Should WordPress Mimic Apple Regarding Premium Plugins?

Filed as Editorial, Features on December 10, 2010 10:52 pm

One of the major advantages that WordPress has over its rivals (aside from its beautiful user interface) is the sheer number of plugins available for users to download.

With over 12,000 plugins at its disposal, WordPress vast arsenal dwarfs both Joomla and Drupal who are currently hovering around 6,000 extensions and 7,000 modules, respectively.

However when it comes to the number of premium plugins available, selection seems to be rather slim (at least as far as those that are compatible with the latest version of WordPress).

While WordPress’s current setup for free plugins already places them far ahead of rivals, it might be time to rethink the current approach when it comes to premium plugins for WordPress.

Why Premium Plugins?

I know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would any one want to use a premium plugin when there are plenty of free excellent ones available?”

Although a lot of developers have created free excellent plugins in their spare time, there are some plugins that can not be sustained or maintained by a developer without them incurring significant financial loss or massive amounts of time.

Many of these plugins either deal with blog security, advanced backup systems or usage of licensed media (like images or videos) which require either paying clients or a developer with deep pockets (if they want to give the plugin away for free that is).

Keeping It Simple

Although there are various ways users can install plugins, the “popular” way seems to be either visiting the developers site, paying for the plugin, downloading it to your computer and then installing it upon your WordPress file.

While this process is a lot easier than trying to FTP the plugin into the correct folder (at least for a non-geek), the process is still too complicated for the average user.

Instead of forcing users to jump through various hoops, WordPress could simplify the process by allowing users to purchase premium plugins from within the WP plugin directory itself.

One Payment System To Rule Them All

Instead of users having to whip out a credit card each time or being redirected to a merchant page (say via PayPal or Google Checkout), Automattic (the company behind WP.com) could instead act as a “middle man” in order to simplify the process.

Since thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of users already have a financial relationship with WP.com, Automattic could simply extend that relationship over by acting as a “mini PayPal” for users.

Just like Apple (upon iOS) and Android, Automattic could charge a small percentage fee (say between 10%-20%) to cover bandwidth fees as well as the salaries of a few accountants (to help keep track of all the transactions).

What About Scams And Malware?

In order to prevent users for paying for malware plugins or scams (i.e. those that promise a service then insert spam links within your blog), Automattic would have to check each plugin manually as well as through a scan.

Automattic could then charge a small fee (say under $100) to cover the costs of ensuring each plugin’s safety before receiving their stamp of approval.

Also just like WP.com, Automattic could allow users to request a refund if they are dissatisfied with the developers plugin for whatever reason.

Isn’t _____ Already Doing This?

Although there are sites like WP Plugins that already allow developers to market their plugins, they (unfortunately) do not have the reach of the WordPress directory due to the fact that the latter comes “pre installed” with every WP installation.

By providing a central location for users to easily purchase premium plugins, WordPress could attract a whole slew of developers to their platform desiring to market quality apps to millions of users.

Revamping the WP directory might also make it easier for Automattic to market their own plugin services (such as VaultPress, VideoPress and PollDaddy) which could help the company become a profitable enterprise.

Wouldn’t Premium Plugins Ruin WordPress?

Truth be told quality plugins not premium plugins ultimately help determine the success of WordPress (which many readers reminded me earlier this week).

While not everyone would be willing to pay for a premium plugin, there are many users who would not mind exchanging a few dollars for quality plugins, and would probably pay even more if they were easier to find.

Although WordPress doesn’t need premium plugins in order to be successful, it could help the platform maintain its edge over rivals like Joomla (whose developer community is far more active than the WP communities).

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