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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 free

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 unlock all the features of WordPress, you’d need to upgrade to a paid plan. For example, you can’t start an online store with WordPress.com unless you pay for the eCommerce plan which starts at $45 per month.

Automattic has raised a over $600M in funding. (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:

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?

According to an official blog post on WordPress.org, themes are GPL too. Images, CSS and Javascript used inside themes and plugins can be excluded, but all PHP and HTML parts of themes and plugins extensively use WordPress functionality thus they are a derivative work therefore are licensed under 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 58,000+ 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.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. See how WPBeginner is funded, why it matters, and how you can support us.

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Reader Interactions

128 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. I cannot install plugins. It says I should upgrade my plan before I can do that. Is there anyway to get plugins without paying any upgrade money?

  2. I just have a question to ask you. Does WP charges to launch a website and also can I install a plug-in for Security to avoid hackers.?

    • WordPress does not have a cost to launch a site, for any costs involved you would want to take a look at the cost of using WordPress section of this article. :)

      Admin

  3. If someone creates a course with WordPress in the title are they infringing The WordPress trademark?

    • Having WordPress in a post title or course title is not infringing on the WordPress trademark.

      Admin

    • You can transfer your domain to a host for a WordPress.org site if you wanted or you could keep the domain where it is and change your DNS to point toward where the site is. For a better understanding of what we mean you would want to take a look at our glossary page here:
      https://www.wpbeginner.com/glossary/dns/

      Admin

  4. I just purchased a domain name from Godaddy and planning to build a WordPress site. Later heard suggestions from some of my friends that Bluehost is better with WordPress site hosting. I am also planning to buy three more domains. Is it be better I move to Bluehost or stay with Godaddy? Any suggestions?

    • It would depend on your personal experience with the hosting as you can always transfer later but we tend to prefer BlueHost :)

      Admin

  5. I have domain and a hosting with hostmonster. where do I go now and how do i start building a free WP site? Please help Thanks

  6. If I publish a WordPress website on Bluehost, am I able to switch my hosting provider to AWS after deployment of the site? Or do you recommend building the WordPress app with the AWS Cloudformation template? I am a first time WordPress user and id like to take advantage of the wpBeginner special, does it still apply if I use AWS cloud formation?

  7. One of the problems with WP being free is everyone has an opinion.

    There’s too much, ‘I tried it once and it all went wrong,’ – on the plus side, I’d have no expensive kids if I’d followed that mantra – and those asking questions on forums are put off using it and instead go for other options. It’s frustrating. You’d think that they might, for free, FOR FREE, at least try it, but we don’t shout loud enough. We are categorised as nerds.

    With Gutenberg – like it or not – it is about as easy as it can get. ‘One click uploading’, OK so it takes more than one, takes all the fuss away. No need for ftp. Yet we are the ones who love the technical bits we are told.

    Sorry for the rant, but I needed the relief.

  8. I will like to create a blog on wordpress but I already have access to hosting through my reseller hosting account.
    Is it possible to use the wordpress blog and host it in my hosting account?

    • As long as your hosting provider allows you to install WordPress you should be able to use WordPress on that host.

      Admin

  9. Hi, I have just created a blog with wordpress.com domain. I was directed towards the payment gateway. How can I use it for free? I am a content writer but the growing market demands asks me to use wordpress and other platforms. I am just here to learn the basics and to understand how to post articles on WP. Please help me with the same as I want a free blog as of now.

    • As long as you are not using a custom domain, your site should be free to set up. If it is not giving the option to use a free site then you would sadly need to reach out to WordPress.com’s support.

      Admin

    • After picking your website name on WordPress for instance
      Theworldisbig.wordpress.com
      Next
      You pick free
      Which is the first option.
      Then go from there.
      Pick a theme etc
      If you want to lose . WordPress extension
      Then you start paying.
      Good luck.

  10. This explanation just confused me more. I suggest that mind-map type of diagram would help.

  11. WorPress is NOT free!

    Plans start at between $3 to $8 a month.

    It’s cheap, but still. . . . it is not free like so many people think.

  12. Hello.

    I am setting up a WordPress site. I will be keeping my web host company.

    I thought that WordPress was free, but I see in step 4 of the setup that payment plans start at $8 a month.

    So I am confused.

    Thank you in advance.

    ~ Perry

  13. Free wordpress site names are pointless. You end up with a .wordpress.com after your preferred name. No one can find your blog. You have to pay if you want just a .com name. So it’s not free as they boast.

  14. I am new to this blogging concept
    and a little nervous about moving
    forward don’t want to get stuck in the
    wrong place with this

  15. Hey, I have a question and hopefully you can help me.

    I am wanting to create a PWA (Progressive Web App) and was wondering if I could use WordPress to create a Website as a base.

    Please let me know.
    Thank You.

  16. (1). Will I Be Paid Per Click On My Website.
    (2). How Will I Be Getting Paid.
    (3). How Do I Connect My Account To My Website.
    (4). Can I Connect Two Website To A Single Account

  17. It is my pleasure to get accross to this site. I’m a pure beginner as WP is concern, but the moment I got here I never remain the same. I appreciate your good gesture. There is one thing I would like you to do for me and it how to integrate payment gateway to blog/website. I’m from Africa, Nigeria per say. Please PayPal is not working in Nigeria and most of our Card (Master card) is active for online (Bank policy). Please to tap from your expertise in this area once again. Thanks, I need your help! Shalom!

    • Hi Akindunbi,

      There are many online payment gateways that you can use like Payza, 2Checkout, Payoneer, etc. However, their fees are slightly higher than PayPal. You need to check them out to calculate their fees and other charges. Once you find a payment gateway that looks suitable for your business needs, then look for a WordPress plugin that helps connect your WordPress site to that payment gateway. There are plugins for almost every online payment gateway.

      Admin

  18. Hi,
    I have blogger website, can I change to WordPress.org with the same domain name and same web hosting.Or again I have to buy a new domain name and web host

  19. you are hositng your site on hostgator . and here recommending us bluehost. please tell me why?

  20. Pls I just opened my WordPress.com blog but have got few things that I don’t understand, I was told about a PayPal account in which I am to get paid as pertaining to my traffic on my blog but I didn’t add any account, and I also saw a place to feel In some account details as pertaining to word press. Asking me to pay about 30+ dollars. I still don’t understand all that. I didn’t feel it though nd still trying to finalise my blog settings me everything

  21. Thank you for this information! I just started my own WP blog and this filled in many gaps of my knowledge that I didn’t find in my initial research of blogging platforms. This is definitely a great reference to pass along to others!

  22. I really learned alot from this website today and it is not the first time I wanted to compare WP.org and WP.com…I really liked everything about WP.org but my question is that what are host payment methods, im from south Africa PayPal and other methods are not easy for me…but bitcoins are always easy and cheap, is there any bitcoins payment method?

  23. Hello, I’m sorry to bug you with this question, but I tried asking it on the WP forums and got no response. Since this post mentions the costs of having a WP account, I hope this is an ok place to ask this.

    I currently have a free wordpress.com account. I simply want the .wordpress gone from my domain name.

    Every place I look in the help docs or forums, it states to look at the plan pricing, and of course, when you look at the plans, you see that a custom domain is free with any plan. Ok, got it.

    However, this is why I’m confused. The site lets me go in and add a custom domain and private domain registration to my cart for $18/year and $8/year respectively. So $26/year total. It says nothing about having to buy a plan.

    Now, if you stop and think about this for a sec, it doesn’t make sense. If you MUST have a plan in order to have a custom domain, and if a custom domain is FREE with a plan, then why would the system show pricing for a custom domain? See how that doesn’t make sense?

    Essentially, I’m not brave enough (yet) to just say screw it and try to pay the $26 bucks and see what happens. I just wondered if anyone here knows. Any time pricing and such is mentioned on the WP forums, the same link to the plans is given and that’s the end of the conversation.

    Thanks in advance!

  24. Thank you so much for this information.
    I have a query.I am meaning to shift from wordpress.com to wordpress.org in order to run an e-commerce store.I already had bought the personal plan from wordpress.com.While exporting,will my plan and the subsequent amount go down the drain?

    Regards

    • Plans and other purchases on WordPress.com can be canceled and refunded with in 30days of purchase. Domain registrations can be canceled and refunded during 48 hours after purchase. Please contact WordPress.com support for more help.

      Admin

  25. There are wordpress free themes, I want to know that how much permission are we having to use them freely

  26. True beginner, semi-luddite here. I thought I had things figured out but now I’m confused again. I started a blog through WordPress and I’m assuming it was wordpress.com. I bought my domain name, so does that mean I’m self hosted? If I upgrade my blog to a Genesis or Headway site, how does that change how I’m hosted, or does it? Your site has been very helpful thus far, thanks for all your work.

  27. Nice read. I am currently a duda pro but costs are becoming too high. I have 30 websites and pay £330 per month to duda. I do charge my clients a monthly fee but would rather keep the £330 by using wordpress instead. Can even use that saving for themes or plugins.

    Am i correct in thinking that I can construct 30 websites on wordpress and host it with godaddy for around £6per month? Or am I missing something?

    Unfortunately we cannot transfer websites from duda to another platform but where there’s a will there’s a way??

  28. Great article! Thanks for helping me understand some of the things to consider. The article on the differences between wordpress.com and wordpress.org was good too.

  29. Great and useful post. I found this very enlightening. It’s cleared most of my misconceptions.

  30. very informative post. It’s helps me to understand the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org.

  31. I am about to head off on an amazing holiday overseas & wish to keep a blog to email to family & friends of all the highlights & experiences of our trip. WordPress was recommended by a friend who has a blog through you. I just wanted to double check that what I set up will be free, that I will be able to email what I write & that I can do all this from the Macbook Air (running Mac OSX 10.9.5) that we will take with us? Thanks.

  32. Tell me about famous e-commerce websites using wordpress. I am a web designer using wordpress, and i want to convince my customers that wordpress is good enough to have your online store running perfectly.

  33. I am starting a blog and was wondering if it is a good idea to start with the free WordPress as I gradually add content. Right now I have zero content.

    Since it is possible to transfer to WordPress.org in the future, is it worth it to take advantage of the traffic that the free WordPress provides in the meantime? Or would it be too much of a hassle/inconvenience to my future readers to transfer over?

    I read that WordPress.org does not help you gain traffic… what do you suggest? I want to do everything right from the beginning so I can establish a good foundation for my blog/business. Please help! Thank you!

  34. Thank you so much for this great article. I need to ask, is WordPress plugin author (free plugin those available on wordpress.org) also consider as WordPress contributor or not ? Actually you didn’t mention about those in article as a contributor.

    • Basically anyone working and sharing the work with rest of the WordPress community is considered a contributor. One can contribute by answering support requests on forum, helping with documentation, organizing WordPress meetups and WordCamps, and so on. However, only those users who contribute to the development of the WordPress core are credited as core contributors.

      Admin

  35. I am a beginner. I created my site in hubpages few days ago. Now I am bit confused. I want to know which is profitable wrt making money online. It’s self hosted(myname.com) or like the one I am currently having.
    Secondly, if I create a website in WordPress(myname.com) will It be entirely self hosted by me or will that be hosted by others and not me?
    Can you plz suggest which one I need to create? How much I need to pay yearly fee? Also, can you plz provide link to create?

  36. this is best site for information about WordPress..I want your advice about my plan that is I wanted to run a video site not self hosting and which Host is best for me in low Cost..
    Thanks

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