Why is WordPress Free? What Are the Hidden Costs?

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Are you sceptical about free web building software and giveaway technology? This piece asks, why is WordPress FREE, what are the hidden costs of this world-famous platform?

Building a spanking new website from scratch has never been easier or cheaper. Indeed, there are plenty of free platforms that let you create a full basic site for no money. This article looks at the reasons why WordPress.ORG continues to be free despite its global popularity.

If Software Sounds Too Good to be True…

Any product or service that appears too good to be true in 2020 usually is. But when it comes to the WordPress.ORG software, many do see it as a gift from the gods. But is it free? That depends on how you view it. The software is open source. That means it’s 100% free to download, modify, and redistribute under the same licence. There is no charge for this at all.

WordPress.ORG comes under something called the General Public License or GNU GPL. GPL is a free software copyleft license with very clear terms and conditions.

Why Is WordPress.ORG Software Free?

WordPress’ founders, American Matt Mullenweg and English Mike Little had a mission. They offered WP as an open-source community project. Today, there are tens of thousands of highly-talented developers who contribute. But that doesn’t explain why it’s free. If it’s so popular, why don’t the founders charge a nominal fee and make a financial killing?

The answer is in its name, ‘open source’ project. That means it doesn’t belong to any one person. It’s the community of WordPress fans that have made it the popular platform it is today. There’s a core team of highly-skilled developers who lead the way in project development. Even so, any person can contribute to bug fixes, patches, new features, and offer suggestions.

The Role of WordPress Project Leaders

A WordPress project leader is anyone with skills who gets deeply involved in the community. These are not fixed positions, and they often change hands between versions. The role of a primary Team Rep is to post updates—usually weekly—of recent activity. You can see news of WP updates and discussions about current issues at https://make.wordpress.org/updates/.

Open Source Vs. Closed Source Software

Open source software (OSS) is accessible to the public for free. Its unrestricted use lets anyone inspect, alter, and redistribute. You can’t access the code of Microsoft products as it’s closed source software. That means it’s only available for authorised personnel under strict conditions. Thus, individuals or companies—rather than a community—owns closed source software.

Most WordPress.ORG users don’t see or touch the source code. But they can if they need to, and that’s the point. It’s the dedicated team of volunteer developers who maintain and enhance the WP OSS. The WordPress community spirit is what makes this platform so valuable.

Where’s the Profit in WordPress.ORG?

There’s no profit in the free software, but there are profits made off the back of WordPress. Entrepreneurs create and sell all kinds of products and services to support users. Web developers can modify the open source software to build you a 100% unique site. Or, you can buy custom templates and plugins to add elements to your project not found with the freebies.

WordPress Running Costs

Yes, there are individual costs if you want to create a blog, website, or eCommerce store using WordPress. You need to pay for a hosting account from where you can upload and manage the new project. You also need a custom domain (web address). None of these things cost much if you only want to run a simple site with more static than dynamic elements.

Runaway Costs

There are countless free WP themes and plugins available. Those who want a totally unique site, though, may prefer to invest in a custom theme or have one built from scratch. It’s the same with site functionality. You can spend 50 dollars or tens of thousands building a mega website or online store, but the software remains free.

WordPress.ORG Vs. WordPress.Com

There’s often confusion between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, so let’s clear that up here. WP.org is the original WordPress that is—and always will be—100% free.

First, there was the self-hosted WordPress.ORG, then came the hosted WordPress.COM in 2005. The latter is a business that makes a profit. It offers convenient free, budget-end, and VIP services for people or companies that don’t want maintenance hassles. Here we compare the WP.COM free plan against the WP.ORG free software.

WordPress.ORG Pros and Cons

The most significant advantages of WordPress.ORG are:

  • Free and open source, easy to use at the basic level
  • You own everything, including the site files and all web content
  • User has 100% control and final say over all aspects of their project
  • 1000s of free and premium plugins and templates
  • Free to monetise in any way that’s legal via adds or sales
  • Can implement the best, most powerful tracking tools
  • Create membership sites

Self-hosted WordPress.ORG does have a couple of negatives too:

  • Web hosting and custom domains are extra costs
  • Software updates and site maintenance is the user’s sole responsibility

WordPress.COM Pros and Cons

The most significant advantages of the hosted WordPress.COM are:

  • 6 plans available from the free basic design service through to VIP
  • The company takes care of site updates, maintenance, and backups

 The disadvantages of WP.COM include:

  • Free users must use a WP.com branded domain that ends in wordpress.com
  • Free version is extremely restricted and displays company ads
  • High traffic sites can apply for WordAds, but you must share the revenue
  • Selling products or services is prohibited on the free plan
  • Users are stuck with pre-installed themes (no uploads allowed)
  • Can’t use advanced stat tools like Google Analytics
  • No option to build a membership website

The above restrictions only apply to the free version of WordPress.COM. You need to buy one of the paid plans to unlock any features that you might otherwise need. Thus, the free option is only suitable for basic, non-serious websites and blogs. The paid services also have restrictions. You don’t own your project outright, and the WP.com can close your account at any time.

Freedom to Choose

Those who don’t want the hassle of site updates and maintenance should consider WP.com. Anyone who demands unlimited flexibility and total independence should opt for WP.ORG. OK, it’s not 100% free to run a self-hosted WordPress.ORG website. Despite that, the freedom to expand and do what you want with your blog, site, or online store is priceless.

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