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Why is WordPress Free? What are the Costs? What is the Catch?

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One of the most often asked questions 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 WordPress is free, what the cost of running a WordPress site is, and what the catch is.

Is WordPress 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 the difference is 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.

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Why Don’t They Sell WordPress as a Software?

WordPress website

We often get asked, why don’t the 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.

After all, WordPress powers over 43% of all websites on the internet.

This 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 the great software that it is today.

A core team of developers leads 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 Open Source software movement’s philosophy is that software is unlike other tangible products. Once 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 factory can calculate the manufacturing cost of these parts 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 as 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 services 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 an expensive 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 over $985M 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 the 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 (General Public License). That means you can use, modify, and redistribute the code. You will have the copyright to the modifications you make to the software but not the entire code.

GPL requires that any derivative work you release or distribute should also be licensed under GPL. You may have the copyright to do anything you like. But, 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?

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 derivative works and are licensed under GPL.

While some folks disagree, most trusted WordPress businesses follow and abide by the community guidelines.

Does the Content Published With WordPress Also Inherit 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 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.

WordPress trademarks

For more details, see the WordPress Foundation’s Trademark Policy.

To distinguish between a site or resource that is official or community-run, the foundation asks folks not to 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 its 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 is free software 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 holds 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 up to 77% 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. It’s reliable, comes with 1-click WordPress installation, offers 24/7 customer support, and more.

Bluehost website

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 10,800+ free WordPress themes that you can use.

People often use commercial plugins, but you are not required to use those either because there are over 59,000+ free WordPress plugins available.

We have created a detailed guide on how much it really costs to build a WordPress website, with instructions on how to start a website on a budget and save money.

Is WordPress Free FAQs

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about whether WordPress is free or not:

What does WordPress charge for?

WordPress.org is an open-source platform that is free to download and use. But there are costs attached if you want your WordPress site to be live on the web. The main cost is WordPress hosting and a domain name, which starts as low as $2.75 per month with Bluehost.

You can also extend the features and functionality of your WordPress site with premium themes and plugins. However, you can keep costs lower using free plugins and themes.

Do I own my WordPress website?

Yes, you can install the open-source WordPress.org software on a web hosting provider to make a website that you 100% own. This gives you complete control over how you run your site.

This is not the case with other solutions like WordPress.com. With WordPress.com, your site can be removed at any time if it violates their terms of service. There’s also limited customization and monetization options.

Can I make money from WordPress?

Yes, you can monetize your WordPress site in many different ways. For example, you can create a membership site, start affiliate marketing, advertise with Google AdSense, sell digital products, and much more.

You can also use the free WPForms plugin to accept online payments and donations via Stripe directly on your website.

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 or our recommendations for the best web design software.

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. Here's our editorial process.

Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff at WPBeginner is a team of WordPress experts led by Syed Balkhi with over 16 years of experience in WordPress, Web Hosting, eCommerce, SEO, and Marketing. Started in 2009, WPBeginner is now the largest free WordPress resource site in the industry and is often referred to as the Wikipedia for WordPress.

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Reader Interactions

141 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. Syed Balkhi says

    Hey WPBeginner readers,
    Did you know you can win exciting prizes by commenting on WPBeginner?
    Every month, our top blog commenters will win HUGE rewards, including premium WordPress plugin licenses and cash prizes.
    You can get more details about the contest from here.
    Start sharing your thoughts below to stand a chance to win!

  2. Dennis Muthomi says

    the explanation of the open-source philosophy and GPL licensing really insightful.

    it’s interesting that since WordPress and most plugins/themes are GPL licensed, it means I could actually modify their code if I had programming skills to better suit my needs.
    I was not aware about that!

  3. Jiří Vaněk says

    I don’t quite understand the principle of the GPL. You write that all WordPress code is under the GPL license. This means that when you as a company create an AIO SEO plugin, it is under the GPL license and someone can modify it and then distribute it? Or am I missing something?

  4. Moinuddin Waheed says

    I have seen many premium themes developers offer installation and distribution of their themes upto 500 people under GPL licenses.
    Due to this reason i have seen many websites selling these premium themes way cheaper than the actual one and they claim they are doing it under GPL licenses.
    is it safe and okay to do that under GPL?
    is it safe to purchase from them due to the cost difference?

  5. Moinuddin Waheed says

    Thank you for clearing the doubts around general public license and open source software.
    I had the same set of questions and doubts about how the open source projects make money and what are the benefits, why they make the products and services available for free open source and allow to distribute without any cost involved. After going through the article,it is crystal clear now about the open source and general public license.

  6. Jeremy says

    I already have a free blog on WP. Would I be able to get some of the plugins if I moved to BlueHost?

  7. Barbara says

    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?

  8. Nandini says

    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.?

    • WPBeginner Support says

      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

  9. Rohmah says

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

    • WPBeginner Support says

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

      Admin

    • WPBeginner Support says

      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

  10. Jacob says

    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?

    • WPBeginner Support says

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

      Admin

  11. Andrei says

    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

  12. Francisco Zamora says

    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?

  13. Derek Smith says

    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.

  14. Kelvin says

    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?

    • WPBeginner Support says

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

      Admin

  15. Nilu says

    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.

    • WPBeginner Support says

      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

    • Siobhán Dempsey says

      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.

  16. Graham Hayman says

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

  17. Perry says

    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.

  18. Perry says

    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

  19. Suzie Que says

    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.

  20. Catherine says

    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

  21. Caleb says

    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.

  22. Benedict says

    (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

  23. Akindunbi Shalom says

    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!

    • WPBeginner Support says

      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

  24. gnaneswar says

    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

  25. ansh khare says

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

  26. kamaldeen says

    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

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