How does WordPress make money?

Wordpress logo over admin dashboard

Introduction

Hello and welcome to the third article in my series where I look into how many well-established businesses actually make their money. This article, in particular, will be focusing on WordPress and how WordPress makes its money. I have also released similar articles for Reddit, WhatsApp, and Facebook.

What is WordPress and how does WordPress make money?

WordPress is actually a huge product, and much bigger than most people think. Almost 35% of all websites on the internet are powered by WordPress. This is an astonishing amount that makes up for over 60% of the CMS (Content Management System) market share. While it’s not enough to be called a monopoly, they are still the main driving force on the CMS market.

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WordPress was initially released on May 27, 2003, but development can be traced back to 2001 with b2 cafelog which was made by Michel Valdrighi. WordPress was initially a fork of b2 developed in 2002/2003 by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little. It packed a series punch compared to b2 with a great new set of features.

WordPress is a free product, and so it might be unclear to most how WordPress actually makes its money. Hopefully, I will be able to explain it down below.

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org – What’s the difference?

At first glance, WordPress can be a bit confusing given that there are two of them. Once you start getting your feet wet it becomes a bit easier, but I will try to explain it as simple as I can.

WordPress.com: A free blogging platform, run on a modified version of WordPress with some limitations. Paid versions include more features and opportunities to monetize.

WordPress.org: An open-source project, where the main development of WordPress happens. You can find all the major changelogs listed here, dating all the way back to 2003. You can also read about its history here. It gives you complete freedom, but also the full responsibility

Who owns it?

WordPress.com, the blog hosting platform, is owned by the company Automattic. Automattic was founded in 2003 by Matt Mullenweg, who co-founded WordPress.

WordPress.org and WordPress itself is a registered trademark owned by the WordPress Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Matt Mullenweg to further the mission of WordPress as an incredibly large scale open-source project. They are in charge of making sure that the project always remains maintained, developed and freely available.

Why do people use WordPress?

There are plenty of reasons why you should be using WordPress and the biggest one is because it makes it possible to create your own website without any previous experience with code, web development or overall technical skill.

But even if you are an experienced programmer who has developed and published several websites before, It is still very useful. Why? Because it saves you time. Creating your own website, building the CMS and managing it can take a lot of time.

How does WordPress work?

WordPress works in a multitude of ways. One way is WordPress.com, which is a free-to-use blogging platform financed by advertisements and paid premium services. You can host your own blog here for free, but it comes with a few downsides. Your domain will look like this: yourblogname.wordpress.com instead of yourblogname.com. WordPress will also be showing ads to people who visit your blog, to compensate for the use of their service, server costs, etc.

If you sign up to their premium services, however, you will be able to remove ads, get a custom domain (which you still have to register and pay for yourself) and even place your own ads on the blog in place of the ones places by WordPress.

But you don’t have to go directly to WordPress to use their product. WordPress.org offers a different solution to that. You can also download and install WordPress on sites you’re hosting with other hosting providers. This gives you a lot more freedom but also means you now have to pay for your own hosting and your domain name. WordPress.org is an open-source project.

As an example, the website where you’re reading this is run on WordPress, using a free theme called SuperAds Lite.

How does WordPress make money?

And so we find ourselves at the main question that brought people here to this article, and it doesn’t really have a simple answer. It really depends on how you are looking at WordPress, and what WordPress you are looking at.

WordPress.com makes its money as a blog hosting platform, offering a free place for people to share their stories. There are of course paid premium options as mentioned above, ranging from $70 per year. I haven’t been able to find exact earning figures yet but on the day that I do, I will most certainly come back and update this article. (It’s on my list of…. things)

WordPress.org… well, it doesn’t really make money at all. In fact, the only way it does generate revenue is through donations to the foundation that runs it, the WordPress Foundation. They are a non-profit organization on a mission to “democratize publishing through Open Source”. A beautiful mission if you ask me.

Can I make money with WordPress?

Yes, you can, and in plenty of different ways! The first and maybe the most obvious option would be to run your own website or blog with WordPress. You can use your website to write helpful articles like myself, or you can run a travel blog, or you can use it to advertise your business!

That also creates another opportunity. If millions of people are trying to create websites with WordPress, that means there’s now a demand for people who know best how to do just that. If you can become even adept at using WordPress, you can sell your services on platforms like Fiverr, become a self-employed freelancer or even get a fulltime job making WordPress sites.

I really hope that this article answered any questions you had for today. If it didn’t or if you feel like I got something wrong, feel free to drop me an email and I’ll see if we can work it out!

Resources

Toptal WordPress Hiring Guide

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