I have met with a number of new users of wordpress software who keep asking this question “Is wordpress free?”. We tell them that WordPress is a free and open source software, which is usually followed by, “Why is WordPress Free if it is such a great software?”. In this post, we will discuss why WordPress is free, the minimal costs of running a WordPress blog, and how you can take advantage this great software.
WordPress software is free
Yes WordPress is copyright free in the sense you can download, use, edit, modify and do business with the core WordPress without having to pay anyone a single penny. Read more on the GPL concept here.
No one person or company owns WordPress, it is the derivative work of 1000s of WordPress enthusiasts and experts who are collectively on a mission to make WordPress the easiest and feature-rich blogging and publishing platform.
Why Is WordPress Not Sold?
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 of money by selling it. This statement would make sense, if a single company or 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, report bugs, suggest features etc. Furthermore, project leaders change from one version to another. If you get involved into the community, then you can easily become a core contributor of WordPress.
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. Some groups believe that with each copy sold, the profit margin of the software becomes more unfair.
To understand more about open source software, check out GNU’s Philosophy.
How To Make Money with WordPress
The two main profitable parts of any open source software are products or services based on the same open source software.
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 such as CSS modification etc. However, to get the full power of WordPress.org on WP.com service, you have to spend over $3250 per month for hosting. That is their own way of providing their own wordpress services. Automattic also has numerous wordpress products such as jetpack, woocommerce, wordpress.com, e.t.c
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:
- StudioPress: Deals with premium WordPress Themes.
- Chris Lema: Very renowned WordPress developer and contributor.
- Elegant Themes: Another hugely popular WordPress Theme shop where you get almost 87 premium WordPress themes for less than a $1 each.
- WPEngine, a managed WordPress hosting companythat has raised over $40 million dollars.
- Awesome Motive– led by Syed Balkhi is another multi-million dollar company based around WordPress. The company manages WPBeginner, OptinMonster, WPForms, MonsterInsights, and other popular WordPress plugins.
- Sucuri– the popular WordPress security solution in the market.
- iThemes– one of the oldest and well-established WordPress company behind popular plugins like BackupBuddy.
- Gravity Forms– the most well known premium WordPress form plugin.
Good WordPress developers and consultants also make a comfortable full-time income by building custom websites, applications, and plugins around WordPress for their clients. Some of them are doing over six-figures in annual earnings by themselves.
Is WordPress Copyright Free?
Yes WordPress is copyright free in the sense you can download, use, edit, modify and do business with the core WordPress without having to pay anyone a single penny. Read more on the GPL concept here..
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. So while 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.
Are all premium WordPress Themes and Plugins Licensed GPL?
While some folks do not agree with that, most trusted WordPress businesses follow and abide by the community guidelines.
Does Content Published with WordPress 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 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 code of WordPress as a software is released under GPL but the words WordPress, WordCamp, and the WordPress Logo are registered trademarks owned by 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 many websites or blogs that offer wordpress products and services use “WP” instead of “Wordpress” in their names or domains e.g. wpforms instead of wordpressforms. Any site, training course, or resource that you run across that has WordPress in their domain name is probably being run by someone who does not 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 – WordPress vs. WordPress.com.
The cost of using WordPress is relatively minimal and hold true for running any other type of website other than blog as well. The only real cost is web hosting and domain. WPBeginner users can get a domain name and web hosting for as low as $3.95/month from Bluehost or DreamHost (both officially recommended WordPress hosting providers).
Additional costs would be commercial WordPress themes. However, you are not required to use those. There are 4000+ free WordPress themes that you can use.
People often use commercial plugins, but you are not required to use those as well. There are over 45,000 free WordPress plugins.
So why do people buy paid themes or plugins?
Many professionally looking blogs are designed with Free themes and plugins. To get a little more exclusive design and feel for the site, folks often purchase a commercial “premium” theme. Another reason to purchase a paid theme or a plugin is to get support. Free theme or plugin providers are not required to offer support or updates because it is usually their passion project. However, paid plugin and theme shops offer regular support and updates because it is their business.
We hope that this article answers some questions about WordPress licensing, the costs of running a WordPress site, and the business around WordPress. Please feel free to add your comments, questions and feedback below.
Closing Thoughts to Why is WordPress Free
Now that you know the whole scenario behind why is WordPress free, what are the charges involved to run WordPress websites and why you should use WordPress for your next blog.
I don’t know a single blogger, small business owner who has a large site that successfully generates revenue using the free WordPress.com platform. Self-hosted wordpress is the best way to go.
Another reason for this is switching is easy. Even if you’ve already started with a free blogging platform (no matter it be weebly or BlogSpot or WordPress.com etc) switching is easy. Avail yourself with our Free WordPress Blog Setup Services and properly move your free blog to a self-hosted wordpress (wordpress.org).