WordPress economy driving more than half a trillion in global revenue

Heather Brunner, Chairwoman and CEO of WP Engine

WP Engine, the WordPress technology company, announced the results of a new, first-of-its-kind research study examining the combined global economy for WordPress, which was estimated at $596.7bn in 2020, and is expected to grow to $635bn by the end of 2021.

The study examined both the economic value of the WordPress ecosystem and the social impact of this ever-expanding community of open source developers, agencies and users.

To put the global WordPress economy in context, if WordPress were a country, its economy would rank 39th in the world according to an IMF list of countries by GDP. 

The estimated 2021 economy facilitated by WordPress is comparable to that generated by the Apple App Store at  $643B, and if it were equivalent to the market cap of a company it would come in at no. 10 on the list of companies.

The research, commissioned by WP Engine and carried out in the U.S., UK and Australia by Dr. Chris Brauer, Director of Innovation in the Institute of Management Studies (IMS) at Goldsmiths  University of London and Vanson Bourne, was undertaken to assess the economic value and the social impact of WordPress.

What is the scope of the WordPress’ research?

It included a comprehensive review of academic and industry literature, including adjusting OECD economic indicators for digital economies as well as complementary primary data and analysis of economic value through industry valuations and projections from surveys of WordPress Economy research group members, 400 businesses and 400 WordPress end users.

The study also brought together an incredible, broad group of more than 100 collaborators representing a cross section of the various, dynamic aspects of the WordPress ecosystem.

The include hosts, agencies, plugin and theme providers—all businesses which derive revenue in some way from WordPress and helped provide guidance on the study.

“This groundbreaking research shows the definitive leadership role WordPress plays in the global digital economy,” said Heather Brunner, Chairwoman and CEO of WP Engine

“A $596.7B economy is such a validation of the value that WordPress, its ecosystem and its robust community bring to the world.”

“In the future, as WordPress looks to cross 50% of the web we see it playing an even larger role with individuals and businesses of all sizes as they connect, collaborate and accelerate their business growth through this incredible open source platform.”

“As no reliable benchmark valuation of the WordPress economy currently exists, we needed to innovate a methodology and solution for arriving at a reliable valuation,” said Dr. Chris Brauer Director of Innovation in IMS at Goldsmiths, University of London.

“In this process we created a model that not only accounted for WordPress’ financial value, but also measured the intangible contribution from the open source community and external factors that are beyond the market’s control such as the pandemic.”

“Our interdisciplinary research team of social scientists, statistical modellers and economists used a mixed methods approach to analyse the value of WordPress.”

“This resulted in an innovative socio-economic model that accounted for user-specific data that reflects WordPress’ financial value, intangible contribution and the situational contexts of external factors.”

WordPress and digital economy growth

IDC projects global digital economy revenue to reach $5tn in 2021, up from $4.8tn in 2020. 

It predicts the digital economy will remain robust, estimating a 5% compound annual growth rate for the industry through 2024. If this prediction materialises, it will represent 4.2% growth annually, signaling a return to the trend line the industry was on prior to the pandemic.

Market data indicates that a tremendous share of the economic value generated in the digital economy comes from websites, which could be partially attributed to the foundational role of WordPress in enabling economic expressions and interactions.

WordPress is the most dominant CMS on the market, with a significant proportion of market share, averaging at 64.8%, much higher than all of its competitors combined.

WordPress currently powers more than 41.4% of the Internet. As of December 2020, WordPress has become the primary type of site on the Internet.

“With open-source software, we can modify it, update it, reuse it; I think there is a lot of power there,” said Juan Garcia, Head of Technology at whiteGREY in Australia.

“That’s something very interesting coming from a services company—if you do things well, put a bit of time and contribute into the community, it can become a great source of revenue.”

The social impact of the WordPress ecosystem

Growth within the WordPress ecosystem is not only reliant on economic elements but is also driven by social contributors. Social factors increase the value of the ecosystem within the community and lead to higher levels of innovation.

A combination of all these factors—economic, social and innovation—can allow businesses to achieve the full potential and benefits of WordPress.

Guy Martin, Executive Director, OASIS Open, suggests the WordPress ecosystem is reliant on the core concepts of, “consume, contribute, and build value.”

WordPress pushes the boundaries of digital innovation toward an environment that understands how achieving economic value is crucially connected to building social impact.

Martin added “The secret sauce of open source is people—its community.”

“That is the most valuable piece of open source. Building that community development model, building that ability to tap and harness people no matter where they are.”

“WordPress is the commons of the web. It allows people to communicate with freedom,” said David Lockie, founder of Pragmatic.

“And that creates tangible value and wealth, but it also creates intangible value for our societies in this time of centralisation of power. Two very different, but very critical values.”

Freedom to create with WordPress

As the leader in Managed WordPress and WordPress technology, WP Engine is the driving force behind 1.5 million digital experiences for over 175,000 customers across 150 countries.

In fact, WP Engine is the most popular platform for WordPress, according to W3Techs, managing more WordPress sites among the top 10 million than anyone else. It’s also the fastest platform on desktop and mobile for WordPress.

Research methodology

The research design used a mixed method approach to create an empirically-driven assessment of the value of WordPress and resulted in our model and economic value equation.

The methods used were:

  • A comprehensive review of academic and industry literature, including adjusting OECD economic indicators for digital economies
  • Complementary primary data and analysis of economic value through industry valuations and projections from survey of 28 WordPress Ecosystem consortium members, 400 businesses + 22 Consortium members and 400 end users
  • Five external SME interviews /contributions in economic impact of WordPress informing our model/equation
  • Four case studies from organisations profiling the role of WordPress on economic outcomes through the pandemic crisis (drawn from USA, UK, Europe and AUS)

All research methods were designed in the context of the Covid-19 crisis and rebound economy. Specific efforts were undertaken to assess economic change in relation to the crisis.