540 million Active Plugins Makes WordPress a Billion Dollar Market

6 min read

About a month ago I participated in the Prestige Conference in Las Vegas. It was a very memorable experience because I got to meet with businesses thought leaders in the WordPress ecosystem.

I also had a blast hanging with guys like Andrew Munro / AffiliateWP, Kevin Gray / ApproveMe, Chris Klosowski / WPPush, Pippin Williams / EDD, Jeremy Green / Zeen101, and many other brilliant minds. Sharing our experience on different business topics, and learning from each other, was amazing. Thanks for being so open!

One of the main panels that I was in, focused on the addressable market of WordPress. Questions like, “How big of an opportunity is WordPress?”, and “How much money can be made from the ecosystem?” were discussed in great length.

WooCommerce is a great example of how a WordPress focused company can become a BIG and successful business. But is there room in the ecosystem for a billion dollar startup company besides Automattic?


This is a very important question to me, since I’m trying to convince investors that Freemius is going to be that company.

Now that there have been changes to the WordPress.org plugins repository, I believe that we have a better opportunity to quantify the market size of WordPress. Instead of basing results on the number of downloads and BuiltWith.com data, as many have done before, we can now attain a real insight into how big of a market WordPress is by looking at the number of the active installs.

I think knowing the number of total active plugin installs is key to understanding the WordPress market. From our own data with RatingWidget, WordPress shows that we have 10,000+ installs, while we actually have over 23,000+ active plugin installs. We know that since RatingWidget is a SaaS solution – “Serviceware” plugin. I decided to ask other developers about their own data and got similar results.

From looking at the numbers caught by Brian, from Post Status, right after the active installs feature was released, there are way more active installs than what the estimated field says.

After scraping the plugins’ .org repository and looking at the metric of the active installed plugins, we get to 110 million active installs. Adding the factor that this number is probably 50% less than what is going on due to the inaccuracy of the active installs count, we get to about 220 million active plugin installed on WordPress.org hosted sites.

Based on stats released by Yoast and Lorelle VanFossen on Mid 2012, WordPress.com is hosting ~50% of the WordPress sites on the web. Therefore we can assume there’s a similar number of active plugin installed on WordPress.com sites. It gets us to 440 million active plugins.

Based on the research we conducted three months ago on 10,000 self-hosted WordPress sites, we found that there are 25.2 plugins, on average, installed on an average active website. 18.3 of the plugins are active, 17.6 of these plugins have more than 200 lines of code.


Using both of these variables, we can estimate how much WordPress websites are on the web. To calculate the amount of sites we divide the amount of active plugins per the average amount of plugins per site, which is 440 million divided by 18.6 — which is 24 million active WordPress sites.

According to BuiltWith.com CMS stats, there are only 14.7 million active sites, but our calculations show that the ecosystem is by 60% bigger.

Obviously, there are way more plugins outside of the official WordPress repository. Conservative assumption based on my feelings from the market is that there are at least the same amount of plugins out there. I’m not saying these plugins have the same number of active installs, but my intuition tells me there are an additional ~100 million active plugin installs which are not listed on the official repository.

So here is my very rough, but logical assumption. If a plugin with over 200 lines of code is actually installed and active somewhere, it means that it’s more than just a script wrapped in a plugin. It’s not a total crap and it’s actually worth something to someone. That means this plugin could have premium features that someone in the market potentially would be interested to pay for.

Grab a free copy of our Cheat Sheet for
Selling Plugins and Themes

A growth roadmap with concise, actionable tips for every milestone of WordPress product development.

blue book with the title “Cheat Sheet for Selling Themes and Plugins by Freemius” written on it
Name
email

Another huge but reasonable assumption is to say that 2% of the total active websites that using WordPress on the web are actually SMBs, and websites which generate revenues. Therefore these websites have money to pay for plugins (with RatingWidget we see 2.7% conversion to paid).

Since we’re discussing the total addressable market, thus the overall opportunity, let’s see what the numbers are if this 2% are actually paying for the plugins.

So we have roughly 540 million active plugin installs. 520 million of them have more than 200 lines of code. 2% of that 520 million would give us 10.4 million paid plugin installs. If an average plugin is worth $100 a year, we get to over $1B market only for plugins–boom!


If we use similar assumptions regarding the themes market, we can easily add another $66 million to the table (33M sites X 2% X $100).

Conclusion

Next time you are meeting investors and they ask you about the market size, please confidently answer that it’s a big opportunity–at least a billion dollar market, and you can prove it!

As a side note, since we already scraped the WordPress.org repository, I want to ask you guys what data analysis you would be interested for us to cover in the next post!

Vova Feldman

Published by Vova Feldman

Freemius CEO & Founder, a serial entrepreneur and full-stack developer since age 14, propelled by a pursuit of excellence, embraces a holistic approach to life shaped by invaluable lessons in hard work and discipline.

Chris Lema

“There's no question that Freemius has made it a very real way for plugin developers to offer and sell their products. And Freemius isn't just solving the problem of software license keys. They take care of checkout, taxes, software updates, license keys, and even support an affiliate program.”

Chris Lema - Business Coach at Try Freemius Today

Hand-picked related articles

Comments

13 Comments