Adding commercial intent to WordPress sites, a solution for plugin developers?

If WordPress installations could be categorized as commercial and non-commercial, plugin authors would be able to modify and release their plugins with the knowledge of that information.

Many of the plugins would probably still stay free, but those developers who wish to charge a fee for their work to commercial sites only, would be able to do so.

Money, it´s a crime

one for each download...

Currently I know most developers simply love creating plugins out of hobby, but the actual amount of work included in development, support and updates (with new WordPress versions) has become a burden for many.

Commercial categorization of WP sites would solve the situation as these plugin developers could be compensated in the ways of a free market, keeping everyone happy.

I know my plugins are downloaded around half a million times. If only I got a $1 for each copy ;)

What about you? Would you accept to mark your site as commercial even if that meant you would have to pay a fee to use a favorite plugin?

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  1. Dec 13th, 2009 1:08 AM

    About 20 years ago, I was a part-time / freelance Dos developer. The best program we ever wrote was a menu program. This program made it possible for people to do something with that black screen. We made the mistake of giving it away to build our business. It was a hit and copy many times. We support that program up to a few years ago. They are still thing out there that will not run in Windows. Needless to say we did not get anything of the best programming we ever done.

    I can understand were your coming from. Maybe a 30 day trail period, then go the developer website to get a registration number for a few bucks to keep the plugin activated. The developer has got to live.
    The plugins and themes help us do things we can't do or have time to do.

    After many years out of computers, I’m a newbie again

    Thanks for a good post. Bill

  2. Apr 28th, 2009 11:36 PM


    Thanks for the post. First of all, I would accept to mark my site as commercial site if I used it to do businesses. I have same opinion like what Don commented here, donate money to plugin developers that I use on my commercial sites. Another thing is, I also could hire the developer of the plugin as part-time / freelance developer (into our site) for support of the plugin.

    As for what Tom commented, I think that the developer has the responsibility of assuring the client is getting for what they paid for. I mean, maybe the developer can install the plugin for them (for non-IT users) and make sure it works. Wouldn't you be angry if you purchased something that would not work anyway? Of course I also will get sick of it. But the only problem I worry about right now is, will the plugin (either commercial or free plugin) would "crash" with other installed and activated plugin?

    I do agree with you that the plugin authors are stuck in no man's land. But I don't really understand what seems to be the problem there for a developer to charge it's client some money for what they developed. For Joomla's extension (plugin), there is a lot of companies out there providing custom-made one and sell it to the customer, some of them even sell it for more than 1K US dollar. As I searched for custom wordpress plugin development, there isn't much information I could get about it.

    What's really troubling me now is the license of the WordPress. Some says that it is illegal to release the plugin under another license and charge money for it, but some says it is not.

    Since there is a lot of people getting paid for developing Joomla plugin, why couldn't WordPress's plugin developer get paid as well? Since both are released under GPL. By the way, I'm not a developer (yet), but so far I am having fun with wordpress as I've been reading/researching on the source codes of WordPress.


  3. Apr 21st, 2009 11:07 PM

    You contributed a lot of strong points there. I'd like to hear more of your ideas.

  4. Apr 21st, 2009 9:57 PM

    "Fees for plugins would just cause people to walk away from WordPress". But keeping the current status quo, would I fear, cause developers to walk away from WordPress. So either way we see a reduced number of plugins, or what I actually suspect is happening now. The majority of plugins are developed by people new to the WordPress world.

    As David said earlier, the more experienced coders (who have been on this platform the longest) are starting to keep their "better" chunks of code to themselves to use on client projects, rather than release them as plugins.

    This means that only those who can afford to pay are the ones who are getting the benefit of the developers experience.

    I've written a few plugins now, have had donations for one or two from some people who I now consider friends (from developing a relationship after the donation), but I'd be hard pressed to have paid for 3 months server costs in the 3 years I've been developing them.

    It's now at the point were paid work or other platforms just have to take priority, and if that means support and upgrades for plugins are delayed or don't show, then I'm afraid that is the way it has to be.

    I don't know the solution, but I have a few ideas I'm working on, but I don't think it can stay as it is at the moment.

  5. Apr 14th, 2009 11:05 PM

    Elpie, I disagree. Fees for themes do not seem to discourage anyone right?

  6. Apr 8th, 2009 4:31 AM

    Fees for plugins would just cause people to walk away from WordPress. WordPress is good, but not that good without the variety of plugins that are available.
    Monetising anything that is released under the GPL is hard, but it can be done through adding value, providing services, and charging for support.

  7. Apr 7th, 2009 1:47 PM

    Hey David

    Yes I agree, plugin service business is the only option that's viable today.

    You are not expected to make plugins GPL, you have to make them GPL (that's restriction of GPL not your will).

    My idea is to be fueled on free and good will only.

    Even now I get donations for my work although I didn't ask for them. So what would be like if people were nudged just a bit more.

    All I am asking is a setting in WP Admin that will say - Yes, I run a commercial WordPress site.

    Plugin authors could take advantage of that flag and offer a message in the dashboard saying "consider purchasing commercial version of this plugin with few extra benefits here"

    Easy enough.

  8. Apr 7th, 2009 1:21 PM

    One of the major problems of the GPL is that it forces the coders into running a service business. You don't get to be rich running a service business unless you're particularly good at it.

    And that's one of the big problems I see. Products make money more easily, but when you create plugins and WP themes you're expected to make them GPL if you want the full support of the WP community.

    As a consequence, following the withdrawal of themes that even showed a hint of supporting premium themes from the repository, we're in the process of making everything on our site GPL. We'll probably not make so much money directly, but I suspect that in charging for membership of the support forums we can improve our income.

    Any other way simply won't work. We can't afford to be alienated from the WP community thanks to the other side of our business which develops high-end WP solutions for clients such as which needs to keep its creds high.

    So the result is that although we will be releasing work to the community, such as our user guides, themes, and plugins, we have no real choice but to keep our very best code to ourselves. If we didn't we'd have no advantage over competitors who developed nothing - they could simply pick up on our work and apply it elsewhere whilst dramatically undercutting us.

    In other words, as a service company you're best off keeping some things to yourself. do this - it's SaaS, with plenty of clever bits of magic (ie, code that took more than a few days to write) doing things such as aggregating tags, search, custom css and so on that aren't released.

    Thing is, business has always been hard, and when you start out you take a big gamble with your time.

    What amazes me, though, is how much free support people expect for free software. I'm not quite sure they get it.

  9. Apr 5th, 2009 8:41 PM

    I am not suggesting anything. Owner chooses to mark his site commercial not anyone else. Whether they do it its entirely up to them.

  10. Domainer
    Apr 5th, 2009 3:48 PM

    As the point was made, what actually constitutes a commercial site?

    If a site makes $ 100. a yr and the owner puts in 1,000 hours, are you suggesting he should also pay $ 5. ??

    Once, you open this door, will it evolve over the next couple years into asking for a percentage of the revenue?

  11. Apr 5th, 2009 2:57 PM

    The whole system as I see it would function based on good will. Owners of the sites would flag their site as commercial on their own (but do not have to). People who are making money are usually happy to acknowledge that so I do not see a problem there. Maybe that could give them some other benefits.

    As for your first point, nothing stops you to take one of my plugins right now, change the name of author publish and sell it on your site. That's GPL.

    With my proposal, the point is that plugin authors would at least have a way to monetize - to people who have chosen so. Currently, plugin authors are stuck in no man's land.

  12. Apr 5th, 2009 2:00 PM

    @Vladimir I understand your point and I do agree that it would be nice if commercial websites would pay the developer in a certain way. In my previous comment I was referring to the aspect where a developer takes an existing plugin and tweaks it a bit and makes a different plugin from it.

    Who has the right to get the money then? Should the second developer pay a percentage to the first developer? Who will decide that percentage? Open source for me it doesn't mean just free for all to use, but also free for all to take it and do your best with it.

    Also, I think it is hard to define, at what point a website becomes commercial? As soon as there is a google ad on it, or when it starts getting > 100k visitors/d? There are zillions of websites with google ads on them that make no money and there is Twitter that has no ads...

  13. Apr 5th, 2009 8:57 AM


    I am not sure about the categorization part. I do my blog as a hobby and there is no money. Still, I would not mind paying say $5 per plugin / theme - I use.

    Definitly the ability to test before buying is needed.

    I had bought a premium theme sometime back. However, although it looked good, it was untested and had bugs. I returned the theme and asked the developer to refund the payment, which he did.

    The entire thing made me averse to buying: paid items I feel are used less, so they have a relatively higher number of bugs.


  14. Apr 4th, 2009 11:25 PM

    It is already hurting Open Source nature of WordPress as developers are starting to quit keeping pace with new WordPress updates and huge number of support questions. It should actually help keep the plugin development going.

    You will still use the plugins for free if your site is non-commercial. If it is, you'll probably have the money to pay anyway. It is a win-win situation. Currently plugin developers are hurt.

    And did you notice that there are only couple of 'premium' plugins in contrast to hundreds of 'premium themes'?

  15. Apr 4th, 2009 10:55 PM

    I'm not a developer and I'm just wondering if this would not hurt the open source nature of plugin development and WordPress in general. As a developer you can always charge a fee for customization that would still bring you an income.

  16. Apr 4th, 2009 4:59 PM

    If the fee for a plugin is $1 each, that's ok, I would pay for it, no problem. Those plugins are a great help in my websites.

  17. Apr 4th, 2009 4:58 PM

    I do donate - sometimes (to be honest) and will do so in the future.

    I think you are right when you ask for something in return for your hard work, but I would only donate if I could test/run the plugin before doing so.

    If it works as promised (or understood by a non-techie as I am one) I would be ready to pay much more than the $1 as you've written above.

    In the past I downloaded too many plugins that promised a lot and did not do the job as supposed to do - or even worse, broke my wordpress installation. Paying for something that is a risk/threat for my business - nah!?

  18. Apr 4th, 2009 3:13 PM

    Hi Vladimir,

    I think this is a good idea and I think developers should be rewarded for their creations.

    You'd already be half a millionaire by now ;).

  19. Apr 4th, 2009 3:05 PM

    I am willing and indeed do, donate money to plugin developers that I use on my commercial sites.

    And indeed would support some sort of frame work that facilitates this process.

    Its just the right thing to do.


  20. Apr 4th, 2009 12:04 AM

    Hi Thaya, the author of cool WP Greet Box. Glad we are on the same waves about this.

  21. Apr 3rd, 2009 11:56 PM

    I agree with this. I develop plugins out of a hobby, but the amount of work needed for support is really becoming a burden. To me, if I make enough money from my blog to cover my hosting and plugin expenses then I would definitely mark it as commercial.