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.
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.
If you’d prefer written instructions, keep reading.
Why Don’t They Sell WordPress as a Software?
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:
- WPEngine – A managed WordPress hosting company that has raised over $290 million dollars and now also owns 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, AIOSEO, Smash Balloon, and other popular WordPress plugins used by over 25 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 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?
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.
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).
Bluehost is an officially recommended WordPress hosting provider. It’s reliable, comes with 1-click WordPress installation, offers 24/7 customer support, and more.
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.
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.