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Pay for Plugins or Themes?

Much of the software I have used in my life has been paid software. And as I got older, and had less money to spend, I have switched mostly to open source software. I know that when other blogging software went to a paid or subscription based model, that most people moved over to the entirely free WordPress blogging software, or atleast gave it another look before plunking down cash on the paid software.

I sometimes wonder though if WordPress would survive people turning off the tap for free plugins and themes, and going to a pay model for expanding WordPress.

So you spend all your time making a great plugin or theme for WordPress, you use it on your site, and you decide you would love to see others use it as well, you set up a page to order the theme or plugin for $2 USD per download. Wouldn’t that be fair?

You took the time to write the plugin or design the theme, you are going to support it, release other versions of it, should you not be compensated in some way for the time and effort you are putting into the project?

I know that a shift like that could really hurt WordPress, and currently there are already people asking for money for themes, but for the most part you can find whatever you need, totally free by searching hard enough.

Does anyone think that a micropayment model for themes and plugins would work for a community like WordPress? Or is it too late to shift away from being free?

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  1. Jeriko One says: 7/14/2006

    Funny thing, I had this in my mind this morning, when I stumbled over someone’s websites with themes for cash.

    To be honest, I don’t think that it would work for WordPress. People are used to the fact that they can get their themes and plugins at no extra cost, and that’s a good thing too. If someone comes up with a theme for money, chances are that you can find a similar (or even better) theme for free.

    So there’s this micropayment thing, like 5$ for a theme or plugin. But even with this small amount of money, that specific thing needs to be exceptional, must offer something the vast majority doesn’t have Akismet is such a plugin.

    I don’t think that some paid themes or plugins wouldn’t hurt the community at all. But they won’t be a success either. So, to give a short answer: Yes, for WordPress it’s too late. And that’s a good thing!


  2. Dave M. says: 7/14/2006

    I think if you put both free and paid themes and plugins together in the “store”, a WordPress Theme/Plugin store would work.

    Currently, most of the plugins out there are not “I have to have this plugin to survive” and some of the themes are amazing looking, but lets face it, they are still just themes.

    There are plugins that I’m surprised don’t charge. Akismet comes to mind here.

    I envision “Pay” themes being professional themes that allow you to create a website that is more than just a blog. A site to sell shareware or a podcast studio site like’s new look.

    Most of the themes out there now, great looking as they are, are just blog themes. For blogging, I’m pretty content with using what comes with WP.


  3. Jason says: 7/14/2006

    If the whole community of theme and plugin developers switched to micropayments WP would definitely suffer. But if a small group does it, I don’t think it will make much of a difference.

    To follow up on what CrabApple said, the price of the theme or plugin would have to be small enough for me clearly say that the value of the theme/plugin far outweighs the minor fee for using it. I’d much rather see theme and plugin developers have an option for donating, rather than forcing a payment. If I use something I couldn’t live without, I’m more likely to donate $10-20 to “the cause” rather than being forced to pay $5. If the payment is too much I’d likely try my hand at developing my own plugin or theme.


  4. Michael says: 7/14/2006

    I have published 6 plugins so far (see here).

    However, I also think that it would not work at all.
    Imagine every plugin author would charge you $2 USD per download. No chance to test the plugin prior paying & usage. That will never ever work. Also, I am not willing to pay for a plugin that I have never evaluated before. I have used several plugins that did not work for some reasons, so why paying for such plugins without knowing that they will work on my blog?


  5. Yvonne says: 7/14/2006

    Hell no. The reason WordPress is so popular is because the majority of the themes and plugins its community members create are free. Even then there’s the option of paying for something that gives that little bit extra, but I’d hate to see WP go down the Typepad path.


  6. Scott says: 7/15/2006

    On my theme fownload pages, I have a small Paypal donate button. Many people donate and it’s great way of letting me know they appreciate the theme.

    I do get slightly annoyed when someone asks me if I can help them make on my themes look like the NY Times website or such nonsense.

    If you need a professional design for your professional site, then get a professional. I am not.

    Since people donate, I wouldn’t think of mandating a charge for my themes. Also, WP themes have to be GNU-GPL license compatible in order to use the WP API.


  7. Greg Kiernan says: 7/15/2006

    I would think that its too late now to have a wholesale in WordPress of people paying for themes. There is the whole culture of being able to get something for nothing. If someone needs a professional theme or specific plugin that is not available already then they have to pay for it.

    I would consider that perhaps if WordPress was not in itself a free download then there would be more scope for payment or micropayments for development of themes or plugins


  8. SN says: 7/16/2006

    I agree with you, every effort has to be compensated in some measure. Every plugin creator these days is compensated by name, fame and more visits to his blog!

    Sure this does not pay for his bills, but if wordpress were to shift to a pay/per use model then the popularity would immediately fade away! MT faced this problem long time ago and WP then had profitted from it.


  9. bd says: 7/16/2006

    Perhaps it’s just me, but 2USD is not micropayment. 0.01USD is. Micropayment ends where people would bend down, pick it up and put it in der wallet if they were to find it laying on the street.


  10. Michele ) says: 7/18/2006

    Paypal style donations are one thing, but actually paying for plugins wouldn’t really work for me, as I tend to download a lot more plugins than I actually end up using permanently.


  11. David ) says: 7/18/2006

    It just seems like there are not many people donating. I, myself, have never donated or paid for any WordPress plugins. I have bought a theme before though, but that was to distribute it for free to the community…lol.


  12. Rudd-O says: 8/10/2006

    I went the other way with Turbocharged, preferring to bundle a ton of plugins and themes for $50. At less than a dollar for plugin, it’s a bargain.

    The thing is, you may say “why charge for stuff that’s free on the Web?”. When the stuff has bugs, and needs fixing, bundling and quality control… that’s when it makes sense to purchase instead of download.


  13. Angsuman Chakraborty says: 8/20/2006

    I have decided to make my Translator Pro plugin, based on the original WordPress Translator plugin, for pay only for several reasons:

    1. Lot of development work went to make the plugin perfect, fixing all the defects, to fix pecularities of different translator engine to provide high quality machine translation and above all to implement lots of user requested features. Professional quality development does cost time & money.

    2. I realized that the plugin will need to maintained for future versions of WordPress and to make it work with other plugins which often implement their features in non-standard ways. For example different plugins use the nice url features in different and often incompatible ways. I worked to make this plugin work with UTW as well as wp-email etc.

    3. I want to provide high quality support for my plugins as well as free future upgrades and ensure that it always works seamlessly on all blogs, with other plugins and with future versions of WordPress. It isn’t always possible to solve all complex problems pro-bono.

    What I offer in return is a feature rich plugin. It provides automatic machine translation of your blog in eight different languages – German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean and Chinese. If you liked my previous translator plugin then you are going to love it. It is search engine optimized, supports WordPress widgets, uses nice permalinks, super-fast (cacheable), multi-paged translations and lots more. In short everything you need for your professional quality blog.

    So far I am happy with the response.


  14. Jessie says: 8/22/2006

    The fact of the matter is, if you want a plugin that is robust, easy to use, supported fully by the developer and will upgrade as WordPress does, then that’s more likely to happen if you pay something (either on the front end or on the back end).

    Some ecommerce plugins (like our PG-CafePress and some of the Amazon and other affiliate plugins) do an affiliate ID rotation. That keeps the plugin free but allows us to recoup a tiny (and I do mean microscopic) amount of our Dev costs. (Of course, that works well since many of our users are shopkeepers and the rotation doesn’t affect them.)

    But I doubt, unless there is something really revolutionary, anyone will accept a micropayment model. Not necessarily because they’re cheap, but I suspect that WP’ers don’t like change in general.


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