WordPress.com Announces Market Vision and Plans to Partner with WordPress Ecosystem Developers – WP Tavern

Donna Cavalier announced the market view of WordPress.com earlier today via the site’s news blog. This future will include bringing premium themes, plugins and services to users. Automattic, the company behind the site, will partner with third-party developers to bring these commercial offerings to its customers.

Plugin developers, theme designers and WordPress service providers can be added to the early access list by filling out the form on the announcement post.

At the end of January, WordPress.com announced a limited internal plugin market. It was the testing ground before opening the door to others. The launch included six WooCommerce extensions and has since grown to eight. Pricing plans range from $4 to $21 per month and $44 to $224 per year, depending on the plugin purchased.

Premium plugins at WordPress.com.

Users must currently be on a Business or eCommerce plan to install plugins. If paid annually, these plans cost $300 and $540 respectively. For some users, adding commercial plugins will be out of reach unless WordPress.com opens it up to the low-cost Premium or Personal tiers.

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and co-founder of WordPress commented on the January announcement:

We will definitely be opening this program up more in the future, first with some premium plugins to test things out in beta, including payments and tracking, and then we’ll be opening it up more to anyone who wants to be a part of it.

We have about 2 million people with payment details on file that we can make it easy to upgrade with a click, so hopefully that’s a potential new audience and a big customer base for people who sell things in the WP ecosystem. And of course, we will prioritize working with developers and companies that participate in Five for the Future and contribute back to the WP community.

An embedded audience of 2 million users will likely attract many developers into the ecosystem. This could be a boon for those looking to grow their following.

However, the devil is always in the details. The announcement did not include the finer points, such as profit sharing and what could be a rigorous process, judging by the Market guidelines.

By giving priority to those who contribute to Five for the future (5ftF), WordPress.com may limit the pool to companies that can afford to commit time to the WordPress open source project. This could put small businesses or new developers in the space at a disadvantage. Some just need help getting their foot in the door.

5ftF is an initiative that encourages organizations to commit 5% of their resources to WordPress.

The program also only recognizes hours contributed through a Make Team. There are no other options selectable via the Contribution tab on WordPress.org profiles. Hours spent developing free plugins, themes, and alternative ways to give back to the community don’t count. These types of contributions can easily exceed 5% of a developer’s or company’s time or resources.

Form fields for pledging a contribution.  Fields for sponsored, hours per week, and contributor teams on WordPress.org.
5ftF pledge form at WordPress.org.

There is also a problem of false and dormant 5ftF pledges. Andrea Middleton noted in a post last August that this has been a problem since the implementation of the system in 2019:

The program runs on the honor system, and it wasn’t clear how much of a risk it would be at launch. Two years later, there have certainly been more “spam” promises than anyone would like, and surprisingly (to me) few reports of false promises or spam. What this tells me = either people aren’t going to surf the promise lists, check for accuracy, the report function is too hard to find (unlikely), or people don’t really care if the promises are accurate or not.

I think a substantial number of bogus/fake/spam promises are a problem, as they depreciate the value of sincere/active/real promises. If we never intend to clean the rollers, we should probably consider shutting down the program or putting more disclaimers on the site.

Ian Dunn, a WordPress contributor via Automattic, opened a follow-up ticket on GitHub to clean up inaccurate commitments four days ago.

Esther L. Gunn