WordPress plugins are modular packages of code that install into WordPress sites to provide a wide range of functionality. They differ from themes in that a single WordPress website can have any number of plugins. Most WordPress websites have at least 5 or 10 plugins installed, and many have upwards of 100 or more WP plugins active. The modular structure of WordPress is widely credited for it’s success and in the official WordPress directory there are typically over 30,000 plugins available. The number varies as new WordPress plugins are added on a nearly daily basis, while others are often retired or delisted for a variety of reasons.
Major WordPress Plugin Types
The main types of WordPress plugins are 3rd party plugins, these are plugins developed by another company as opposed to plugins that your own company develops. It may seem obvious to most WordPress users and site owners that plugins comes from a 3rd party, but many companies do developer their own in-house WordPress plugins to help power their site and extend the features of their WordPress ecosystem.
Another major distinction between WordPress plugin types are the different in payment model. You can either install entirely free plugins which includes all those listed in the official WordPress plugins directory, and you will even find more free plugins on GitHub where there might be either utility plugins or plugins not yet ready for the wider market, or specialty plugins that developers don’t bother to release to the official directory. Then there is the marketplace for WordPress plugins. This is the great wide world of WordPress plugins for sale at a licensing cost that typically ranges from as little as $30 a year to as much as $500 per year for certain premium plugins. Typically WordPress plugin sellers provide licensing options that cover either 1 site, a few sites, or a larger number of sites to serve the developer market. Sometimes pro plugins are available to license for an unlimited number of sites, and sometimes licenses are offered as a “lifetime bundle” that gives the buyer unlimited usage for life with little or no restrictions. Such deals are increasingly rare however as WP plugin makers start to realize the potential downsides of having a larger customer base to support while no longer having increased revenues from those that buy lifetime deals.
Some of the top selling WordPress plugins are in the ecommerce space where WooCommerce is the leading free base plugin. The sales of official WC extensions is one of the major sources of revenue for Automattic, the company behind WordPress that was founded by WP’s original creator, Matt Mullenweg.