Yes, Patchstack is FREE to download and install on the official WordPress repository. It always has been. Unfortunately, not everyone new to WordPress is aware of this and there are different reasons why.
Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com hosting company) has cloned the official WordPress.org plugin repository which has been recently reported to outrank the search results of the official WordPress plugin directory. This has raised valid concerns within the community.
WordPress.com is NOT WordPress.org
The WordPress ecosystem suffers from a branding issue, causing a lot of confusion. WordPress, the open-source content management system everybody is talking about is built by a global community of volunteers. WordPress and all its plugins/themes are free to download at WordPress.org.
WordPress.com however, is owned by a private company founded by Matt Mullenweg, who is the founder of the WordPress open-source project. Automattic, who previously owned the WordPress trademark, donated it to the WordPress Foundation (WordPress.org), but Automattic has kept the rights to use it for WordPress.com.
To explain it simply, WordPress.org is the official WordPress that everyone is using - it’s open-source, completely free, and accessible to everyone. WordPress.com is a web hosting company that hosts WordPress websites (similar to WPengine, Kinsta, Rocket.net, and many others).
WordPress plugins are FREE on the official WordPress repository
Due to the confusion between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, many new people who get into WordPress think that plugins are a “paid feature” of WordPress. This confusion is understandable if we look at how the plugins are represented on WordPress.com.
On the WordPress.com website, WordPress Themes and Plugins are listed under the “Features” tab. Once you select a plugin, you’ll then see that the plugin is “Free” only in the Business plan, which costs $25/month.
Unfortunately, there is no indicator that this plugin is completely free to download on the official WordPress.org repository. Since WordPress.com (Automattic) cloned the entire WordPress plugins repository, it now competes with the official WordPress.org plugin repository on search results, which can leave even more new people confused.
WordPress.com also changed the context of the plugin listing from “Download” to “Free on Business plan” and “Get started” which effectively misleads new users to sign up for a WordPress.com paid subscription to get a plugin that is free to download on WordPress.org.
What can the WordPress community do about it?
WordPress is open-source software, which is so popular thanks to the global community of contributors, volunteers, and developers who have been building the WordPress core, but also more than 60,000 plugins that are entirely free to download.
It would be a shame if the new people who are yet to get involved with WordPress don’t immediately get the open-source nature of the platform, and the unbelievable flexibility & expandability it has thanks to all of the free plugins the community has built.
Hopefully, this will get clearer in the future. Still, until then we at Patchstack have decided to update our plugin readme file to make sure WordPress.com visitors know that there is an option to get this plugin for free and to make sure they also know that the official WordPress plugin repository is at WordPress.org, not WordPress.com.
Here is the text if you also want to do so:
This plugin can be downloaded for free without any paid subscription from the official WordPress repository.
You can add a clarification and link to the official WordPress.org plugin page on top of your plugin readme file, which will also be copied over to the cloned WordPress.com page. ✌🏼