So the WP App Store is now up and running and it’s very slick and it’s very usable and if you want to install it on your site just head over to wpappstore.com and access the free download.

Let me turn to anyone not yet in the know. What is the WPAppStore, what does it do and why might you care? Well in a nutshell it brings the products of a select number of independent premium theme and plugin developers right to your WordPress dashboard. Once installed, the WPAppStore plugin lets you browse, demo, purchase and install premium themes and plugins without having to move between sites or worry about downloads, uploads and all of that paraphernalia.

The presentation of themes and plugins on the WPAppStore admin page takes a big leaf from the Tumblr theme model. It presents users with a selection of premium themes and plugins in grid format, with thumbnails and information links all neatly laid out on a single page. Check out my video above to see the plugin in action on the wpliving site.

So what’s the broader significance of the WPAppStore for WordPress?

Well, first of all, in market terms, its launch can be read as a fight back from smaller theme and plugin developers against the behemoth that is Envato’s ThemeForest. The WPAppStore is in this sense its own marketplace, operating somewhat like a cooperative. It is a way of increasing awareness and access to the products of these independent developers and it adds another layer of monetization to their individual business plans.

As far as WordPress itself is concerned, the WPAppStore is a third party plugin and there are no plans (as yet) for it to become a core element of the WordPress platform. As I’m sure you all know, WordPress (particularly Matt Mullenweg) remains strongly tied to the open source license and open source ethics on which it is founded.

However, while WordPress itself is free to download and the themes promoted by WordPress via the theme repoistory are free and GPL licensed, this doesn’t preclude WordPress from bringing premium GPL licensed themes and plugins into the fold in the future. Premium themes are available for purchase on the WordPress.com website so it’s only a short step to the same model being reproduced on WordPress.org.

It will be interesting to see what sort of response the WPAppStore gets from theme and plugin affiliates since the seamless integration of the plugin in the dashboard essentially bypasses (as far as I can tell) all affiliate links bringing new premium themes straight to the end user.

All in all, it’s a fairly small but significant step for independent theme and plugin developers and I can see this being a very useful plugin for loyal followers of these brands. It also ups the stakes in the battle for premium WordPress market share.