One of the most important things that distinguishes self-hosted WordPress from WordPress.com is the ability to install custom themes and plugins. A recent change to WordPress.com’s Business Plan removes this limitation, allowing customers to install most third-party plugins and themes.
In a WordPress.com support thread created in February, a user asked how to install plugins on WordPress.com. Volunteers responded with the usual explanation that plugins can not be installed on WordPress.com and that they would need to use the self-hosted version of WordPress instead.
A few days ago, Valedeoro, a member of WordPress.com’s support staff, updated the thread announcing that third-party plugin support had recently been opened to customers on the WordPress.com Business Plan.
Quick update on third-party plugins: We’ve recently opened the opportunity to install plugins for Business Plan users. Keep in mind that most features are covered already by the plugin included in your WordPress.com account, so it is possible that you do not need any additional plugins.
Further into the thread, a second support staff member acknowledged that WooCommerce can be installed. A third support staff member confirmed that the ability to install most third-party plugins and themes was added to the Business Plan.
Details of the changes have not been published yet. “We’re still in an experimentation phase,” Automattic representative Mark Armstrong said. “It’s something we’ve rolled out to Business Plan users over the last couple weeks, and we’re looking forward to continued testing.”
This move would place WordPress.com squarely in the managed WordPress hosting space. If installing custom plugins and themes becomes a permanent feature, it will be interesting to see how it affects the confusion between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.