Who Owns WordPress, And How Does It Make Money?

We talk a lot about WordPress on this blog (with good reason, since we specialise in some of the best premium WordPress themes on the market) and we’re always quick to tell you that WordPress is free to use, and give you advice on some of the best free WordPress plug-ins and tools to take your site to the next level.

But have you ever stopped to consider who actually owns WordPress, and how it makes money? After all, the development team behind WordPress is enormous, and their constant updates – including the most recent WordPress 5.0 B Bebo rework – wouldn’t come cheap.

The answer to the questions of who owns WordPress and how it makes money are a little complicated, so let’s break it down and take it step by step.

WordPress.com versus WordPress.org

First, you need to understand that there are two entirely different products with very similar names that are often confused or misreported.

  • WordPress.org is the “real” WordPress software and can correctly be called self-hosted WordPress. It is completely free and offers full functionality. As the user, you need to be able to organise your own web hosting, install WordPress, choose or install a free or premium WordPress theme, and then customise your website with content and plug-ins.
  • WordPress.com offers a barebones version of WordPress along with web hosting services that makes it easy for beginners to create a WordPress blog. WordPress.com users don’t have access to the full functionality of WordPress like custom themes and plug-ins.

Who Owns the WordPress Software?

The WordPress software is open source and completely free. It can be used, modified, and customised by anyone without restriction, and can even be rebranded, repackaged, and sold by anyone without restriction. WordPress has evolved to the sophisticated software that it is today as a result of the combined efforts of talented people all around the world.

Who Owns WordPress.com?

WordPress.com is a paid version of WordPress packaged with web hosting services and is owned by the private company Automattic. Automattic was created by Matt Mullenweg, which explains the “matt” part of the deliberately poorly spelled “automattic”. Matt Mullenweg was also the original co-developer of the WordPress software. Two years after initially creating the software, Mullenweg created WordPress.com as a way of offering a done-for-you WordPress hosting and installation service for the less tech-savvy among us.

Who Owns the WordPress.org Domain and its Trademark?

The WordPress.org domain and the WordPress trademark are both owned by the WordPress Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organisation created to ensure the ongoing development, maintenance, and availability of the WordPress software.

However, this wasn’t always the case. Mullenweg initially registered the WordPress trademark through his company Automattic, but later donated it to the WordPress Foundation.

How Does WordPress.com Make Money?

The WordPress.com business model is a relatively simple one. Automattic sells web hosting, WordPress installation and backup services, along with placing paid advertising on free sites. WordPress.com users have the option of upgrading to a paid plan and can then hide ads, which creates a varied source of income for Automattic.

How Does WordPress.org Make Money?

How, then, does WordPress.org make money? The simple answer is, it doesn’t. As we now know, the WordPress software is maintained and improved by thousands of talented coders and web developers around the world. People who contribute to the WordPress software did not get paid for doing so.

However, there will usually be secondary reasons why a talented coder would choose to spend their valuable time improving the WordPress software. Many online businesses – Fuel Themes included – sell WordPress products and services like consulting, web hosting, plugins, and Premium WordPress Themes. People will only continue to use WordPress if the software provides up-to-the-minute functionality and security, and if people can use it to create any type of website that they want.

If no one contributed to the WordPress software, people would quickly abandon it as a website creation solution and move on to another solution. For this reason, it is in the best interest of anyone who has a business related to WordPress to ensure that the software is always performing at its best.

Hopefully this clears up any confusion you may have had about who owns WordPress, the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, and how WordPress makes money. If there’s anything else you like to know, feel free to contact us today.