How Does WordPress Make Money?

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Who owns WordPress and controls the copyright and profit?

Simply put, WordPress states in its license that WordPress is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), and that it is that it is owned by the contributors. This means anyone, including companies, third-party programmers or foundations that provide funding own WordPress. As a result, the single copyright of WordPress is held by thousands of individuals, all represented by the WordPress Foundation, the trust established to further the mission of the open source project called WordPress.

The point of the foundation is to ensure free access, in perpetuity, to the software projects we support. People and businesses may come and go, so it is important to ensure that the source code for these projects will survive beyond the current contributor base, that we may create a stable platform for web publishing for generations to come. As part of this mission, the Foundation will be responsible for protecting the WordPress, WordCamp, and related trademarks. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the WordPress Foundation will also pursue a charter to educate the public about WordPress and related open source software.

The WordPress Foundation owns all rights to the WordPress name and logo. This charitable organization was founded by Matt Mullenweg himself to help assist with the funding of WordPress, and to ensure free access, in perpetuity, to the open-source WordPress source code.

With so many contributors owning the copyright and the right to obtain, distribute and alter WordPress, we can imagine there must be a system put forth to make “calling the shots” a little easier. The chief amongst all of these copyright holders is Matt Mullenweg and around him are several rings of developers that are separated by their level of contribution. Matt Mullenweg is chief contributor because he is one of the originators of WordPress and one of the main driving forces behind the application becoming as large as it is today. Matt Mullenweg is also the founder of Audrey Capital, an investment and research company. You can read more at CrunchBase.

Automattic and WordPress logo.The first ring of developers is largely populated by Automattic employees and the WordPress Foundation.

Automattic is a company founded by Matt Mullenweg. The employees of Automattic have contributed large amounts of coding and development and in essence have become the owner and operator of WordPress.com. In fact, the employees of Automattic roll out new updates for WordPress on a daily basis and have developed many other applications that work with WordPress such as Akismet, Polldaddy, Gravatar, and Simplenote.

WordPress.org verses WordPress.com graphic with logos.

WordPress.org verses WordPress.com

There are two different WordPress sites that serve two different purposes. One is WordPress.com and the other is WordPress.org.

WordPress.com is for users not interested in hosting their own site but more focused on putting out content for their readers while WordPress.org is for more advanced users who are ready to host their own website, write their own code and find their own WordPress Plugins.

WordPress.org works a lot differently than WordPress.com. The biggest difference is that with WordPress.org, the self-hosted version of WordPress, you have to find your own host and perform all backups and maintenance for your site yourself or through a paid service. While WordPress.org may not be very user friendly for neophytes looking to create a simple blog with a lot of written content, it is ideal for many companies looking for an interface for their original, copyrighted site.

However, WordPress.org is not the subject of this writing. Our focus in on the income producing products and services associated with WordPress.

Making Money with WordPress.com

Almost everything on WordPress.com is free for the typical user. A non-professional user can go to WordPress.com and create a professional looking blog or website with a website subdomain, fairly customizable WordPress Theme, and free web hosting with plenty of storage for a large amount of photos, audio, and video, for no cost. For a small additional fee, the user can have a customizable WordPress Theme, domain name, and extra storage for video and images.

WordPress.com offers free and premium accounts. However, even the premium accounts are hosted through WordPress.com allowing the coding and ins and outs of web hosting to be out of the picture. Although almost everything at WordPress.com is free, there are options for security and backups that users can take part in to better protect their blog. These features are available by paying a monthly subscription or set fee to WordPress.com. WordPress.com allows users to find a Theme they love in the WordPress.com Theme Directory and make it more personal with customizing options. There is no coding required to have a beautiful and unique blog with WordPress.com. Much of it is absolutely free.

WordPress.com does however make money off of their platform. Many big companies, such as Time.com, CNN and USA Today host their sites through a VIP program. The VIP web hosting service starts out at $15,000 per month for the WordPress.com Premium and Enterprise plans. Obviously it doesn’t take too many companies, actually about 5 to net a million dollars for WordPress.com.

WordPress.com displays Google AdSense advertisements on their free blogs. The licks on these advertisements can bring in a hefty profit. Users can pay a fee to have the ads removed from their sites. WordPress.com members can sign up for WordAds, and if their site qualifies, they may participate within the Adsense program to receive a share in the income.

Users can find many free Themes on the WordPress.com site and if you’re self-hosting using the WordPress.org version, there are thousands of free and premium Themes in the WordPress Theme Directory. These Themes cost anywhere from free to $50 to $100 and are created by third-party developers that give Automattic an automatic commission per sale.

The profit doesn’t end in there. Automattic developers have created a subscription for WordPress support for direct email or live chat support. The basic package for direct email support is $99, the Business support package for Live Chat Support is $299 a year, and Enterprise level support used by large companies and enterprises costs $1,250 – $5,000 per month. The support subscription can be very useful to those venturing into the world of websites, blogs and web hosting.

WordPress also offers free and premium applications and widgets designed by Automattic for WordPress bloggers. One example being a premium version of PollDaddy that allows users to post polls on their WordPress sites for free, or pay a set fee for unlimited questions on each poll along with no visible branding of PollDaddy on their polls. This is very useful for bloggers that want a professional and self-created looking blog, but are not strong coders.

VideoPress is another premium application offered to WordPress users that allows them to host audio and video files on their blog. For $60 per year, users can obtain unlimited bandwidth for their files along with no advertisements and HD playback.

VaultPress and GuidedTransfer are two services offered by Automattic. VaultPress is used to allow automatic back ups of WordPress.com accounts to a cloud service. Packages for this service start at $15 per month and will back up your blog in real time. GuidedTransfer is a little more costly up front, charging a set fee of $119. This service helps users transfer their blogs from WordPress.com to WordPress.org with no hassle.

While personal bloggers have spam comments filtered from their blog for free, all commercial blogs and websites hosted through WordPress are required to purchase their service, Akismet, to remove spam posts from their blog. This service starts out at $50 per month.

There are more services available for a fee on WordPress.com and this writing is not an exhaustive list.

Hopefully you have a better understanding of the differences in the two WordPress platforms (WordPress.com and WordPress.org), how the copyright is owned, how decisions are made, and how WordPress.com makes money from even its free accounts.

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