It looks like WordPress.com is quickly increasing the number of paid themes available for WordPress blogs, while the number of new free themes are only trickling out.
In the last couple of months, there have been twelve new themes. Out of those twelve, only four have been released for free. The rest are all paid themes, with a cost of around $75.
The thing that bothers me is that you can’t bring this theme with you to other sites if you leave WordPress.com, so you are really just renting it on the WordPress.com ecosystem. I currently pay for the following upgrades on my WordPress.com blog:
- $13/year Domain Upgrade
- $30/year Custom Design Upgrade
- $20/year 10GB Storage Upgrade
This means that I spend $63 per year on WordPress.com, money that provides me with a great service. I don’t have to worry about updating WordPress, securing it, or web hosting resources. I’m not complaining about WordPress.com, nor am I complaining about the idea that WordPress.com is becoming a paid theme marketplace. I think the WordPress community needs a great theme marketplace. I guess my question is, why can’t I retain “ownership” over a paid theme, so I can use it on WordPress.org installations?
Also, if they are going this route, what can we expect in the future from WordPress.com free themes? Are they going to be updated for the new features that are being added? Where is the line drawn? What benefit does having a large library of free themes have on WordPress.com? I hope they make their plans more transparent, as I’ve struggled to find a free theme that’ll make it easy for me to customize, despite having a $30 upgrade to do so, and their new “easier” customization tool they’ve implemented on WordPress.com.
I wish that WordPress.com would extend the customization options to the free themes. I also wish that WordPress.com would add plugins like Gravity Forms to their available options. Could you imagine how many people would love to have Gravity Forms on their WordPress.com blog for around $50? (You have to give WordPress.com their cut of the proceeds)
I am happy to see the WordPress.com team releasing more themes into their platform, but I think they should discuss the future of free themes on the platform. I can’t see the value in paying $75 for a theme, and $30 to be able to customize it when I could manage WordPress.org myself on a cheap web host and gain access to thousands of free themes with unlimited customization. The WordPress.com platform is only a good option so long as it costs me less than the time and money it would take me to do it myself on a less restricted platform.