The answer is yes and no – how’s that for an annoying answer! It’s true though…sort of. Let me explain.
WordPress.com is a free blogging service whereby you can create a blog that is run on WordPress servers. This is a stripped down version of the free open source software fondly referred to as WordPress.org (which we will refer to as WordPress in the rest of this post). This is the full-fledged software that is free to download but needs to be uploaded to servers provided by a hosting company. Read our article The Difference Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com for more details.
Quick ‘n dirty numbers for WordPress.org:
Buy domain name from GoDaddy – $10 per year
Buy shared hosting plan from HostGator – $5 – $10 per month
Get a free WordPress theme – ummm, free
Why isn’t WordPress sold as Software?
We are often asked why WordPress isn’t actually sold for money by companies and people who provide its services. If WordPress is truly worthy of the amount of praise it has earned, then the companies would certainly make a lot of money by selling it. This statement would hold ground if WordPress was owned by a single individual or company.
WordPress is a project that belongs to an open source community where it has been modified continuously through the contributions made by thousands of talented people to make it what it is today. The project development is led by a core developer team, but any random person can contribute patches, suggest features, report bugs, etc. Also, project leaders change with the change in versions. If you manage to become a part of the community, then it will be easier for you to become a core contributor. In short, advocates of open source driven projects are not in it for profit. They want to share the software with the community and allow people to improve upon it.
How can WordPress help people make money?
Contributing towards open source software in terms of products and services which are based on the same platform is very profitable. WordPress is often confused with WordPress.com. WordPress, which is often referred to as WordPress.org or the self-hosted WordPress, is basically a free platform for blogging. WordPress’s co-founding developer, Matt Mullenweg, launched Automattic, a company that provides restricted use of the WordPress.com’s free blog hosting service. In order to unlock specific features, such as the CSS modification, you have to pay/upgrade. However, if you wish to enjoy the full power of WordPress.org, provided by WP.com service, the hosting charges are over $3250 per month.
Other developers have successfully built businesses around WordPress which help them earn millions of dollars. This is done by creating commercial themes, commercial plug-ins, and even by offering WordPress hosting. A very good example of one such successful business is StudioPress. They are into creating beautiful WordPress themes, which are premium (you pay for them). Other similar theme companies are WooThemes, Elegant Themes, iThemes, and many more.
Theme creation is not the only option in which a multimillion dollar business around WordPress can be made. Tons of successful businesses are based on great plugins as well, such as BackupBuddy, Gravity Forms, Sucuri, etc. Hosting companies have sprouted around the WordPress community. One such company is WP Engine which has successfully raised over $1.2 million in funding. They host this site. Check out our WP Engine review for more info on them.
Is it free to Copyright WordPress?
No, WordPress cannot be copyrighted for free. The WordPress license allows all users to have equal access to it, but each software contribution is copyrighted. It is available under GPL such that the code can be freely used, modified and redistributed. In case you make any further modifications to the software, you will have a copyright to those, and not the entire code. As per the requirement of GPL, any released or distributed derivative work should be licensed under it. So, while every user has the copyright to do what they like, their derivative work will automatically get licensed under GPL so that others can freely use, modify or redistribute the code.
Does this mean that GPL Licensing covers all premium WordPress plugins and themes?
Does GPL also inherit the content published in WordPress?
No, the user is entitled to license their own content, in whichever manner they like. However, the content in question should not be a derivative work or any other work licensed under GPL. For instance, a typical blog post describing the process of using WordPress function with examples may be licensed differently. But the code which forms a part of the examples is basically derivative work and gets covered under GPL license automatically.
How much does using WordPress cost?
As software, WordPress can be downloaded and used for free. However, if you wish to use WordPress on a website, WordPress hosting is required. You can create a free blog by making use of WordPress.com, but be aware of the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress. WordPress can be used for relatively minimal costs and the same holds true for running any other website. The only real costs are that of a domain and web hosting. You can get web hosting for as little as $3.95 per month from providers like Hostgator or go with a more robust and higher-end hosting company like WP Engine (our site is hosted by WP Engine).
The commercial WordPress themes (also known as premium WordPress themes) are an additional cost. However, it is not necessary to use them as there are thousands of WordPress themes available for free.
People often make use of commercial plugins (paid), but just like themes, over 35000 WordPress plugins can be used without any cost.
Note: you cannot install plugins on free WordPress.com blogs. This is a huge drawback as it limits what you can do with your blog.
So, why do people spend money on plugins and themes? Because free themes have become somewhat common, are used everywhere and lack the functionality of premium themes. Hence, folks often make use of a paid premium theme to give their site an exclusive design and feel. Additionally, plugins that can turn your site into an eCommerce store, forum or membership site obviously transform a simple blog into something much different.
Another reason for purchasing a premium plugin or theme is to get support. The providers of free plugins or themes are under no obligation to offer updates or support services. However, when it comes to paid themes and plugin providers, it is their business and offering updates and regular support is in their best interest.
I hope this has helped to answer some of your WordPress-related questions. See, the answer really is yes and no 🙂