The excellent free blog hosting service WordPress.com has been free from the start. Somewhere it has to make money though, and now I think we’€™re seeing what’€™s in store for this service and its users.
Upgrades are bought in your WordPress.com blog’€™s dashboard, under the Upgrades menu. You use credits to buy upgrades for your blog here, paying with Paypal and cashing up $1 for 1 credit. The first upgrade available is Custom CSS, a way for users who doesn’€™t like the available themes and would like to edit them. A nice and nifty feature I’€™m sure, and I guess weighing in at 15 credits (that’€™s $15, mates) isn’€™t all that horrible since the service overall is so great.
Upgrades are a great idea, and perhaps not so unexpected either. WordPress.com is a way better choice than Blogger in my opinion, and it needs to stay alive for the community. Therefor, adding premium services like this is a great way to give users that are willing to pay a bit more freedom, while others can keep using the free version and be happy with it. The userbase of 288 000 blogs or so will doubtless generate a fair amount of money for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, but overall I think that the Custom CSS upgrade maybe isn’€™t the best choice as a fist release. Granted, it’€™s a wanted feature, but the same people who can hack CSS probably can install WordPress at a cheap web hotel as well. Then again, they still need to keep it upgraded and so on, so sure, it’€™ll prove a good deal.
The price point is interesting by the way. $15 (sorry, 15 credits) isn’€™t aimed at ‘€œas many users as possible’€? ‘€“ it’€™s an amount that really feels premium. Good choice in my opinion, and I’€™m looking forward to see what upgrades in the future will cost, and what they’€™ll be about. If Matt & Co. can find a nifty little widget or something that’€™ll cost 5 credits ‘€“ and still being something that everybody want ‘€“ then WordPress.com will be around for quite some time.
Then again, it probably will either way. Good work guys!
Thord Daniel Hedengren is a designer, writer, and blogger, and also the former editor of The Blog Herald. He used to be a hotshot in the gaming industry in Sweden, but sold everything and went International. Most recently he wrote a book called Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog, and does loads of kickass design.