/ / Is There a Cost to Use WordPress? (in 2021)

Is There a Cost to Use WordPress? (in 2021)

cost of wordpress

WP != $

WordPress is FREE but PREMIUM plugins and hosting are NOT.

Intended Audience / Readers: Business Organizations, Entrepreneurs, E-commerce Store Owners, Digital Marketers and SEO Professionals



WordPress is one of the most popular website building platforms around. It offers an easy to use interface and a variety of templates for you to choose from when designing your site. This makes it really enticing, but many people are wondering: Is WordPress free? The answer isn’t yes or no – there’s a little more involved than that! We will go over all of the costs associated with building and hosting a WordPress website in this article so that you can make an informed decision about how much money you want to spend on your new site! What is the cost of WordPress? Read on.

WORDPRESS.ORG vs WORDPRESS.COM: What’s the Difference?

WORDPRESS.ORG is the official site of the open-source WordPress Content Management System (CMS). It hosts everything WordPress, including its source code, API documentations, knowledge base and articles. Maintained by the WordPress Foundation, WordPress.org is the official repository for plugins and themes that extend WordPress’ functionality and visual appearance.

Everything in WordPress.org is FREE!

From the WordPress source files to the themes and plugins, everything is free and open-source. They are licensed under the GPLv2 (or later) from the Free Software Foundation, which means anyone can freely modify and redistribute the same under such terms as are provided therein so long as they include the copy of the license in the program. 

Now, the question: Is WordPress free? (without the .org) That depends on what constitutes free. If it meant the usage, modification, or redistribution of WordPress source files or building a website, blog, or an e-commerce store out of it, then YES, everything in the world of WordPress is FREE! But what about the hosting aspect of a WordPress site? For all we know, WordPress may be installed or ran over a LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) and in order that it may be publicly viewable or visible to the world wide web, it needs to be hosted on a server specifically built for the purpose. The cost for that varies depending on the needs of the site.

The Cost of WordPress: Is WordPress Free?

The cost of hosting a WordPress website is contingent on many factors such as the amount of traffic it might generate, if any plugins are installed and how resource-intensive they may be. It also depends on what type or size is needed for storage. The good news though is that there are plenty of hosts out there which offer various pricing plans.

Some hosts offer free hosting to their customers, but it is worth noting that the service may be slower and there are usually restrictions on what type of plugins can be installed. The cost of building a WordPress site does not have a set price because there are so many variables involved in its development.

For one, it may be dependent on the customizations involved. The more coding required to suit the needs of the site, the higher the price will be. This includes modifications to the plugins and themes or adding a new functionality that was not originally included in either component. Some of these customizations are resource heavy to the point that it would require a dedicated server to properly run hence, the added cost.

Interestingly, there are premium hosting services specifically designed for running a commercial WordPress site.  They are not just a few to mention but there’s definitely one that cannot just simply be overstated and that is WordPress.com by Automattic, Inc.

WORDPRESS.COM is the platform owned and operated by Automattic, Inc. where one can setup or create a website either for free or with a fee. This is not just any other provider or SaaS because it’s the one and only official WordPress site which is ran by the company founded by the well-known WordPress developer, Matt Mullenweg.

WordPress.com offers several different plans such as Free, Personal, Premium or Business. The most notable differences among these plans are the removal of ads, use of custom domain name, the ability to install third-party or custom plugins, and the premium support that comes included in the package.

WordPress.com is a great option for people who just want to have an account and website of their own, without the hassle of installing plugins or creating design elements from scratch. However, it customization options may not be as extensive as are available on self-hosted WordPress sites (where one has total control). What’s the cost of WordPress in WordPress.com? Answer: They have a Free plan.

The Most Notable Difference Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com

The important thing to remember as to the difference between WORDPRESS.ORG and WORDPRESS.COM is that in the former, the WordPress site is self-hosted while in the latter, it is not.  In the former, one can choose his or her own hosting service provider while in the latter, the WordPress site is developed and maintained at WORDPRESS.COM.

WordPress is free to download, install and use. There are also a lot of tutorials online that will help anyone do this in no time! However, what comes with the installation process is not complete. In order for it to work properly (and be able to self-host it) there are several plugins that need to be installed manually.

This brings us to some aspects of WordPress site building that are common among the two.

Premium WordPress Themes and Plugins; Open-Source GPL Software and its Derivative Works

In both platforms (WordPress.org and WordPress.com), custom or third-party plugins and themes can be used to enhance and harness WordPress’ functionality and visual appearance.  They are mostly open-source because they are considered derivative works of a GPLv2 software which is WordPress itself.  So in legal theory (still under debate in different jurisdictions), any derivative work from an open-source software should also be open-source and licensed under GPLv2.

Now the question: Why are there themes and plugins for WordPress that are sold or distributed for a fee? What’s the cost of WordPress really?

Answer: The WordPress community is not strictly governed by the legal concept of derivative work, and there are no clear answers to this question at present. There can be some hidden charges in WordPress that you should be aware of before signing up for a particular service or product from an agency or developer offering services related to a WordPress site.

But the most definitive answer would be that what you are paying for when you purchase a theme or plugin is not the actual source code. Rather, it is  the right to use that code in a particular manner.

So, for example if you purchase the theme or plugin from an agency or developer offering services related to WordPress site and they offer free updates and support then that is what you are paying for.  Thus, in essence, you are actually paying for the subscription or service that comes included in the software package be it a theme or plugin.

Software Development Cost and Premium Subscriptions

The development and maintenance of a WordPress theme or plugin comes with a cost. Software development tools and services such as QA testing and debugging are only but a few of the costs which an agency or developer needs to cover in order to effectively and efficiently maintain and continue the development of its themes or plugins.

Thus, it comes not as a surprise that premium themes and plugins have a fee attached to them. But as earlier mentioned, what you are paying for is the subscription or service to that software. Not the source code itself.

In the earlier days of software development, a user would only pay for the software once, such as Microsoft Windows 95, MS Office 97 or Corel Draw 7. What the user is paying for is the license for the use of the software which is proprietary.

When open-source software became mainstream, so is the subscription model.  Nowadays, even Microsoft Windows 10 and MS Office 365 are offered in yearly subscriptions though classified as proprietary OS or software. The subscription based model proves to be more  cost-efficient for both software developers and users in the long run.

This is because it provides better value to the customers, who constantly have access to updates as soon as they are released instead of waiting until an update is created every three years or so as with traditional licensing models.

SEO, SAAS and Web Intelligence

A WordPress site is nothing but a piece of code if it cannot drive traffic into it. For a majority of business or enterprise users, the primary purpose of creating a website is to establish internet presence and thereafter drive traffic into it to generate leads. These leads are then converted into sales and the company establishes revenue streams.

In so doing, SMBs and big enterprises uses different SEO tools in order to generate the most effective keywords for their industry or niche. Analytical tools such as Serpstat, Mangools, and BrandOverflow often deliver good value in their offerings which come as SAAS subscriptions of several different plans.

Thereupon, Web Intelligence tools come in handy in the gathering, collecting, and analysis of demographics and site visitor behavior to enable businesses to direct their resources in those products and service offerings that sell the most or provides strong revenue streams. Web Intelligence tools include Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics and HockeyStack among others.  The last two are premium services which employs the subscription based model.


What is the cost of WordPress? Is WordPress free?

In sum, it is safe to say that WordPress is free to be used by anyone desiring to build a website. But the development and maintenance of a WordPress site come with a cost. Driving web traffic and lead generation are necessary to covert site visitors into sales or revenue streams. To do so, there are SEO and analytical SAAS tools that enable the application of Web Intelligence technology in the process. Some are free, while majority of the premium Web Intelligence tools cost as much.

And these are just but a few pieces of a big puzzle called Web Development.


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