluehost is an officially recommended WordPress hosting provider.
Related: How to Start a WordPress Blog (Ultimate Guide)
Additional costs could be commercial WordPress themes also known as premium WordPress themes. However, you are not required to use those because there are over 6000+ free WordPress themes that you can use.
People often use commercial plugins, but you are not required to use those as well because there are over 54,000+ free WordPress plugins available.
We have created a detailed guide on how much does it really cost to build a WordPress website with instructions on how to start a website on a budget and save money.
We hope that this article answered your questions about WordPress licensing, the costs of running a WordPress site, and the business around WordPress. You may also want to see our list of easy to start online business ideas that actually make money.