By David Bisset and Dan Knauss ️ April 8, 2022

Do the pricing changes represent an opportunity for the WordPress product ecosystem, a blow to democratized publishing, or the beginning of a slow pivot in the service’s identity away from blogging to managed WordPress hosting for the masses? released new pricing plans this week, reducing its five plans down to two: Pro and Free. This change was announced after it went live and was quickly criticized.

One of’s many critics was “VM” whose blog post (hosted at was widely shared and discussed. VM noticed the new pricing had “reduced the storage on the free plan” sixfold, from 3 GB to 500 MB. It “also imposed a traffic ceiling on both plans where none [had previously] existed: 10,000 visits a month and 100,000 visits a month.”

More important for the larger WordPress ecosystem, VM also noted the “new full-site editing option has rendered premium themes, and thus the premium and business plans, redundant.”

VM’s post attracted a lot of comments on Hacker News which then received a response from CEO Dave Martin. Martin apologized for the lack of communication in the rollout:

“You’re right to call us out. I did a poor job of sharing context around why we are making change, so I can see how they could come as a shock. I’m sorry! That’s on me.”

Martin went on to explain that traffic limits would be based on the honor system and à la carte options for the free plan are coming soon.

Rob Howard at MasterWP interprets the pricing changes as an indication Automattic is deprioritizing its free users and “stuck” between its past as a blogging site, like Medium, and a page/site builder like Wix or Squarespace. on the way to a “web-hosting future.”

But perhaps more importantly:

“[this] business model seems to be at odds with WordPress’s long-time fan base (bloggers like the person who wrote the takedown of the new pricing) and the WordPress mission statement, which is to ‘democratize publishing’.”

This is a surprising conclusion. We’ve never interpreted “democratized publishing” as a cost-free blog hosted at — it’s WordPress as a freely available open-source web app you can install where you please, no doubt at some cost. What does to support democratized publishing (the WordPress project) is to promote the brand (albeit in a way that confuses the distinction between .org and .com) and help provide some of Automattic‘s significant resources for steering and sustaining the project.

Finally, as usual, a conversation emerged in Post Status Slack with several people agreeing the free plan’s limits are low, even if they’re not strictly enforced, as Dave Martin indicated on Hacker News.

Matt Mullenweg also stressed the opportunity for plugin and theme owners in Slack:

“[The change] means plugins and themes (which a lot of folks here sell!) will be available on every paid .com plan. Also SFTP, SSH soon, wp-cli, etc. The idea is to simplify into one plan, and a more limited free tier. Any existing free sites above usage will be fine, it’s just a going-forward thing.”

We’ll have to wait and see what the ecosystem effects are from this initial change and whether it impacts the overall mission of the WordPress project. It may not be the “app store” many product owners have wanted, but is opening up some new channels for revenue in the WordPress economy.

It’s too bad the initial pricing changes weren’t part of a communication plan schedued prior to those changes being made. (The CEO should not be discovering how “getting an official blog post drafted and reviewed by those working on this project and by our legal department [can be] challenging on a Sunday.”) A little extra care with public relations goes a long way — from the smallest entrepreneur to a company valued in the billions.

As for the idea that is on its way to becoming a large, managed WordPress hosting conglomerate, we can’t see that far into the future, but maybe you have other thoughts to share in the comments or Post Status Slack. [D&D]