How Does WordPress Make Money?

Jar full of money

WordPress is a free open-source content management system (CMS) used to make nearly 40 percent of the websites on the internet today. It is used by more than 70 million people.  With so many people using the platform, you must be wondering how does WordPress make money?

The WordPress Foundation, a non-profit organization,  owns the software and the trademark for WordPress. Since it’s a non-profit, it does not make money like most companies. However, it does receive revenue through donations from individuals and corporations.

WordPress is arguably the most popular website platform in the world.  What’s interesting is that, unlike other website builders, WordPress doesn’t spend a dime on advertising. How has WordPress gotten so big without making money or spending money on advertising?

I am going to get into how WordPress makes money, but first, let me explain the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. There is a difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com — two domain names that people get confused about. And this is one of the reasons why there are so many misconceptions about how WordPress makes money.

Difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

Matt Mullenweg – an American web developer – and Mike Little – an English web developer – introduced WordPress to the world 10 years back. Even today it’s the most famous and easiest way of creating a website. Currently, there are literally millions of websites being built with this amazing software, including high-profile websites such as TechCrunch and CNN.

Matt Mullenweg helped create WordPress and also founded both WordPress.org and WordPress.com.  However, even though Mullenberg started both WordPress.org and WordPress.com, they are two completely separate organizations.

woman using WordPress on her computer

Who Owns WordPress?

WordPress.org is owned by the WordPress Foundation. 

WordPress.org is a nonprofit organization. Its purpose is “to further the mission of the WordPress open source project: to democratize publishing through Open Source, GPL software.” The primary objective of WordPress Foundation is to make sure that the platform is well maintained and developed free of cost. This is the WordPress that we all use for blogging and for making a website.

WordPress.com is owned by Auttomatic

Mullenweg started Auttomatic a couple of years after creating the WordPress platform. As WordPress was new at the time, not everyone was skilled at installing WordPress or creating websites with it.  Mullenweg wanted ordinary people to be able to use the WordPress software without needing tech skills or having to use a hosting company.

In 2005, he started WordPress.com as a hosting platform for WordPress users. Essentially, he made it easy for ordinary people to use WordPress (the software).  Users who create a WordPress website at WordPress.com simply need to create an account. WordPress is already installed for them. 

WordPress made it easy for anyone to create a WordPress website or blog.  You can create a WordPress website for free with WordPress.com or pay for a premium account to build a website with its own domain name.  WordPress.com was largely responsible for the growth and popularity of WordPress.

Initially, the trademark for WordPress was registered with Auttomatic.  Even though Mullenweg could have kept the WordPress ownership under Auttomatic’s control, he donated the trademark and software to the WordPress Foundation so that the software would remain free for anyone to use.

So, How Does WordPress Make Money?

Now that you understand the difference between the two, let’s discuss how WordPress.org makes money.  There are two ways that WordPress (open source) makes money.  One is through donations made to the WordPress Foundation itself and the other way is from income generated through its subsidiary WordPress Community Support PBC.

Donations to the WordPress Foundation

WordPress is supported by donations from individuals and companies. Many companies like Bluehost, Yoast, Sucuri, etc make donations to the organization to help the WordPress community grow. There are a lot of reasons for companies to donate and support WordPress.

Keep in mind that website hosting companies are making money because of WordPress.  Hosting companies like Bluehost would have to develop their own website builder to be able to provide their customers with the kind of website builder WordPress provides them with for free.

In addition, while WordPress doesn’t charge a fee to use the platform, many companies are making an income from WordPress.  There is an entire economy of business built around the free open source program. This includes any business that uses WordPress to build their website and WordPress developers who make a living designing and developing WordPress websites.  WordPress theme and plugin developers also make money because of WordPress.

In 2020, the WordPress Foundation’s total revenue was $10,787, This revenue came primarily through donations.

WordPress makes money through WordCamp events and sponsors

Income generated through WordCamp

The WordPress foundation also has a for-profit subsidiary that provides community support for WordPress. Their subsidiary, WordPress Community Support PBC. runs WordCamp events centered around the WordPress community. Each WordCamp event is a community organized and supported by sponsors and ticket sales to the event. 

WordCamp events are organized around the globe by ordinary people who support WordPress.  WordCamps are attended by people of all skill levels and backgrounds. They bring together WordPress users, developers, experts, and fans to share knowledge, collaborate, and discuss the WordPress platform. It’s a way for people to connect with other WordPress users and support the WordPress foundation.

The WordPress Community Support B-corp was created in 2016 to provide financial support to organizers of WordPress community events.  Although this subsidiary doesn’t directly make money for the WordPress foundation, it does help WordPress grow. It provides financial support to the contributors who develop and promote the WordPress community through WordCamp events.  In 2020, the WordPress Community Support B-corp generated $742,227 in revenue through WordCamp events.

What’s interesting from reading the numbers is how much WordPress users love the platform. The WordPress Community support created close to a million dollars in financial support from members who voluntarily contributed to WordCamp events. What other website builder can say that?