WordPress Gets Its Own App Store, Sort Of

By May 18, 2012

It seems like every company out there is building their very own app store; first Apple, Amazon, then Google, now Facebook… all of tech’s biggest players are getting in on the action. And now WordPress – the ridiculously flexible, free, and open source blogging platform –slash– dynamic content management system that powers, like, most of the websites you frequent, including Techli – can say “me too*,” because one intrepid Nova Scotian developer named Brad Touesnard unveiled the solution to WordPressers’ app-finding woes in the form of one tidy little plugin: the WP App Store.

The “sort of” in the title of this article and the asterisk in the first paragraph are there for a reason. WordPress does not officially have an app store; Mr. Touesnard’s plugin isn’t sanctioned or endorsed by WordPress’s maintainers. We just wanted to get that out of the way before continuing.

To WordPress’ credit, its official theme and plugin directory is surprisingly comprehensive, and it’s easily accessible from the sidebar of any WordPress installation. But there’s a problem, which is that the offerings on the official WordPress plugin and theme directory are limited to free things. But this hasn’t stopped a rich ecosystem of paid, “premium” plugins and themes from cropping up around the free blogging software.

Touesnard described the problemthe WP App Store is trying to solve to The Next Web’s Harrison Weber earlier today:

The current purchase + installation process looks roughly something like this:

  • Browse various custom vendor websites to find, compare and contrast themes and plugins
  • Purchase product from individual vendor
  • Download product files to your desktop
  • Upload the product files to your server/WP installation via FTP
  • Activate the new product on your WP install.

WP App Store combines all of this into one, seamless experience that doesn’t require the user to ever leave the WordPress dashboard. To get started with WP App Store, upload and install the free plugin. Browse screenshots, demo links and version information on themes and plugins in the store or view purchased products and re-install if needed. Filter and sort themes by category and publisher, and when you’re ready to purchase, simply click the large green Buy and Install button to start the process.

The WP App Store is an easy, “one stop shopping” destination for anyone with some money to burn who wants to kick their blog or website up a notch. As evidenced by the video, its user interface is clean and intuitive, so even non-technical users can browse and buy with ease – just like how non-technical people can use and extend WordPress without knowing a lick of PHP, JS or MySQL.

The WP App Store is, above all, a store. It offers wares from the likes of Mint ThemesPress 75Gravity Forms, ThemeFuse and more. Brad described the WP App Store’s business model in a Q&A on Hacker News, saying that his startup takes 30 percent of each sale as a commission. He said adding features like search and ratings are “high priorities,” and suggested that his decision to call his project an “App Store” will likely have few negative repercussions, as Amazon will likely beat back Apple’s lawsuit which claimed ownership over the words “App Store.” In the same Q&A session, he also explored the possibility of offering free themes and plugins on the WP App Store.

The WP App Store faces some competition from the likes of ThemeForest, WooThemes, and a number of smaller competitors, but the key advantage of the WP App Store is its presence inside its users’ WordPress installations. Asked if direct competition from WordPress (e.g. through allowing paid plugins and themes on its directory) is a possibility, Touesnard dismissed his interlocutor’s concerns as unlikely, because the premise of the WP App Store “does not align with the philosophy of the WordPress Foundation.”

The WP App Store’s advisors include Adii Pienaar, cofounder of WooThemes; Carl Hancock, partner at rocketgenius and creator of Gravity Forms; and Jason Cohen, founder of four companies including Smart Bear and currently WPEngine, who’s also a mentor at Capital Factory.

So, in short: the WP App Store is a centralized hub where users can purchase premium themes and plugins without the hassle of having to browse dozens of providers’ sites to find the theme or plugin they need. Anyone with admin privileges on a WordPress install who’s interested in checking out the WP App Store can do so here.


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