WordPress.com lets business plan customers install third-party themes and plugins

For the longest time the key difference between sites hosted on WordPress.com and WP sites hosted elsewhere (aka self-hosted sites) was that only the latter could install custom themes and plugins. Now Wordpress.com has changed the features of its business tier hosting plan, giving some of its customers the ability to install almost any theme or plugin.

There has been no public announcement from Automattic, but yesterday I noticed that the hosting plan descriptions on WordPress.com had been updated with the detail that customers on the $25 a month business hosting plan could now “Install third-party themes and plugins.”

The change was initially mentioned in a support thread on WordPress.com in May, but the description was only changed in late June (according to the Wayback Machine).

Details on the limitations of the new theme and plugin support are still scarce, but I have received confirmation through Twitter, however. And I can also point you to a new help/FAQ page on WordPress.com.

If you read that page, you will find there is a catch; not all plugins are compatible with WordPress.com at this time.

Some plugins might not be ready for WordPress.com yet, as this is something the plugin author needs to implement. If a specific plugin does not work for you, let us know. We will get in touch with the author or help you finding a suitable alternative.

Considering the magnitude of change this story represents, it has gotten surprisingly little attention. (The only other coverage is from WPTavern in May, and I only found their story after about 20 minutes of Googling.)

WordPress.com has moved into direct competition with the many hosting companies that offer WordPress support.

Before, WordPress.com had locked down their service to such a degree that it frequently could not do what many users needed. It only had so many theme options, and you could not extend a site’s software abilities. But now that business plan customers can install plugins and themes the possibilities – while not unlimited – are vast.

Twenty-five dollars a month is higher than the budget plans offered by competitors, but it is also in line with their mid-grade offerings – plans that usually come with strict usage limits.

WordPress.com has no limits listed in the  description for its business plan, which means this plan is a serious alternative.

It’s going to come down to service, reliability, and tech support, of course, but if I have a client who is looking for a new host and is willing to pay $25 a month, I will seriously consider pointing them to WordPress.com.

image by whiteafrican

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
After six plus years of running The Digital Reader, Nate is a veteran web publisher with experience in design, maintenance, recovery, and troubleshooting. What little he doesn't know, he can learn.


  1. MikeJuly 24, 2017

    LOL Tavern is owned by Automattic

    1. Nate HoffelderJuly 24, 2017

      I didn’t know, but that would explain why it is featured so prominently in the news feed inside WP.

      In any case, it looks like WP Tavern functions independently.

      1. MikeJuly 24, 2017

        I have been reading it since it was taken over. They are independent sort of – mostly based on the reputations of their writers inside the WP community than anything else.

        1. Nate HoffelderJuly 24, 2017

          Correction: WP Tavern was acquired by founder Mullenweg, not Automattic.

          So the blog is in a position similar to that of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, and WaPo.

          1. MikeJuly 24, 2017

            Actually the writers work for Audry (https://wptavern.com/about) and if you look at the bottom you will see Automattic on the list of their companies.

  2. […] WordPress, which provides the bedrock for many of our websites, have just announced that they are making their .com themes compatible with third party plugins. That will be a source of cheer for all of us. The fact it’s only available under their […]


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