Cory Miller who is one of the guys behind iThemes.com has published a long but excellent piece regarding his thoughts on why there needs to be a commercial WordPress plugin market. Honestly, I think Cory’s post has been the best on the subject and I don’t disagree with much of what he said. In terms of supporting the commercial interest of plugin authors from the plugin repository, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. We already know that theme authors who sell their themes under the GPL license have been rewarded via a commercial themes page on WordPress.org. Back in July of 2009, the BlogHerald asked Matt if the same thing would happen for plugins:
Commercial plugins are already seamlessly integrated with the plugin directory.
I don’t know exactly what that means but if we take a look at the page that lists the restrictions and qualifications to be hosted on the repository, there are no rules against commercialization. Since commercial plugins/authors ARE indeed part of the WordPress community, how should the plugin repository reflect that, if at all? All plugins within the repository are free of charge, so how do you make a business out of that? Although it’s not listed, up-selling appears to be an acceptable practice within the plugin but there are still no rules on how up-selling is considered acceptable. Unfortunately, this is subjective so I’m not sure there will ever be a concrete guideline. But users of the software can certainly be vocal about it to have it changed if they don’t like it. Other questions I have regarding the repository:
If plugins that were freely available on the repository switch to a paid model, can they link to the paid model from their repo page? Post Templates is a good example of this. *UPDATE* Apparently, this is not accepted as Post-Template has been removed from the repository.
Can a plugin author link to a specific place within the readme.txt file that tells users where they can get paid support?
Can a plugin author state that if the end user will be using the plugin on a commercial website, that they HAVE to buy it?
If there are enough signs that the plugin is commercial, will donation links be removed from that plugins repository page?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions and your guess is as good as mine since the answers are not clearly written down in the repository guidelines. What I’m anxiously awaiting for is a post by Matt himself weighing in on this sector of the WordPress contributor community and his thoughts on how resources of WordPress.org can be used or not used to support those efforts. He’s made it clear in the past that he loves to see people making a living from WordPress but he’s also been vocal about having a completely different opinion of paying for themes versus paying for plugins.