Why WordPress Can’t Kill Commercial Plugin Businesses

Will WordPress be a Plugin Business Killer? The post is based on the idea that features from a commercial plugin added to WordPress could kill the business based on that plugin.

The short answer to Poulson’s question is no. Here’s why.

WordPress Needs To Be Generic

gravityforms logoWordPress serves a huge audience. Commercial plugins usually address a specific niche and hammer away at it with features and functionality. It wouldn’t make sense to take GravityForms or Backup Buddy and merge them into WordPress because those plugins are not generic enough to cover a wide audience.

Even if a GravityForms were to merge into core, it would likely be stripped of its niche focused functionality and probably be rewritten. It would be stripped to a point of basic functionality to cover the majority of WordPress users. GravityForms would likely continue to exist as a successful commercial plugin since it would contain features that didn’t make it to the core of WordPress.

Don’t Sell Features, Sell Products

Within the comments of the article, Carl Hancock of RocketGenius made a great point when he said:

To me a viable commercial product is just that. A product. Not a feature. If something is more of a feature, then unless it’s part of a collection of offerings it could be dicey to rely on it as a commercial plugin. Features aren’t products.

I agree. Commercial plugins that are just glorified features are more at risk of being added to core than full-fledged products. Regardless of either camp, merging existing plugins into core is not a routine task. Outside of the features as plugins first model, it rarely happens.

I don’t think commercial plugin author needs to worry. Is it a possibility worth considering? Definitely, but it’s one of those thoughts that should be in the back of your mind, not the forefront.

6 Comments


  1. As someone who entered the premium plug-in business in the last 2 weeks, this is encouraging to hear! As WordPress continues to morph from blog platform to CMS there will be even more edge cases that require custom functionality. Regardless, the original post did make me think about the inherent risk of entering the premium plugin market.

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  2. Building a business on Open Source is always tricky, since it’s constantly evolving and changing based on the collective group working on it. So doing something above and beyond a simple feature edition is where you’ll likely find more success.

    Premium Plugins seem to be the hot button topic lately, but if we look back to a couple years ago when the theme market exploded, WordPress itself always had great themes and offerings, yet people still purchased the premium themes, and they will with plugins as well, if your plugin (and extras you’re offering, like support, etc) are worth the ticket price.

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    1. People does not love to buy a plugin. Basically they try to find out a quick and easy solution for their problems and when a plugin developer add value like in terms of support and free updates then people start purchasing these plugins.

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  3. Great to see the discussion continuing over here!

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  4. I had a business which was obliterated by WordPress including it’s functionality in core (it was menus). My plugin became mostly irrelevant overnight, as the implementation in core was much better than I had in my own plugin.

    I saw that as more of a failing on my part than anything else though. If my plugin was good enough, then I would have gotten a lot of kudos and advertising purely from having that functionality bundled into core. I would have been the goto person for menu stuff in core. As it stood, I was that guy who made a half-baked plugin that sort of did what people wanted, but not quite, then core got menus and my plugin and services became irrelevant.

    My point being … if your plugin is good enough, then I think there are benefits to having your stuff rolled into core.

    If your plugin is not good enough, and core implements something better, then you just become a sheep who got squashed during the process of WordPress improving itself. Everyone benefits (well, apart from you perhaps, but you are just one person in a sea of millions).

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    1. @Ryan: You can still be the goto person for menu stuff in core if you’d like. I’ll even beg. :-)

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