For those who are new to blogging and building websites, it seems the term ‘WordPress’ is everywhere. And it is everywhere because WordPress makes it super easy to set up a blog. But who owns WordPress and how does WordPress make money if it’s free to the public?
However, what most people don’t realize (until they are thoroughly confused) is that the term ‘WordPress’ can actually refer to two different platforms. How WordPress makes money will be explained more below but first, let me try and explain the basics so you can become a true WordPress expert and wow all your friends and family.
The first thing to know is that the two types of WordPress have different websites. One is WordPress.org and the other is WordPress.com. I’ll continue to refer to each of them by their version (.org or .com)… but the second most important thing to keep in mind is this:
WordPress.org refers to a self-hosted blog and WordPress.com hosts the blog for you
Naturally, the second options sounds better, right? Well, there’s more to consider than just hosting. Let’s dive in a little deeper.
Already know that you want to create a self-hosted blog? Great! Check out my step-by-step tutorial and be up and running in no time flat!
How WordPress.org Is Different From WordPress.com
WordPress.com uses a commercial website that allows you to host your own site for free, with certain limitations. This runs on the Automattic platform, with the possibility of paying to upgrade in order to receive specific extras. This is how WordPress makes money on their hosted platform. Popular with beginners, the WordPress.com domain is equipped with spam prevention technologies and automatic security updates. Because sites on WordPress.com are not self-hosted, whatever site name you choose will look something like this: www.mysupercoolsite.wordpress.com … that is, it will always have “wordpress.com” in the site name.
Conversely, WordPress.org allows you to use the all the amazing functionality of WordPress, with your own free copy of the code that you host. (This may sound difficult but it’s not! Just follow my simple guide to create your own blog). This allows you to have full control over your website. Using the self-hosted (.org) version of WordPress, you can make the site of your dream and customize to your heart’s content, all without touching any messy code. The best part: your website name won’t have that clunky ‘wordpress.com’ in it… your very own site name can be www.mysupercoolsite.com or anything else that is available.
Just want the quick facts on the pros and cons of the two types of WordPress? Jump to this nifty table at the end!
What Do You Get From WordPress.org?
If you have a WordPress.org domain, you will have to pay a small monthly fee for hosting, as well as an annual domain registration fee (around $10 a year). Though this is an expense, you can earn money by selling as many ads as you like on your website, using any service available. All of what is earned from these clicks go directly to you.
As a network independent from WordPress.com, your website will not be posted on their network in order to get you more traffic. Instead, you are responsible for making quality content and keeping your website up-to-date.
With WordPress.org, you have full use of custom or commercial themes, on top of the free themes available to WordPress.com users. This allows you to modify, customize and make your website as unique as you want it to be. You also have the chance to maximize your site by uploading any free, paid, or custom plugins to your website.
What Do You Get From WordPress.com?
Because it’s free, WordPress.com does not offer the same features as WordPress.org. When choosing a theme, there are limited options with the WordPress.com domain, as there are not many free options in their repository. Once your theme is chosen, you are unable to modify any code within it.
You cannot upload any free, paid, or custom plugins in this domain, making it difficult to extend and expand the functionality of your website. If you wish to monetize your WordPress.com site, you cannot do so by selling ads until you receive 25,000 page views each month. Once that happens, you have to apply for the Ad Control feature, where a portion of the clicked ad will go to you, with the remainder being kept by WordPress.com and this is partially how WordPress makes money on this platform.
Though advertised as free, you only have up to 3GB of storage space in your WordPress.com site. If you want a custom domain name, you will have to pay a registration fee. You don’t have to worry about updating, backing up, optimizing, or applying general maintenance to your website, as Automattic will take care of that for you. They may also feature one of your posts in their Blogs of the Day or Tags section, which can add traffic to your site.
Who Owns Your Website’s Content On WordPress?
The confusion of ownership with WordPress comes from each website created on the platform and the content added to them. The Terms of Service policy states that everything on your website belongs to the person who created it. However, if WordPress believes your website violates any of their conditions, they have the right to shut it down.
Essentially, you have total control over the content of your WordPress website. Ownership of your work still belongs to you, as long as you use the platform properly. If you post something that is questionable, or in direct violation of the listed conditions, WordPress has the right to remove harmful or objectionable content, as well as deny access to your website for any reason.
Even though there are different owners for each version of WordPress, the rights of your website and content may be affected. Because it is open-sourced, anyone can see the code of your WordPress site and contribute something to the software.
Essentially, the code of any WordPress domain belongs to its users who contribute to the website. Any website you create is entirely owned by you, as is the content you upload to these sites. The WordPress foundation owns each trademark and maintains that the service should be freely available, maintained and developed. But who actually owns it.
As WordPress.org is under a General Public License (GPL), you can use it however you like without restrictions. This means you are able to customize, repackage, rebrand, sell, and distribute without any restrictions outside of the GPL.
Who Is The True Owner Of WordPress?
As a community-centric, open-system project, WordPress is actually owned by the tens of thousands of people who have made contributions to what the platform has become today. Technically, a privately held company called Automattic parents WordPress.com.
In 2005, current WordPress co-founding developer Matt Mullenweg created Automattic in order to make the platform easier to use for non-tech-savvy people. From there, Automattic has had a vested interest in further developing the free software.
Most of the early Automattic employees were initially contributing developers of WordPress.com, each with an invested interest to the company’s success. To help fund the open-source platform, the WordPress trademark was registered under Automattic. In 2010, the trademark was then donated to the WordPress Foundation to ensure the platform could be sustained.
Marketing verbiage aside, WordPress operates on open-sourced software, allowing its users and developers to heavily contribute to the platform. The people who add to WordPress, and the community involved in improving it, are the ones who are responsible for its maintenance. This community is, for all intents and purposes, the owners.
How WordPress Makes Money
Automattic sells hosting, backup, and other services related to WordPress; which is where they receive a large chunk of their money. By selling advertising space on the free websites hosted on the platform, Automattic generates a lot of income from WordPress. As a user, you can pay for a hosting plan, which gives you premium options of hiding ads, purchasing domains, upgrading disk space and more. The money from the premium accounts is received directly by WordPress.
This business model works by having developers contribute to WordPress without being paid by the platform. Developers can sell products or services to WordPress, or work for a company that sells these items to WordPress. No matter the case, they are making money from other sources, even though their work is sent to WordPress.
As WordPress is a non-profit organization, their primary source of revenue comes from donations. Whether made by individuals or corporations, the platform accepts donations and uses them to contribute to their organization.Website’s such as Yoast SEO, Siteground, and WPEngine regularly contribute and sponsor WordPress, which means that if you pay for these services, you are indirectly paying for WordPress.
The open-source platform is a model that WordPress is intent on maintaining. Rather than selling it as a software, developers want users to have the freedom to use, modify, build upon and redistribute their WordPress creations. Founded on the philosophy that software is not like other tangible products, this model allows for it to be inexpensively created and copied multiple times.
WordPress has always been and plans to remain, a non-profit organization. The platform has been created for users and developers to highlight their skills and give others the chance to benefit from their work. On paper, the parent company of WordPress is Automattic, which is why you will always see the two companies listed together in the same booth at a blogging event.
The most important source of income for WordPress comes from the donations made by the platform’s users. With the amount of support from its community, it is clear that WordPress is doing something right. Now you know how WordPress makes money but which platform is right for you?
Which Option Is The Best For You?
If you want your website’s potential to be maximized, you need features that will allow you to customize it to fit your needs. Having a WordPress.org (self-hosted) account will let you keep all of the profits made from your advertising while being a cost-effective way to host and control your website.
Anyone looking to set up an online store, needs eCommerce, or has a small business requiring a website, will benefit from a WordPress.org website. Though a more hands-on approach is needed with a WordPress.org site, that is ideal for a regularly monitored website.
By having the option of customizing themes and uploading plugins, you have more functionality with a WordPress.org domain. For these reasons, WordPress.org is very likely the right choice for most people who want to blog or set up their own website in general.
Still Not Sure?
To help summarize and drive home the main differences between the two types of WordPress, check out the table below:
Now that you know your options and how WordPress make money, if you’re psyched about having your very own blog with your custom name that you can fully customize and control for years to come… then check out my guide comparing the top WordPress hosting providers and start blogging.