WordPress.com Experiments With Allowing Business Plan Customers to Install Third-Party Plugins and Themes

One of the most important things that distinguishes self-hosted WordPress from WordPress.com is the ability to install custom themes and plugins. A recent change to WordPress.com’s Business Plan removes this limitation, allowing customers to install most third-party plugins and themes.

WordPress.com Comparison Chart
WordPress.com Comparison Chart

In a WordPress.com support thread created in February, a user asked how to install plugins on WordPress.com. Volunteers responded with the usual explanation that plugins can not be installed on WordPress.com and that they would need to use the self-hosted version of WordPress instead.

A few days ago, Valedeoro, a member of WordPress.com’s support staff, updated the thread announcing that third-party plugin support had recently been opened to customers on the WordPress.com Business Plan.

Quick update on third-party plugins: We’ve recently opened the opportunity to install plugins for Business Plan users. Keep in mind that most features are covered already by the plugin included in your WordPress.com account, so it is possible that you do not need any additional plugins.

Further into the thread, a second support staff member acknowledged that WooCommerce can be installed. A third support staff member confirmed that the ability to install most third-party plugins and themes was added to the Business Plan.

Details of the changes have not been published yet. “We’re still in an experimentation phase,” Automattic representative Mark Armstrong said. “It’s something we’ve rolled out to Business Plan users over the last couple weeks, and we’re looking forward to continued testing.”

This move would place WordPress.com squarely in the managed WordPress hosting space. If installing custom plugins and themes becomes a permanent feature, it will be interesting to see how it affects the confusion between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.


32 responses to “WordPress.com Experiments With Allowing Business Plan Customers to Install Third-Party Plugins and Themes”

  1. I’m very curious how this will play out and the details… basically WordPress.com would become a “traditional” Managed Host akin to Pagely, WPEngine etc?

    @Titus if you’re interested in Peepso Hosting we’ve recently launched a partnership with them: https://wefoster.co/peepso-hosting/

  2. It was only a matter of time until this happens. The confusion between .com and .org has been one of the most annoying things while selling commercial WordPress themes as you’re often dealing with customers who purchase the wrong package / product.

    From that point of view this change is great. On the other hand it will be interesting to see how hosting companies will respond to this. It definitely will lead to more competition which eventually is good for end users, but probably not for all hosting companies out there.

  3. This is a smart move for WordPress.com. With this feature, it will be much easier to get new users and to keep old ones. Also, from my perspective finally I can stop explaining to my clients why they can’t use my themes on WordPress.com :)

  4. It would be great when a list of plugins is published. This opens a great opportunity to add more features to wordpress.com and empower the platform.

  5. This sure blurs the already blurry line between WP.com and WP.org. According to my calculations, this makes it virtually impossible to explain the difference between the two.


    • I guess we’ll have to explain the differences now between WordPress.com, WordPress.com Business Plan, and Self-hosted WordPress lol.

      • Indeed. If only WordPress.com would change their name…. there are so many other possible brand names that better describe what it does.

  6. Whoa.. this is interesting. It’s like a cheap version of VIP with some limitations (no FTP or database access). I wonder if plugins like Adminer will be allowed.

    I believe this will also allow them to better compete with some website builders that allow custom themes and plugins like Shopify.

  7. Funny how different people/companies will see this an opportunity or or as a threat depending on where they fit into the ecosystem…

    • You’re right. I don’t quite know whether it’s a threat. While this may be a boon for theme and plugin developers, maybe not so much for those who have been building custom for clients on .org based sites. Although, leaving maintenance and update to the .com folks might be interesting as well.

  8. Jeff, does this mean we can now run our own advertising such as Google Adsense instead of the WordPress WordAds system? A lot of bloggers want to run ads but can’t. That would certainly hinder this new service. Anyone know?

  9. Fascinating.

    This presents a major paradigm shift for WordPress.com, and could present some challenges to the hosting industry, while also creating new opportunities for developers.

  10. It’ll be interesting to see if Automattic allow customers to install split licensed products from Themeforest and CodeCanyon.

  11. For us, as plugin developers, this is a nice move as it opens up more market for us.

    But if I were a developer of strictly FREE plugins, with zero premiums or stuff to sell, I’d feel completely cheated at this point. WordPress.com starts making money off of a free plugin. The developer doesn’t make money from her or his plugin. Only Automattic makes money off of their work.

    Does this bother no one else?

    Developer X makes a free plugin, which brings great add-ons to wordpress. Developer X makes zero money off of this plugin, because Dev X doesn’t sell premiums, support packages, etc. Automattic, however, takes Dev X’s plugin and they make money from it.

    A lot of people will buy the Business Plan now because of the 3rd party plugins.

    Again, for me: this is perfect. I’ll have more people (paying people) who will install my freemiums, and they’ll end up also buying something from me. Which is cool.

    For the dedicated devs who just wanted to offer something cool for free, I’m not sure this will seem like a fair move on Automattic’s part.

    • How does this affect free plugin developers? This appears to be just a hosting service. Free plugin developers were aware that paid hosting services would be used by almost all users of their plugins before they built them.

      • Then they should allow for 3rd party plugin integrations on all their plans. Otherwise, it looks like a special feature created just for the Business Plan.

        However, I don’t agree with wp.com being a hosting service. It’s marketed as a website builder.

        WordPress.com is presented as a platform. It’s a website builder platform which you get to use in a freemium system: some features are free, some are paid.

        If 3rd party integrations is a paid feature, then it’s a paid feature of a platform, not of a hosting service.

        • WordPress.com is presented as a platform. It’s a website builder platform which you get to use in a freemium system: some features are free, some are paid.

          It was. That no longer seems to be the case.

          If 3rd party integrations is a paid feature, then it’s a paid feature of a platform, not of a hosting service.

          It appears to be a totally different platform altogether.

        • Nice. Well if they re-brand as a Managed Hosting solution for WordPress then everything will be good. And it would make a lot of sense for them.

          Smart people developing the core; Automattic just providing Managed Hosting and not having to deal with platform issues.


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