Well this is certainly big big news for the WordPress theme community!
Automattic announced earlier today that it is to start offering commercial WordPress themes to wordpress.com users. The story has been picked up amongst all the big tech blogs.
Matt has also posted the back story to the new commercial Marketplace over on themeshaper.
We had suspected early in January that Automattic would be making a big splash in 2011 in the theme community over on the wpcandy.com Future of WordPress themes post and Matt has hinted before that something like this would arrive some day and now it’s here.
For the moment it looks like this is very much a live experiment and I’m sure it won’t be long before it proves to be a roaring success and Automattic will need to start creating their own theme marketplace approval team to cope with the demand to add commercial themes to the marketplace. For the moment 2 excellent themes are being thrown into the wp.com commercial market – Headlines from WooThemes (always LOVED that theme) and Shelf from Theme Foundry.
This news is sure to throw the cat amongst the pigeons in the WordPress theme community. On one hand this new departure of offering commercial WordPress themes to wp.com customers opens up MASSIVE potential opportunities to theme developers (wp.com is likely to have over 20 million active blogs within a few months). On the other there is scope for massive consternation amongst theme developers as to who can get into the marketplace and who cannot.
I think Automattic have a serious job to do to provide further, clear communication to theme developers about how this is all going to work. In fairness, Matt has detailed the back story quite well on themeshaper but I think this one will need regular updates. From looking at the stats on each individual marketplace theme details page, it would look like they’ve only sold about 6 themes in total so far at the time of writing (and that’s assuming that the usage stats on those pages are realtime and and apply to sales – which is a lot of assumptions).
So February is off to a flyer for Automattic! This move now paves the way for Automattic to start adding it’s own commercial themes to the marketplace. That would be a very interesting move as it would potentially open up some good old conflicts of interest between WordPress and it’s theme suppliers.
We truly live in interesting WordPress times!