Why is WordPress free?

Jun 13, 2019

You can download WordPress right now from their website, build a site and then resell your site without any money for the work you’ve done going back to the original developers. It’s a powerful platform on which a large part of the web is built. In a world of subscription-based services and software licences, what’s the catch?


What is open source?

WordPress is distributed under the GNU Public License, which allows you to use, modify, build upon, and redistribute the software in any way you like without paying any fees. The reason for this is because WordPress at its core isn’t owned by a single organisation or person. It is a community project incorporating the work of thousands of volunteers around the world. To adequately compensate each person who worked on it would logistically be impossible. But rather than just money, the core reason is one of philosophy.


The open source movement is a model of software design that believes that collaboration and transparency is key to making innovation possible. There are no patents or restrictions in place to “protect” the software, which means anyone with the applicable skills can look at the source code and make modifications. They are then encouraged to share those modifications with the community, who can then decide to add the changes to the main product. This way, the software becomes better, more secure and more reliable with each iteration.


How does the WordPress website stay afloat?

While the WordPress software is free, the company responsible for the primary distribution of the software is Automattic. Established by Matt Mullenweg, the original developer of WordPress, Automattic has several other products that have premium services that serve as their primary means of income. You may recognise some of them, such as Akismet (a spam filtering service), (their own hosting option for WordPress sites) or Gravatar (which allows an avatar and login of your choice across unrelated websites).


More importantly, Automattic also owns WooCommerce, an ecommerce plugin we’ve covered on this blog before. WooCommerce, along with its premium themes and extensions, is incredibly popular and is capable to financially support the distribution of the open source software it’s built on.


So is WordPress completely free?

While downloading and using the software doesn’t come with a cost, there are still aspects of having a WordPress website that costs upkeep. The software needs a server to run it, which is universally subject to hosting fees. Domain names are also needed to have your website be directed to your server once visitors type your URL into their browser. These aspects are what Mshini does best, you can see our offerings on our Plans page.

Customising the website for free is possible if you have the knowledge to do so, but those without the time or patience to learn will need to employ a developer to make their vision a reality. And while many plugins do come with a free base version, you may need to pay for features or services that are included in their premium packages.


If you have any questions, please reach out to us! We’re always happy to help.

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