The day is finally here. The WordPress.org plugin directory has officially passed one billion plugin downloads.
That’s pretty crazy considering just a little over a year ago, there were only 700 million downloads. A third of all plugin downloads occurred in just this last year!
I mean, it’s no wonder, considering WordPress powers almost a quarter of the Internet.
But when I see stats like this, I always ask one question: Why?
Why did we see this huge growth in WordPress? And why are there so many plugin downloads?
Where Did All These Plugin Downloads Come From?
Before jumping into this exploration, I want to give a quick disclaimer: this is my opinion based on my experience in the world. You probably have your own opinion. As such, I invite you to share it in the comments after this article. I am definitely interested to hear it.
That being said, in order to understand my opinion, you need to know a bit about my background.
I was not a developer at all when I started with WordPress. In fact, the first time I even heard the word “WordPress” was in 2010, during my final semester of college. I had started my first business on some whimsical notion that I could build a clothing business, and knew that I needed a website. One of my professors suggested checking out WordPress: “They have all these themes you can choose from, it’s pretty easy to use, and best of all…the software is free!”
For a college student, I couldn’t say no to free.
So I launched my first business’s website using WordPress. After I closed up shop on that business, I played around other business ideas, from handling marketing at a tech startup, to running a blog, to selling information products.
I took a step back one day and realized that I had been using WordPress almost every single day, and I had become quite good at it. So I started a new business helping people with their WordPress websites, which launched me down a new path of WordPress businesses.
So you see, I don’t see the WordPress community only from a developer’s perspective. I’m like a hybrid. I’m very much aware of its use for entrepreneurs.
And entrepreneurs, I believe, are what drive this huge growth of plugin downloads.
WordPress Made It Even Easier And Cheaper To Start A Business
Before WordPress was around, people said it was relatively cheap to start an online business. You didn’t need all the capital required to set up an infrastructure or purchase a brick and mortar building.
But it still required some capital to invest in your website.
Then WordPress came along. Starting out as a blogging platform, it quickly evolved into a content management system capable of building almost any type of website you could think of.
And because it was open source, developers jumped in and started building plugins and themes to extend its capabilities.
Now, if you wanted to start an online business, you could do so with less than a hundred bucks. Buy hosting for $7 a month, purchase a nice WordPress theme for about $50, and get some plugins (most of what you need to get started are free).
When I was involved in the whole Internet marketing/info product world, I remember people having an idea one night, and launching their business the next.
In fact, a friend of mine (who I won’t name for privacy reasons) came up with an idea for a business course, spent 4 hours building the course, and launched it. A few months later, he was pulling in a 5-figure monthly income.
Like a gold rush, people just started flocking to WordPress, looking to build their own online empire with minimal capital or time investment.
And of course, when there’s a gold rush, you need someone to make the shovels.
The Rise Of The WordPress Entrepreneur
So we have all these people starting businesses using WordPress to build their sites.
Suddenly, there’s this huge demand for specific plugins for their business: they need contact form plugins, landing page plugins, eCommerce plugins.
Of course, there were smart developers and entrepreneurs who jumped in and started building plugins, both free and paid…many using a freemium model.
The plugin growth boomed, and downloads soared, as even more businesses started using WordPress.
And then something meta happened: plugins were being created for plugin creators.
Easy Digital Downloads, for instance, is a plugin many plugin developers use to sell their own plugins.
So what launched the plugin directory to over 1 billion downloads?
It was the entrepreneurs starting businesses using WordPress, entrepreneurs building plugins for those initial entrepreneurs, and a third tier of entrepreneurs building plugins for that second tier.
The question I have to ask next…
Will It Keep Growing?
For the foreseeable future, I don’t see this growth slowing down. But on the horizon, I see some things which may stop growth a bit.
New software is being developed to work with specific niches in the WordPress community. For instance, Ghost was developed to go back to the roots of WordPress to make it easier to blog. Or look at the Rainmaker Platform for content marketers.
Also, there are only so many plugins that can be created before the plugin marketplace becomes saturated. Sure, people will keep developing plugins, but I imagine at some point, that growth will slow down.
Lastly, at this moment in time, entrepreneurship is popular and hip (hence, Silicon Valley on HBO). But I wouldn’t be surprised if that enthusiasm for entrepreneurship (especially online businesses) starts the wane a bit.
I’m extremely happy that WordPress came along. Without it, I would not have been able to start any of my businesses. And I know many other entrepreneurs feel the same way.
One billion plugin downloads is indicative of that.
So, now let me turn it over to you. What do you think?
Was Internet entrepreneurship what spurred the growth of WordPress and led to one billion plugin downloads? Or do you have some insight that I missed? I admit, I saw the WordPress community from only one angle. You may have seen it from another.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.