Why Is WordPress Free and What Are The Hidden Costs?

Competition for website development and web hosting is so fierce that anyone wishing to create a website or start a blog can get started with a full package for next to nothing. Going one better, you can start a blog site on WordPress for free.

  • Why is WordPress free?
  • What’s the catch?
  • What are the hidden costs?

“You don’t get ‘owt for nowt,” says the old Yorkshire proverb, which is why these questions immediately pop up. We’ll answer these questions and more so that you can have a better understanding about what makes WordPress free, what features come free and what features to you have to pay extra in order to add to your website.

WordPress FAQs

The best way to examine the various features and benefits of the free WordPress platform is to submit all of the possible questions and provide answers to each one of them. With that objective in mind, let’s look into the first question.

What is open source software?

WordPress is free because it is open source software. Open source is public accessible software which allows the user to add to it, modify and redistribute it in any way they like. According to Opensource.com, “Open source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development.” Programmers can add features to improve open source software or to fix parts of the program that don’t always function correctly.

Take Away: Open source software is software that is accessible by the public to improve upon and freely redistribute.

Why isn’t WordPress sold as a software?

As open source software, WordPress is a community project in which tens of thousands of people have made contributes to the functionality of the software that you now have access to. You can only imagine the difficulty that would result from attempting to sell software with so many contributors. Working out who would get what portion of the income produced for which contributions would be next to impossible.

Take Away: As mentioned above, the philosophy behind open source software are the principles of collaborative participation and open exchange, so it just doesn’t make sense to try to sell something to which tens of thousands of people have contributed; if it was even possible.

Is WordPress copyright free?

WordPress is copyrighted, but it is licensed in a special way so that the contributions of each programmer is copyrighted. That special type of license is known as the General Public License – GPL “gives the receivers of a computer program the rights about the ‘Free Software Definition.’ It is a copyleft license, which means it allows users to freely distribute copies of modified work, preserving the same rights, but in the end, maintains original copyright conditions.” Consequently, though programmers are allowed to modify, utilize and redistribute code within the software, any resulting change is copyrighted under the GPL of WordPress.

Take Away: No, WordPress is not copyright free. It follows GPL copyrighting protocols so that all additions and changes are added into the copyrights.

Are all premium WordPress themes and plugins Licensed GPL?

Those themes which extensively utilize WordPress functionality are considered to be a derivative of WordPress, so they are licensed under WordPress GPL. According to WordPress.org, the official legal opinion concerning the status of themes and plugins can be summed up in one sentence: “PHP in WordPress themes must be GPL, artwork and CSS may be but are not required.” https://wordpress.org/news/2009/07/themes-are-gpl-too/ Because of this legality, WordPress only supports and hosts theme and plugins that are 100% GPL and functionality without javascript and CSS would be extremely limited.

Take Away: Premium WordPress themes and plugins are essentially licensed GPL.

Is GPL inherited by content published with WordPress?

This question is a little bit more difficult to answer. We’ll make use of an example to help out. Like most WordPress users, you write your own content or post photographs on your blog that is original work. This content is your own work and you own full copyrights of that content. However, if your content is a demonstration of how to use a particular WordPress function and includes examples from WordPress software, then that specific blog post would fall under GPL license because the code used in examples is a derivative work.

Take Away: Your published artwork, photos, written content, etc. do not inherit GPL.

If it’s free how does anyone make money with WordPress?

This is the question that disturbs most people because it doesn’t make sense that a company would invest so much time, effort, bandwidth, etc. into something that would provide absolutely no profits. The simple answer is that products or services that are based on WordPress open source software are sources of income. Remember that question about what are the hidden costs? For a more in-depth answer, let’s take a moment to create a distinction between WordPress.com and WordPress.org:


This is the free version of WordPress, which includes a lot of limitations. Here are some of its features for comparison:

• limited themes
• plugins are not allowed
free hosting with 3GB of storage
• users are not allowed to sell ads
• WP branding is always present
• SEO control is limited
• cannot create an online store
• cannot create a membership site

These limitations can be taken away by purchasing certain premium features.


As a comparison, WordPress.org does not have all of the limitations of the free version. Here is how those same features are handled:

• full theme support
• all plugins are allowed
• you buy domain registration and hosting with various levels of storage
• freedom to sell ads and keep what you make
• your site is free of WP branding
• you have all of the SEO features available
• you can create an online store
• you can create a membership site.

Other Products and Services Based on WordPress

Multi-million dollar businesses have been built around WordPress by creating commercial themes and plugins as well as offering WordPress hosting. In addition, WordPress consultants and developers often provide services to clients who request custom applications, plugins, themes, etc.

Take Away: The key word to keep in mind when discussing WordPress is the word “limited.” Free WordPress is limited, but the commercial version is not. In addition, money is made on commercial products that are based on WordPress and by developers who created customized products for their clients.

More About WordPress

Though you should have most of your questions about WordPress answered, clearing up any other issues or questions you might have concerning WordPress can probably accomplish through providing you with a little bit more proprietary information about WordPress.

The WordPress Trademark

The WordPress logo, as well as the words WordPress and WordCamp, are registered trademarks owned by WordPress Foundation and its code is released as open source software under GPL copyright restrictions. Because it operates WordPress under GPL, a distinction has to be made between sites or resources that are official, trademark sites and those that are community run. Basically, community-run sites do not include the word “WordPress” in their domain name. Instead, any community run site, which wants to associate their domain with WordPress, makes use of WP.

Take Away: Be careful with sites that use the full name “WordPress” in their domain name. Unless they are true official, trademark sites, legitimate community sites built around WordPress know and respect the trademark policies of WordPress and will use WP instead.

Costs Involved in the Use of WordPress

In answering some of the questions above, we showed how WordPress.com is free, but what you can do on your WordPress.com site is limited. Those who find it necessary to remove some of those limitations can make use of WordPress hosting and other features in order to fully develop their website to fit their needs. That is where the costs of using WordPress come into play.

Even though you might have to pay for a domain name or hosting, there are hosting sites that charge less than $3 per month for this particular service. In addition, many people also opt to pay for plugins or customized themes in order to promote their own unique brand designs and features.

Bluehost is one such company that offers WordPress hosting for just $2.95 per month, plus you get a FREE DOMAIN NAME. You can use this link to get this offer.

Take Away: For a casual blogger, the free, limited, WordPress site will probably work just fine, but anyone who is intent upon doing business and developing a brand using WordPress software will be better served to pay for a unique domain name and customized brand designs.

Also, if you’re planing to make money online with your blog, then owning your own domain and hosting is vital, as there are limitations to using the Free Version of WordPress ( WordPress.com ) and what you can do in terms of promoting other people’s services and products.


The proverb, “you don’t get owt for nowt,” usually rings true. In the case of WordPress, you can get a free, limited blogging website with most of what you need to create a blog and a casual presence on the web. WordPress.com is a great way for you to get your feet wet in website design and development; maybe even begin to establish yourself as an expert in certain areas. However, those who need a more substantial website for developing business, you will find that the free WordPress options are very limited and somewhat lacking when it comes to establishing brand recognition and producing a profit from your efforts.

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Jamie Spencer

My name is Jamie Spencer and I have spent the past 10 years building money making blogs. After growing tired of the 9-5, commuting and never seeing my family I decided that I wanted to make some changes and launched my first blog. Since then I have launched lots of successful niche blogs and after selling my survivalist blog I decided to teach other people how to do the same.

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