Come on, ask it. Believe me, you are not the first one to ask it and no one would call you a fool if you ask it. In fact, it is a very genuine question. Oh! You are asking, “Why is WordPress free?” Bingo! We are going to tackle this very question in this article. It is natural to ask why something is free and especially when that something is as good as WordPress. Believe me, I was a skeptic too in the beginning. Now that I have worked on so many WordPress related projects, I can get what you really mean. “What’s the catch?” can be yet another way to express this skepticism.
Let’s dig into it.
WordPress.com or WordPress.org
This is the first thing you should know about WordPress: There are two distinct entities – WordPress.com and WordPress.org
Before getting started, you should know these two. This article about the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org will make it clear for you.
To tell the long tale in a short time, WordPress.com offers hosting for websites created using WordPress (the open source software). On the other hand, WordPress.org offers WordPress – the open source software – for free download. Plus, it is a place for WordPress themes, plugins and community interaction.
You can know more about WordPress in this short article. It will give you an idea about the WordPress software and the benefits of using it.
WordPress – Free and Open Source Software
There is no doubt whatsoever that WordPress is an open source software. What do you mean by open source software?
According to Opensource.com,
The term “open source” refers to something people can modify and share because its design is publically accessible.” opensource.com
The WordPress software has been an open source software since the beginning. A lot of people have contributed to its development and even today thousands of volunteers around the globe continue to do so every day. There are lots of themes and plugins developed for WordPress.
WordPress is free to use for anyone. You can download the latest version from the official WordPress repository. There are hundreds of themes and plugins available that can be used along with the software.
WordPress is a blog tool, publishing platform, and a CMS that is completely free to download. You can make changes to it, add your code or tweak it anyway you like it.
If it is indeed free then where does the question of “Cost” come from? Let’s bust this myth once and for all.
Costs Involved With WordPress
Let’s say a very rich friend of yours gifted you a Ford Mustang. Now consider that Ford Mustang to be the WordPress software for our example. You have got the car for free (just as you get WordPress for free download). So far, no costs with our (I meant ‘your’) Ford Mustang.
Now the problem comes when you need to park your Mustang. You don’t have a garage. Where would you keep it? See the problem? In our case, as you have a free WordPress, you also need a place to host it. So you will obviously be charged for hosting. Where you decide to park your Mustang is your choice but you will not escape the cost of keeping it. Likewise, you will not escape the cost of keeping your WordPress. And if you are planning on creating a website using WordPress, then you must choose a web host. A web host isn’t free. It can cost you anywhere from $30 to $3000 depending on the web host and the website you are planning to host. You can also use a fast managed WordPress hosting like Nestify for best-in-class performance.
Now that we have taken care of parking, the next thing will be the looks and functionalities of your Mustang. You may like a different color. In our example, the color of the Mustang refers to Themes. Just like there are numerous colors and styles available for your Mustang, there are so many themes available for WordPress that can change the appearance of your WordPress site in any way you want. You can also build custom themes. Obviously, this will cost you money. The cost of a premium theme must be taken into account.
Another thing to consider is the functionality. Maybe you want to add extra speakers or just tune your radio to your specific liking. Functionality in this example translates to plugins in WordPress. There are thousands of plugins developed for WordPress that add specific functionality to the software. Not all the plugins are free. There are many good premium plugins that are worth the money. You need to consider the costs of plugins as well.
The last thing to consider in our example is the cost of maintenance of the Mustang. It is not going to maintain itself. It will have some glitches and you will have to take it to an expert to fine-tune it. Likewise, you will need to fine-tune your WordPress from time to time. For this, you may need to consult an expert e.g. a web developer who specializes in WordPress. The price for customer support can be an example of maintenance cost in our example.
So far we have discussed hosting cost, themes cost, plugins cost, and maintenance cost for WordPress. Let’s see how WordPress.org and WordPress.com handle these costs.
Costs with WordPress.com
The free plan of WordPress.com takes care of hosting, themes, and maintenance. You get a wordpress.com subdomain, a dozen of themes to choose from, and community support. You get 3GB of storage. Sounds the perfect deal? Wait until you understand how “free” can cost you in the long term. This is free because your site will host WordPress.com ads on which you won’t have any control.
So far so good, isn’t it? Well, there is a lot you are missing if you are opting for WordPress.com. There are so many awesome WordPress plugins that don’t work with WordPress.com. Plus, you can’t create a membership site or a social network using it. There are serious limitations to make an ecommerce website using WordPress.com.
The free isn’t free when you lose the freedom to grow with it. Yoda
Costs with WordPress.org
As discussed earlier, WordPress.org offers WordPress for free. But it doesn’t offer hosting for your WordPress installation. So hosting is the problem that you have to solve. Depending on the host you choose and your hosting plan, this can cost you anywhere between $30-$3000 per year. Hosting plans differ by usage, resources, and utility.
There is another problem which WordPress.org does not solve: domain name. You have to purchase a domain name yourself. It does not offer domain name service. A typical domain name can cost anywhere between $9-$39/year depending on the domain name. If the domain name is premium, then you might have to shell out extra money.
Once you have these costs covered, then comes the point of themes. There are so many beautifully designed professional themes available for free in the WordPress repository. The number is in hundreds and there are ample customizations available – something that WordPress.com misses.
In the plugins department, WordPress.org wins hands down. There are so many great plugins offered for free that you can do almost anything with your WordPress. With a plugin like bbPress, you can create a forum on your site, BuddyPress can help you create a social network. Another plugin – WooCommerce – lets you create your own full-fledged ecommerce store. There is a plugin for every function you need, hundreds are getting created every day and you can upload your custom plugin.
While WordPress.org clearly wins in the department of themes and plugins, it loses when it comes to maintenance. You need to maintain your own copy of WordPress by yourself. You may hire a professional to look after it. You will periodically need to update your WordPress software, the themes you installed and the plugins you are using. This is a mandatory maintenance task you must perform otherwise you will be exposed to vulnerabilities.
So themes and plugins cost you nothing on WordPress.org. Everything else, from hosting to maintenance bears a cost.
Is WordPress Copyright Free?
No, WordPress is not copyright free. Due to its open-source nature, anyone can inspect, modify, or enhance its source code. Now, this creates a scenario where thousands of contributors are adding to the source code, modifying it, enhancing it, and thus creating their own versions. It is impossible to copyright WordPress to a certain individual as it is powered by an entire community. Now how is the problem of copyright solved?
Enter GPL. WordPress is licensed under GNU General Public License (GPL). It allows you to freely use, edit, modify, collaborate on and redistribute the code. You hold the copyright for any modifications you make but when you redistribute it, again GPL applies. It means that anyone can now freely use, edit, modify and redistribute your code. Any derivative work you make is licensed under GPL only.
This means that WordPress themes and plugins are also under GPL.
However, note that the content you publish through your WordPress installation is not the copyright of WordPress.org. You own the copyright of your own content and you can choose to redistribute it under any license you deem fit provided your content does not feature any derivative work of WordPress.
So Cost Problem Solved?
What good is a Mustang if you can’t drive it, style it in any way you want, and park it in your own space? Well, WordPress is such a Mustang. You can run it any way you like, style it as you want, and even park it in a space that you bought for it.
Sure the Mustang was free. But these additional things did cost money. The question is would you regret the free Mustang for these expenses? Most probably, you will not. Instead, you would enjoy where it takes you. So is with WordPress. Don’t focus on these minor costs that are required. Enjoy where your WordPress takes you. People have made millions with it. Why can’t you? Have a look at 31 ways to make money online using WordPress.
I hope the question “Is WordPress free?” is totally answered. What is your take on it? We would love to read your comments. Just as we used an example of the Ford Mustang, you might have another example with you. Do enlighten us (we and our readers) with your wisdom. We are waiting for you in the comments.