WordPress Marketplace

Matt, the creator of WordPress, is laying the groundwork for a theme marketplace, the beginning of which he shares in his post Marketplace Idea. The idea is solid, and a step I’ve wanted to see for a while. I design and build my own themes, and will likely do so for a long time to come, but I have never built a theme to give away due to time constraints, so I’m not firmly in either target audience for the service. From this outside (though firmly in the ‘I love WordPress’ camp) vantage point I see some great benefits from this service:

  • The amount of people developing themes will increase, as professionals will be able to justify the time spent on theme creation. If billable hours are important to you, knowing that you are creating a product is worth spending some unpaid time up-front.
  • Following from the last point, the more professional developers and designers that are involved, the more high quality themes will be available.
  • Blog themes will gain in value. While I am a big fan of giving away work, having produced a couple of small plugins and scripts myself, it is important that we establish the fact that good work is worth paying for, and great work doubly so.
  • Good designs that are “retired” from a site could be put into circulation as a theme. I’ve had a couple of designs that I have replaced because I wanted something new on a site, not necessarily because the old design had any major flaws. Knowing that I could earn money, benefit others and/or gain recognition, I’d be more willing to spend some time making the small changes required to place it on the Marketplace. I’m not sure how this point relates to the requirement that the theme has not been published before.
  • This is a great promotion of open source code, without sacrificing the earnings that should come from hard work.

I’m really curious to see how the pricing will play out. Will the system set a price, or a set of prices, or will each theme producer set their own? Knowing only that a subset of users will have to pay to use your theme provides an interesting twist to setting your price and deciding on how much work to put into each theme.

I’m also excited to see how people make names for themselves, building reputations with the themes they produce. This could produce a neat cottage industry, or it could reduce the value of design and development in much the same manner as the “get a whole site for $500” services that have existed for a while. The latter doesn’t worry me very much, as quality stands out, and I know quite a few top notch folks who make their living producing great work at fair prices far above the outsourced rates.


  1. says

    Thanks Matt! These are exciting times on the Web and it’s great to see WordPRess and the larger Automattic offerings at the forefront of experimentation.

  2. says

    good work is worth paying for, and great work doubly so.

    Amen brother. Good post and although I have edited and tweaked my own theme, when I get done using it, looks like I may be able to sell it off.

    Whats interesting is that, WP.org folks will be able to use these pay for themes for free while WP.com users will have to pay for them. That’s the part I’m interested in seeing how it goes over.

  3. says

    Thanks Jeff!

    I agree that the difference in capabilities afforded the .com versus the .org folks is very intriguing and I’ve been debating how much, if any fallout will come from charging the WordPress.com folks while giving it for free to the .org folks, and I am currently of the mind that little will come of it.

    The WordPress.com users have signed up for a free service, due in large part (I think) to their lack of knowledge and/or interest in Web development which is required to set up their own domain, purchase hosting and install and maintain WordPress. That’s a lot of effort for someone who just wants to write. It follows that many of those users don’t keep up on the standalone WordPress announcements or general Web Development news.

    So, if my uninformed judgment is correct, there is only a small fraction of users who will know about the difference, and in many cases, it would be cheaper, and definitely less of a hassle for them to buy the theme and stay on WordPress.com compared to getting it for free and having to do all the work themselves. The effort involved is considerably higher than the likely average cost of a theme.

    There may be a select few who rail against the idea, but they can always switch to host their own install, or as I expect a few people to do, some will try to hack the system by copying the CSS from the free version to paste into their account. Matt mentioned in the comments to his post that Automattic will reduce the feasibility of that type of hack, but again, I think those are pretty small numbers, so I wouldn’t expect too much from it.

    So it’ll come down to awareness that there is a difference between the two services, which I bet is low, the value a new theme has and the effort required to either protest or steal.

    I bet after a few initial adjustments, this will become just another service for WordPress.com users who have shown a willingness to pay for ease of use, stability and interesting features.

  4. says

    Hi — sorry to intrude. I found this post through Matt’s latest post on my WP Dashboard, and the comments here on the open nature of the theme marketplace got me thinking.

    If a theme designer builds and releases a nice theme through the marketplace, which requires that the theme be GPL, would he have to release the theme elsewhere free of charge? Does the GPL dictate that a piece of software released under the GPL must be released free of charge?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that if a person releases a theme under the GPL (which explicitly allows GPL works to be sold at any price) to the Marketplace, and charges for it accordingly, the people that purchase the theme are purchasing (in addition to the rights to use the theme) the source code itself (given that it’s CSS). So why would a person have to release his or her theme elsewhere free of charge?

    Sorry if I’m misunderstanding the GPL. If I released a theme to the Marketplace, I’d want to release it for free elsewhere as well, if for nothing else than to keep with the spirit of WP and the GPL…but I wouldn’t have to if I didn’t want to, right?

    Just saying, because this could possibly eliminate the worry of a backlash from .com users.

  5. says

    Hi Vincent, you make an interesting point. I do not know enough about the GPL to know how the pricing requirements would work out. My inference from Matt’s post was that by releasing it for .com, the designer was implicitly agreeing to also have it released via GPL for .org users. That is by no means definitive, and you should definitely ping Matt via his site for a proper answer.

  6. says

    I think, not only should the designer be able to set the price (with a cap of course), but also how many times it can be bought before it expires so that only maybe 10-15 people can have a design all their own.

    Just a thought. I know that it could definitely be a way to add value to a design
    when there may only be a few people that have it.

  7. says

    Is the WP Marketplace been released yet? I keep reading threads about it from October-December 2007 on the matter but can’t actually find anything about it as of 2008 – any ideas?


  8. says

    I haven’t heard any updates about the Marketplace for a while. They are likely still working out the process and ironing out the kinks. Plus they’re working on version 2.5 of WordPress, so it’s possible that they’ll devote more resources to the project once that’s released.


  1. […] Alex Jones has some good thoughts on the marketplace. As some stats, our themes page on .com got 2.4 million pageviews last month and someone previews a theme about once every 1.74 seconds. I can’t say how many people have purchased upgrades on .com, but even with our limited selection of products it’s a meaningful percentage, and that’s one of the reasons we think this idea has legs. It’s still impossible to know for certain, though, and I appreciate that our launch partners are taking a risk that they might create a theme and not sell a single one, and the whole thing might tank. If it goes well, though, I fully expect there to be thousands of themes in the system by this time next year, and the people in early will have a significant advantage, much like app developers did on Facebook. « WP.com Marketplace Idea Comment » […]

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