How does WordPress org make money

Who Owns WordPress and How Does WordPress Make Money?

There has always been confusion among beginners about who owns WordPress. It is a little unreal to believe that something can be 100% free. If you've ever wondered who owns WordPress and how WordPress makes money, you've come to the right place. In this beginner's guide, we're going to answer these frequently asked questions and explain how this affects the ownership of your WordPress site and blog content.

Understand the differences between and

Before we can answer the question of owning WordPress, it is important that you understand this Which WordPress are you talking about?.

The main cause of confusion is that people often don't know that and are two fundamentally different products with different owners. is the popular content management system (CMS) you always hear about. This is the real WordPress and it's 100% free. It's often referred to as self-hosted WordPress. When you hear how to build any type of website in WordPress using plugins and custom themes, this is the word people are talking about. is a web hosting service that offers a scaled-down version of WordPress to make blogging easier for you. You don't get all of the WordPress goodies like plugins, custom designs, etc.

In order to get this article in a nutshell, let's not go into the feature comparison of the two. You can find out more about this in our graphic.

Understanding the differences between the two is essential to understanding the ownership and business models of the two products.

Who Owns and the Popular WordPress Software?

WordPress is open source software. This means that anyone can see the code and contribute to the software to improve it. It's the contributions of thousands of independent people from around the world that made WordPress what it is today.

WordPress is licensed under the GPL, and it is important that you understand the benefits of the GPL license as it will help you better understand the ownership structure.

We'll summarize the GPL in three main advantages:

  • You can use WordPress in any way you want without any restrictions.
  • You can freely customize, add, or remove anything you don't like.
  • You can repackage, rename, sell, and distribute WordPress with no restrictions unless it is also released under the GPL license.

The last part usually differs from people. Yes, you can actually take WordPress, change the logo and name, and start selling (100% legal) ..

In other words, the WordPress code base belongs to the community (you). The thousands of people who contributed to this charitable project did so with no direct compensation. We'll explain this in more detail in the business model of this article.

Summary: Every website you build using the self-hosted WordPress software is 100% owned by you. The content that you upload to these websites is also 100% owned by you.

The WordPress brand and the domain are owned by the WordPress Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to ensure that WordPress is freely available, maintained, and developed.

Who Owns is owned by a private company called Automattic.

You need to understand a little history of the open source WordPress project to understand Automattic's posts and the reasons they're getting cheap treatment, such as using the WordPress brand and coveted domain as part of their paid Product.

Automattic was started by Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of the open source software WordPress.

Matt founded Automattic in 2005, almost two years after WordPress, with the primary goal of simplifying WordPress hosting and starting blogs using WordPress for people with little technical knowledge.

Since the platform was operated with the open source software WordPress, Automattic was interested in the further development of the free WordPress software.

Some of the early Automattic employees contributed WordPress developers even before the company. So it goes without saying that Automattic has not only invested in WordPress for financial reasons.

Because the open source project didn't really make any money in the beginning, Matt first registered the WordPress brand through Automattic.

With the growing popularity of WordPress, Automattic donated the WordPress brand to the WordPress Foundation in 2010 to ensure the long-term sustainability of the charitable project.

It's important to know that Matt Mullenweg is the CEO of Automattic and also serves on the board of the WordPress Foundation.

Now that you are familiar with the history, let's talk about owning content on

When you create a website with, you must comply with their terms of use. Even though it is made clear that you should have enough control and ownership of your content that someone can close your site if they think it is a violation.

While you have 100% control over your site, you are limited to the features on offer that do not include plugins, custom themes, etc.

Hopefully by now you should have the answer to your question about who owns WordPress.

Now let's take a look at how WordPress makes money.

Automattic business model vs. WordPress business model

Automattic's business model is to sell WordPress related services like hosting, backup and others so we don't spend too much time on them.

In short, Automattic makes money on by selling advertisements on your free websites. If you choose hosting, you will get additional premium upgrades like hiding ads, buying domains, additional storage space, commercial designs, etc.

Our goal in this section is to explain the open source WordPress software business model and answer frequently asked questions, such as how WordPress developers make money when they volunteer to contribute to a free nonprofit project.

Let's start with the question Why do developers contribute to WordPress if they don't get paid?

Although there can be altruistic reasons, let's focus on the two most important monetary reasons:

  • They sell WordPress products or services (custom plugins, themes, web development, consulting, etc.).
  • You work for a company that sells WordPress products or services.

In other words, they make money but are not paid for by the WordPress foundation.

With the growing popularity of WordPress, the number of companies selling WordPress-related products / services has increased. This has increased commercial interest in the further development of the open source software WordPress.

Think about what Automattic did in the beginning, except now there are several companies hiring dedicated people who contribute to the development of WordPress because they understand how the WordPress project is growing and also the revenue opportunities.

So where does the WordPress foundation fit into the picture?

The WordPress Foundation is a non-profit organization, so its main source of income comes from donations.

These donations are made by individuals like you and companies who use WordPress to make money.

How does all of this affect you as a user?

While you don't pay for WordPress directly, you can pay for it indirectly.

For example, if you host your website on Bluehost, Siteground, WPEngine, or any other large WordPress hosting company, you are indirectly paying for WordPress. Because all of these companies contribute to WordPress on a regular basis.

If you are using Yoast SEO, BackupBuddy, Sucuri, or any other WPBeginner product family (OptinMonster, WPForms, MonsterInsights, etc.), you are paying indirectly for WordPress. Because all of these companies regularly sponsor WordCamps and / or contribute to WordPress.

Hopefully this will help you better understand the WordPress business model and address any concerns about it.

What can we do to improve and clear the confusion?

Due to the business models involved, there is very little to be done with regard to the domain situation.

The only way to solve it is through education, which must have two parts.

First and foremost, it is about the role of the media.

Major tech media companies like TechCrunch, Recode, TheNextWeb, etc. need to do a better job of fact-checking to avoid articles that claim Automattic as the parent company of WordPress. It could be as simple as saying the parent company behind

You can just google the term "WordPress parent company" and you will find tons of articles from big tech media companies reporting incorrect information (example: here, here, here, here).

The second role is enforcement by the WordPress Foundation as well as Automattic.

These press releases are usually listed in these press releases. If the top outlets catch on again, the rest will follow.

For blogging events where you see a WordPress booth, it is usually an Automattic booth ( While the marketing tones can be improved after answering questions in person at the booth, they are extremely helpful and almost always explain the difference.

At TBEX North America 2015, at least two people asked about owning WordPress while visiting the booth. Automattic staff did an excellent job explaining the difference.


We hope this article has helped you answer the question of who owns WordPress, how WordPress makes money, and what it really means to control and own your website. You might also want to check out our article on the 15 most common questions asked by WordPress beginners.