How Can WordPress Be Free? Where’s the Catch?

Published in WordPress.

The other day I went to see my grandma and she asked me the three rigorous questions:

  • How’s Maria? (a personal question)
  • Do you want something to eat? (grandmas, right?)
  • How is Nelio going? Big business already? (she’s worried I’m not rich yet 🤷)
David's grandmother.
My grandmother was one of the protagonists in the talk I gave in WordCamp Europe 2017.

When talking with her about Nelio, she’s always fascinated by the fact that “WordPress is free.” She doesn’t understand the idea that someone can build a company using something that somebody else created… and using it for free!

Of course, my grandma isn’t alone in this belief: many users have the same doubts. How is it possible that WordPress is free? How does its creator make money? Where’s the catch?

Well, in today’s post I would like to talk about the reasons why WordPress is free, what are the costs behind having a website in WordPress and, above all, if there is any hidden cost you might need to keep in mind when using WordPress.

Free Software

We can not talk about the cost of WordPress without talking about free software first. As we can read in the Wikipedia :

Free software or libre software is computer software distributed under terms that allow users to run the software for any purpose as well as to study, change, and distribute it and any adapted versions

Wikipedia

In English, “free” is a tricky word, as it has a double meaning. When we’re talking about free software, is it free as in “free beer” or is it free as in “free speech”?

Free software is ace! It gives us a lot of freedoms and, in many cases, it’s also free as in “free beer.”

Free software usually refers to software that’s free as in “free speech”, but in many cases free software is also free as in “free beer.” And that is precisely the case of WordPress: you can download and use WordPress wherever you want without having to pay anything to anyone for using it. WordPress is 100% free.

GPL and Your Rights

WordPress is distributed under a GPL license and guarantees the following freedoms to its users:

  1. The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
  2. The freedom to study how the program works and change it to make it do what you wish.
  3. The freedom to redistribute.
  4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.
The power of free software lies in the freedoms it offers and the ecosystem and community that surrounds it.

Your Content is Yours and Nobody Else’s

WordPress has another feature that makes it infinitely better than any privative alternative of the market: all the content that you publish in WordPress is yours and only yours. In other cases, you may be giving away your rights to the platform that stores your content!

WordPress as Free Software

As I was saying, WordPress is an example of free software. It is a program created by Matt Mullenweg in 2003. Instead of keeping it to himself and creating a closed platform, he decided to publish the source code and share it with everyone, so that anyone could edit it and improve it.

The fact of opening WordPress to the world has allowed it to grow and reach the market share it currently has. In addition, it has also allowed for a community to be created around, enabling an amazing ecosystem of freelancers and companies that make their living around a totally free product.

How Can One Do Business with WordPress?

Now we know WordPress is free; cool. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do business with it! You simply need to offer services and products around the platform itself. For example, consider Matt’s company: Automattic. This company is the owner of WordPress.com, a specialized WordPress hosting service.

You can definitely make money with WordPress.

Many of the websites that are created in WordPress for the first time are created in WordPress.com. Their plans include a free tier (which adds ads to your website, so that Automattic can profit somehow), as well as payment plans that remove those ads and give you more control over your website.

WordPress.com also offers a super-premium service called WordPress VIP for large companies that need very, very powerful portals. The cost of this service is over $ 5,000 per month, so you can already see that it is indeed possible to make a living with a free product…

WordPress is Free. Still, You’ll Have to Pay Something to Someone at Some Point…

WordPress might be free, but my time and knowledge aren’t.

Antonio Villegas

WordPress has a huge community of developers that offer their services to the world. Designers, plugin developers, content experts, marketing or SEO professionals, web optimization experts, sys admins… There are a lot of services you may need if you have a WordPress website.

Do not assume that if the product (in this case, WordPress) is free, the one that offers it to you is not going to charge for their services…

Whenever you require the help of a professional, you should bear in mind that their time and knowledge costs money. The advantage of WordPress is that the range of “professionals” is very broad: long-time professionals and newcomers. So in theory it’s possible to easily find the professional that better suits your needs and procket.

I hope I could answer the main questions about the cost of WordPress. But if you have any question, do not hesitate to ask in the comment section below.

Featured image by Quentin Rey on Unsplash.

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