What if Automattic Began Charging To Use WordPress?


Most Content Management Systems, such as MovableType and ExpressionEngine, come with a hefty price tag attached to them. One of the biggest pros and reasons most people use WordPress, is because, well, that price tag is no where to be seen. But what if WordPress.com started charging a monthly fee for hosting with them and using their app? Or what if WordPress.org started charging for personal and commercial licenses? Would you continue using WordPress and support them for their outstanding hard work?

In a way, I would almost like it better if WordPress charged to use their application. I honestly wouldn’t mind paying, oh let’s say, $25 a month for, let’s say, unlimited downloads. Or even $10 per license.

How would this help WordPress and the community?

Help cover project and company costs

Imagine how much it costs Automattic to run WordPress? They all work extremely hard and I bet it ain’t cheap. Matt Mullenweg also does a fair bit of traveling around the globe to attend WordCamps and such. Hosting Servers, plain tickets, computer gear, Wii games, and everything else it costs to run a company… it all adds up!

Filter out spam sites

I’ve come across quite a few spam sites in my day, that are powered by WordPress. If Automattic charged for WordPress, this could minimize the amount of spam sites that popup everyday. This may not directly help the community, but in the long-run, it may.

Make WordPress look more professional

…Especially in the eyes of our clients. Many freelancers, and Web services use WordPress as the back-end for their client projects. In my case with WPCoder, it’s what we specialize in, so we only do custom WordPress theme coding. Some clients don’t like using WordPress because they see it’s free and open-source, which for some reason, is unacceptable.

I actually decided to Tweet the question “What if WordPress Cost Money? Would you continue using it? Or switch to another free CMS?” and the general notion I got was that most people wouldn’t even think about paying for it, and would instead switch to Drupal, MovableType, or ExpressionEngine. Hmm..interesting!


I’d like to hear what the rest of ya’ll gotta say. Would you mind paying for WordPress? And well, at least WordPress has been free thus far, and will most likely continue in that direction. We can thank Automattic for that!

44 thoughts on “What if Automattic Began Charging To Use WordPress?

  1. I was talking to matt at a dinner a few weeks ago and he is so mindset on keeping WordPress open source because of the way it’s been built up that it’ll never go paid. Matt ftw!

  2. hmm.. If wordpress began charging for service and usage, I’d stop using the service, and probably wouldn’t recommend it to people, and instead, I’d get my ‘A into G’ and make my own CMS / blog platform.

    I’ve used wordpress.com for about 2 years now, and am only just at the stage to move my blog over to private hosting, and to be honest, if it weren’t for wordpress.com, I wouldn’t blog, and I certainly wouldn’t be as involved as I am in the web community as a whole.

  3. You crazy?

    If WP was a paid for application it would die a slow painful death…

    Can you imagine if Mozilla started to charge for FireFox?

    As for prissy clients sniffing at WP because of its FREE status. Remind them, if its good enough for the British Prime Minister (www.number10.gov.uk) then it should be good enough for anyone.

  4. My first reaction was that I would walk away, but if the cost was very low I might not. The idea that WordPress would cost money would really add value to the extra work that people like you do and might make it far more profitable to be involved in.

    That said, I use Habari a lot and really like it. I would be hesitant to stop developing for WordPress, but if lots of people went to Habari then I might.

  5. “…and I certainly wouldn’t be as involved as I am in the web community as a whole” -Mitcheil

    That, I believe, sums up the largest underlying factor, by far. Certainly, Automattic incurs myriad of expenses, but consider how much they SAVE by keeping their software open source. In it’s few short years of existence (relatively speaking), WordPress has gained almost what I would call a cult following. We have plugin developers, theme developers, help/how-to article writers, and scores of blogging propaganda and useful suggestions for improving your site’s content, as well as appearance (I believe WPCandy falls into each of these categories to some degree, does it not?).

    WordPress is what it is because of this community, and because anyone at any time could potentially contribute the “next big thing”. Consider all of the plugin authors who have had their code merged into the WP source, or the theme developers who pushed for new functions and simpler, better ways of accomplishing things.

    So, while I’m sure some people might pay for the service, so many more would not. I’m not saying that all current users would jump ship, but instead that so many potential users would forgo the thought of even considering WP as a possibility, causing our community to stop growing and potentially grow smaller by the day.

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  7. That’s a good question. I have to say I never thought of it, WordPress means everything but money to me. I am working with WordPress in several different projects and I do not know what I would do without it, now that I gt used to it. Of course I could switch to another CMS… But I’d rather pay I think. After all, switching, learning has a cost, and I do not want to do that again…

  8. As someone who uses WordPress (and earns some money from the site), I would be glad to pay for a license. The fact that it would alleviate spam and other such problems is good.

    However, I reckon I’d be a minority, as most bloggers who use WordPress wouldn’t earn enough to justify the licensing. They would switch to another CMS. The last time that happened (with MT), we know what happened, so in foresight, I think it is better that things stay as they are.

  9. The only reason I started using WordPress was because it was free. However, having seen it in action, I would gladly pay $25 per installation. I am allergic to monthly fees, though…

  10. Are you’re writing this only to generate buzz? I mean, everyone that knows Matt knows that this won’t happen ever, and for that matter, PHP could be charged, Apache could be paid or even closed source.
    That said, I won’t mind paying for it, if it was a lifetime license (for the sake of my clients). However, I can’t see any benefits from this. Paid WP would slowly die.

  11. Oh come on! What if keyboard companies started charging for each letter typed? Its a complete non-issue. You’re totally missing the point of the entire open-source community, go an read some information on Linux and maybe you’ll get it!

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  13. I love WordPress, and would have no problem donating to the cause. However, I also like to support the open source community, if they began to charge for a license fee, or worse, a monthly charge, I would probably pay the fee for any existing sites I own, but strongly consider a different platform for any future projects.

  14. i might pay a one-time fee for the wordpress.org code, but i certainly wouldn’t pay a monthly fee.

    others who have already commented are right…if WP started charging it would have sealed its own fate.

  15. Open source really should stay open source. If Automattic changes like you say (so no free options for example) I’d definately switch to something else.

    I like the way ExpressionEngine works: a free core, licenses for more advanced features and you need a license to access some parts of the support forums. That works.

    So if you had to start paying for WordPress licenses, I think they should start adding additional stuff and keep the current WP as the core.

  16. I would drop it in an instant and write my own CMS. I would probably build it so it could run off a WordPress-structured database, and use similar “template tags” to reduce the work in porting themes.

    I would release it under the GPL too, most likely, since I wouldn’t be the only one not wanting to pay for formerly free software.

    In short: WordPress might end up as the next Movable Type. When they started demanding money, WordPress popped-up and took SixApart’s marketshare.

  17. A better way to look at this question, since WordPress.org will never be charged-for and even if it was it would still be GPL so anyone could redistribute it, would be:

    If WordPress provides a meaningful value to yourself or your business, how can you volunteer your time, skills, or expertise in giving back to the community?

    I feel like nothing I’ve done in the past few years would have been possible with the broad shoulders of Open Source giants I’ve built upon, so it just seems to be good karma and makes me feel good to give as much as my work back as Open Source, and hopefully someday someone will build on top of it in the same way.

  18. Part of the reason WP is so popular is that it is free. Now a donation would be one thing. I think that would be a better thing. But making it have to be paid for is bad, very bad. I for one would stop using it & move to another CMS. WP is a giant in the OS department. It should remain that way.

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  20. I wouldn’t mind if I can make that kind of money, but then again, why make it accessible only to folks who can pay? Besides, if you really, really, want to pay for it and help the development, then why not donate to the cause?
    You know, the type of people who says, “Hey, I wouldn’t mind paying for it…blah,blah” are the folks who wants to have privileges over those who can’t afford it, the “Hey, I’m the one paying for it, so I should be the first in line…”-type-of-people, well, I hope I’m wrong and just being cynical.

  21. I would pay for a license to use the self-hosted software (assuming an appropriate price tag). I can’t say the same for WordPress.com, but the download version ceased to be about just the singular blogger a long time ago. It’s been a catalyst for many freelancers to expand their services, empowering clients to manage their own content. That could not be offered five years ago (without an enormous fee and/or custom coding). Many great news and community portals have also come about because of WordPress.

    It has given so much to individuals and small businesses alike, that if it DID go to a paid format (again I’m talking about the self-hosted software), I don’t know how any serious user could begrudge that. IMO it’s no different than paying for an HTML editor, imaging software or web host. Depending on your objectives, you need reliable, quality tools. If you believe in a product, why wouldn’t you pay for it?

  22. Paying for WP whould make a lot of problems to the community. There will not be so many developers creating for free and so that there will not be a huge community.

    WordPress.com is a way to advertise the project (WP) and the reason Auttomatic started that service.

    If u want to gieve back to wordpress, every time u make a money from a project in which u have used wordpress give some money back to them through Paypal. It is a way to say a thank u to them, for helping u make the livings :_)

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  24. It would never happen. It would be a bad business move because it would hurt the product.

    Although WP has amazing developers, it is also as good as it is because of the community. Because it is open source, users regularly test it, make suggestions for improvements, and submit plugins, widgets, themes, and other bits of addon code. If WP started charging, they’d lose a lot of support. And then everyone else who created themes, plugins, widgets, etc.. would also start charging. (I know I’d start charging for mine!)

    It’d just be a mess.

  25. Automattic makes a lot of money. Just the fact that they are able to spend money to acquire other startups like Gravatar should say a lot about their income (or potential income).

    I personally applaud Matt and all he’s accomplished. It’s not easy to give something away for free and still make money from it.

  26. I don’t use WordPress, but if I did, I’d be looking for a more flexible admin – not as complex as, say, Django or Ellington, but something more like ExpressionEngine. I’ll admit that I don’t know PHP, and don’t plan on learning it. It seems like there are better and newer thing out there, kind of like learning how to use tables to lay out a site instead of Blueprint or your own CSS framework…

    Nevertheless, I wouldn’t mind paying for WordPress. If Automattic charged $5 for each copy, they’d make a fortune off licenses without scaring off the general public. It would also help keep super-cheap, no-good, pixel-pushin’ spam sites powered by WordPress from being as numerous as they are today.

    One of the only things that keeps me away from WordPress is that it’s designed to Blog. That’s fine for people who want to blog, but what if I’d prefer to use it as a general CMS? WordPress is bloated with features specific to blogging. I don’t need trackbacks on my home page. You know what I’m saying here, I’m not trying to put down WordPress, just point out that it’s not the best CMS for client work.

    I would not pay for Hosted WordPress, but I wouldn’t even think of using WordPress.com anyway… It’s about 20% spam, in my opinion, and isn’t very professional. So go ahead and charge for WordPress, it won’t bother me!

    Screw everything I just said… open source is important, and it should stay open source. But charging for WP.com is fine with me!

    MT seems like a good alternative for the masses, but I like Django!

  27. if it gets paid service, lol forget about it than, Sooner or later wp will die for sure. cause their competitors gonna kill them pretty soon. WordPress got famous, just because its open source and free to use, or else there are quite a lot alternatives available, people will shift to those, im sure.

    So in my opinion it will be a pretty foolish move, which im sure they wont ever take.

  28. I wouldn’t pay for it. I’d switch to something else, for sure. WP would eventually die out as most products always do when they cost money, because they are depreciated easily.

  29. Are you high man?

    WordPress IS THE BEST because it’s free and thus, many valuable people joined the community!

    Matt, don’t you ever charge money for WordPress, you know it damn well it’ll be the biggest mistake you could possibly do 🙂 tricking the open-source community in such a way is pure suicide 😀

  30. Tough question. On one hand, Matt seems like such an awesome guy and I wish him tons of success, including financial. On the other hand, I wouldn’t even bat an eye switching to Drupal or some other open source platform.

    WordPress has many other options to make money if they want or need to. How about creating a certification program? Many designers and developers would pay for such a distinction. That’s just one half-baked idea, there is no shortage of options for those smart folks…

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