Is WordPress a free platform? Here's the deal

One feature of WordPress that might confuse is whether or not it is free.

The solution may be convoluted, which is why many are perplexed. A WordPress site can be free or have a fee associated with it (like WordPress plugins and WordPress themes). 

However, the WordPress software — also known as WordPress core — is and always will be free. And it's not only about the cost of WordPress: it's also free in the sense that you may modify, expand, and use whatever you want.

Is WordPress a free platform? Here's the deal
Is WordPress a free platform? Here's the deal

Is WordPress a free platform? Important Points to Keep in Mind

WordPress is distributed under the GNU General Public License (or GPL), which allows anybody to download, modify, use, and even sell the code as long as they do so under the GPL license.

Although the program is free, you may have to pay for:

  • Hosting
  • Premium assistance
  • Premium plugins/themes updates
  • Themes with a premium price
  • Plugins that cost money

In this post, I'll explain how to answer these questions:

  • Is WordPress truly unrestricted?
  • Why is WordPress available for free?
  • Which features of WordPress aren't available for free?

I'll go through the two definitions of free that apply, as well as the key scenarios in which you may acquire a WordPress site for free, as well as the specific parts of WordPress that you can choose to receive for free or pay for.

So, let's get this party started!

The Two Meanings of Free as They Apply to WordPress Before 

we can determine if WordPress is free, we must first comprehend the two meanings of the word free.

"Free as in beer" and "free as in speech" are two phrases that have been used to describe these.

When most people ask if WordPress is free, they usually think of it in the monetary sense: free as in beer. In a monetary sense, a beer might be "free," meaning it will not cost you anything. However, it will never be as free as speech.

Freedom of expression is the second definition of the word free. To put it another way, if you own a copy of the WordPress software, are you free to use it whatever you want? The answer is a hearty "Yes!" as you'll see in a moment.

So let's take a closer look at the several ways WordPress is free.

As free as speech

In all senses of the term, the WordPress software is free. You can get a copy of WordPress for free, and once you have it, you may use or modify it as you see fit.

The program is released under the GNU General Public License (or GPL), which means you may download, edit, tweak, and use it for free. It's a type of software known as open source.

The following are the primary characteristics of this license:

  • You have complete freedom to use WordPress in any way you choose.
  • In WordPress, you have complete freedom to change, add, or delete anything.
  • Except that it is also published under the GPL license, you can repackage, rebrand, sell, and distribute WordPress with no limitations.

The third point is crucial. It implies you may take WordPress, modify it, repackage it, and sell it to others for a profit as long as the GPL license is followed. To put it another way, your clients can pay for the code, but you must allow them access to it so they can edit it.

This might be mind-boggling for folks who are used to working with non-open source software firms. However, it is correct!

As a result, you could download WordPress and modify the code to make it function differently. In truth, WordPress began as a fork of another open-source blogging system called b2/catalog, which Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little modified in 2003. What they created was WordPress, which began as a blogging platform but has evolved into a Content Management System (CMS) for all types of websites.

Even if you have access to the WordPress core code, this is not a smart idea. If you wish to alter WordPress, best practices suggest that you "pack" your changes into a new plugin or utilize an existing one. This implies that your adjustments won't be lost if you upgrade your WordPress version because they're kept in your plugin's files.

Some plugins are free as in beer, while others aren't: but they're all free as in speech, as we'll see.

As in beer, everything is free

WordPress is and will remain free since it is not controlled by a corporation. Instead, it's owned by the WordPress Foundation, a non-profit that was founded "to assure open access to the software projects we support in perpetuity." Its goal is to provide a stable codebase for future generations while also educating people about WordPress and other open-source software. The WordPress foundation does not benefit from the development or distribution of WordPress; everything is done on a volunteer basis.

There are hundreds of plugins available for WordPress, some of which are free and others of which need payment, but they're all free as in speech. You have the same rights to alter, adapt, and sell a plugin's code as you have with WordPress core if you distribute it under the GPL license. The easiest approach to accomplish this is to create a new plugin that extends the original, however, there are several examples of individuals taking an existing plugin and creating a new one based on it. This is permissible because this is open-source software.

So here's the deal: WordPress, plugins, and themes are all free and open-source, licensed under the GNU General Public License. You are free to modify and work with them. Things get a little more difficult when it comes to the financial side of your WordPress site.

The program is free, but you'll need server space to host it if you wish to run a website. That means paying for hosting unless you have your servers (and the skills to use them to host a website). You may rent space on a hosting provider's servers to host your WordPress site, such as Kinsta. They don't own your site; you have complete control over it and may change, tweak, or transfer it at any moment.

Managing servers and providing hosting is costly since it necessitates physical infrastructure and support. But it won't break the bank, especially when compared to website builders that offer far less freedom.

So, how does WordPress get its money?

You might be asking how this is feasible now that you know WordPress is administered by a nonprofit organization and that hundreds of people contribute to its development for free.

After all, the site itself costs money to host. The infrastructure that allows huge teams to cooperate on WordPress is expensive to maintain. It also takes time for individuals to become interested.

WordPress benefits tens of thousands, if not millions, of businesses, developers, and fans. They understand that without the help of individuals like themselves, WordPress would not exist, and they would not be able to make a life with this amazing program. That's why they chose to give back to the WordPress community by contributing to the codebase, giving assistance through the WordPress support forums, and organizing events such as WordCamps and local WordPress meetings.

How to Get a Free WordPress Site

The only way to acquire WordPress for free is to sign up for a free account. is owned by Automattic, a private firm that hosts millions of websites on its servers, and you can obtain one for free if you sign up for a free plan.

However, there are certain limits. Your website is as free as beer but not as free as speech. You don't have access to the code, and the themes you may use are limited. You also don't have access to plugins. You won't be able to use your domain name, and your site will contain advertisements over which you have no control (which is one of the ways it is supported).

This isn't a problem for some users, who gladly utilize to maintain their blogging hobby or even a portfolio site. However, if you want a professional-looking website, you'll need more.

12 Best WordPress Portfolio Plugin Options to Showcase Your Work is recommended reading.

You may also join up for a premium account, which allows you to use your domain name and includes more features. However, you will not have access to the code. If you sign up for a plan, you'll get a website that is neither free nor open-source. You're paying for it, and you don't have much flexibility in terms of changing it. Your monthly rates may be more than what you'd spend to operate a self-hosted site.

That's why I frequently advise people to acquire a self-hosted WordPress site and pay for hosting separately.

Why Is WordPress Hosting So Expensive?

There is one major difference between whether you opt to create a self-hosted WordPress site or move from a free plan to one.

Instead of hosting the site on, you hire server space from a WordPress hosting firm and install WordPress there. The biggest distinction is that you own the website (or one of your clients). You get to choose which themes and plugins to use, and you control the site and its content, which you may transfer or update at any time. You have complete control over how your site runs, what you add to it, and how it functions (within the limits of the law).

This provides you freedom in the sense of "free speech."

Self-hosted WordPress websites have a financial cost, but the advantages far outweigh the costs for anyone who wants a high-quality website. When you consider the possible commercial benefits of a quality website, hosting isn't prohibitively expensive. A free site will not reflect your brand properly, nor will it allow you to add the capabilities you'll need to manage a professional website. It will not provide you with the control you require.

You believe that a free site will suffice for the time being. However, as your site develops and changes, likely, it won't satisfy your long-term requirements. The good news is that switching from WordPress to another platform is simple. It's not difficult to convert a website to a self-hosted one.

What WordPress Features Are Available for Free?

There are several components of your WordPress installation that might be free even if you don't have a free WordPress site. Some are permanently free, while others, such as plugins or themes, give you the choice of choosing between free and premium.

It may appear like receiving something for free is too wonderful to be true. And it can be at times. However, some that create free WordPress themes and plugins do so for good reasons: they either wish to give back to the community or offer a free version of a plugin that can be upgraded to a premium version.

That isn't to say that there aren't respectable sources of free WordPress code. Here, I'll look at the many features of WordPress that you might be able to access for free, and show you how to do so without jeopardizing your site's security or quality.

The following are some of the aspects of self-hosted WordPress that are (or maybe) free:

  • The foundational software
  • Support
  • Themes
  • Plugins
  • Updates

Let's take a look at each one individually.

Software that is available for free

WordPress is a completely free platform. If you're going to download WordPress, make sure you go to the official WordPress download page.

We offer a feature at Kinsta that allows you to install WordPress without having to download the code. This type of auto-installer is safe and dependable, and it will save you time and effort.

Support is provided at no cost

A good hosting company will provide you with assistance as part of your hosting package to assist you with your hosting, domain administration, and WordPress setup.

If you need assistance with other elements of WordPress, such as learning how to administer your site, building your plugins, or troubleshooting issues with your themes or plugins, you'll have to look for other WordPress resources.

A reminder: free assistance is offered by volunteers, WordPress specialists who want to give back to the community, or people whose companies allow them to work in the support forums. Because you aren't paying for this service, you should have realistic expectations and don't anticipate a quick response.

Themes for Free

Thousands of free themes are available in the WordPress theme directory.

Commercial theme developers, volunteers, and the staff all contribute to the development of these. They're all put through thorough testing before being released, so you can trust that they're well-coded, dependable, and secure.

The only location where you may securely obtain free themes is the WordPress theme directory. You may either download them straight from there or install them using your site admin's Themes page.

Don't get free themes from other websites! The developer should distribute the theme through the official directory if it is stable and secure. If you don't, you might end up with a theme on your site that contains spammy or even harmful code.

Plugins that are available for free

Thousands of free WordPress plugins are accessible through the plugins directory, much like themes. These range in size and complexity from minor plugins that add a few lines of code to your site or dashboard to large, complicated plugins like WooCommerce, which adds a full-featured store to your site.

You might be asking why someone would put time and effort into creating a plugin just to make it available for free. And it's an excellent question. Free plugin creators usually fall into one of three categories:

  • They're WordPress devotees who wish to share their knowledge and contribute to the community.

  • They're companies who have created a plugin for their clients and wish to share the code with others (as well as maybe get a bit of publicity).

  • They're skilled plugin developers that provide a free version of a plugin in the hopes that some users would upgrade to the premium version or purchase add-ons.

This implies that individuals produce free plugins for a variety of motives, including financial gain or altruism. However, much as with themes, a plugin's inclusion in the WordPress plugin directory indicates that it has been tested and is most likely secure and dependable. Although you can't guarantee this for all plugins all of the time because upgrades may harm them, a reputable plugin developer will update their plugin to ensure it's compatible with the newest WordPress version. When you install a plugin, it tells you when it was last updated and if it's compatible with your WordPress version. Some themes/plugins require an annual membership, and you may only update them if the subscription is current. Others offer a one-time fee for lifetime access, allowing you to keep the theme/plugin updated without having to pay again.

WordPress Features That Aren't Free

One of the amazing things about WordPress is that it has a lot of free features. The concept that such a high-quality, useful piece of software can be free sometimes perplexes newcomers to WordPress. It could seem strange if you're used to purchasing software from businesses like Microsoft or Adobe, which can charge a lot for upgrades or subscriptions. WordPress core, on the other hand, will always be free as open-source software.

That does not, however, imply that operating a good WordPress site is cost-free. The price will vary depending on your site's demands and whether you're willing to pay for the convenience of a premium plugin when a free one may accomplish the same or comparable job with a little more effort.

You may need to spend money on the following aspects of WordPress:

  • Hosting
  • Premium assistance
  • Premium plugins/themes updates
  • Themes with a premium price
  • Plugins that cost money

Let's take a look at each of this one by one once more.

Investing in Hosting

You'll need to pay for a hosting provider if you want a self-hosted WordPress site, which will allow you more flexibility and independence than a site.

A decent hosting plan will provide you with other benefits in addition to allowing you to have a self-hosted site:

  • The opportunity to quickly and simply install WordPress from your hosting panel.
  • You'll have access to DNS settings so you may point your domain name to your website.
  • Support is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Backups are made regularly.
  • Anti-hacking and anti-downtime protection.
  • Dedicated to speed, ensuring that your site loads as quickly as possible.

Check that your hosting company offers all of these services before making a decision. It's all too easy to fall for low-cost hosting only to discover that your site loads slowly or that the assistance isn't as helpful as you had hoped. It's worth spending a little extra for quality if you want a professional website.

Even if you're using, if you upgrade from the free plan, you'll eventually have to pay for your hosting.

Paying for hosting and having the ability to manage your site, in my opinion, is a superior investment.

Support Payments

Your hosting company should be able to assist you with any areas of your site that are related to hosting.

If you want further assistance and the free channels are insufficient, you can purchase premium assistance. Several companies will supply you with assistance in exchange for a monthly fee.

Purchasing Themes

You can buy a premium WordPress theme if you can't find a free theme that matches your demands or if you want a theme with a drag-and-drop interface (also known as a page builder).

Premium themes are divided into three categories:

  • The Astra theme, for example, is meant to be simple to use.
  • The Divi page builder theme, for example, is built to be extensible.
  • ThemeForest and other sites sell standalone themes.

Before you purchase a theme, be sure it matches your requirements and is safe to use on your website. Specifically:

  • Check the license to see if it's GPL-licensed.
  • Inquire with other WordPress users and coders.
  • Look for reviews and articles that reference or discuss it.
  • Get recommendations from people you know.
  • Examine whether there is a free trial, a money-back guarantee, or a cooling-off period.

You don't want to spend your money if the theme doesn't fit your requirements.

See our guide to free vs paid WordPress themes for additional information on finding high-quality premium themes.

Purchasing Plugins

You may need to purchase premium plugins in addition to the free plugins available from the plugin repository.

This is a regular occurrence: paid plugins just perform better than their free counterparts in some areas.

The following are examples of when you might need to pay for a premium plugin:

  • When you've been using a free version of a plugin and discover you need the premium version's additional functionality.
  • When the free plugins aren't providing you with the features or simplicity of use that you require.
  • When you need to install a lot of plugins all made by the same developer who offers a full access membership option.
  • When you wish to extend the functionality of a free plugin by purchasing premium add-ons, such as WooCommerce add-ons.

Premium plugins may save you a lot of time and offer your site a huge boost if you invest in the appropriate ones. While installing a premium plugin, use the same caution you would when installing a premium theme. As a result, you should check:

  • Whether or whether the supplier has plugins in the plugin directory (disreputable firms won't last long).
  • Reviews for both the provider and the plugin are available.
  • That the plugin is released under the GNU General Public License.
  • What kind of assistance will you get to help you utilize the plugin and troubleshoot any issues?
  • If there is a money-back guarantee, take advantage of it. It's aggravating to install a plugin just to discover that it doesn't meet your needs and that you've wasted your money.

Personal recommendations will always be the finest source of information regarding paid plugins. Before you buy, talk to other WordPress users and developers, check out WordPress forums or Facebook groups, and see whether others are pleased with the plugin.

Investing in Updates

You'll usually get at least a year of free updates and support if you install a premium theme or plugin. Because most premium plugins and themes are based on a subscription basis, you'll almost certainly have to pay again to access the latest version of the program while still receiving active support.

However, there are some exceptions: some plugin suppliers only charge once for lifetime access.

It's tempting not to renew your subscription: after all, the plugin or theme is still functional, and you won't lose the code if you don't upgrade to the current version. But what if a security flaw is discovered in the plugin or theme, and a fresh version is provided to address the issue? What if WordPress releases a new version, and your theme or plugin stops working? Your website, or at least some of its features, will go down. You don't want it to happen. Ever!

Developmental Financing

This might include everything from designing and building your website to writing a plugin and tweaking your WordPress theme. Everything is dependent on your unique requirements, as well as your time and financial constraints.

WordPress was created so that you don't have to hire a professional or pay extra to have a fantastic website. It can be a decent investment if you're building a highly customized site or operating a business and don't have the time or abilities to accomplish it in-house.

This is, once again, an optional step. Some WordPress users, on the other hand, opt to pay for it.

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