Why is lichess free?

Thibault DuplessisAnnouncements

The founder and developer explains the philosophy behind lichess

Many of you have been asking why lichess is free. "No such thing as a free lunch", right? There must be a trap.

The status of Internet chess

Useful Internet services are rarely uninterested in money. More often than not, they are businesses whose first and foremost goal is to squeeze money out of us. Either by making us pay for features, or worse:

"When you're not buying or selling, you're the product being sold"

And indeed, many times it is true. Most free Internet services inflict advertisement upon us, and/or sell our private information to advertisement companies. It's shameful behaviour that lichess seeks to address.

Lichess is different

I love the Internet. It's like a new continent we recently discovered, still virgin, magic, and full of possibilities. It will become what me make of it. What do we want the Internet to be?

My objective when building lichess is to demonstrate that the Internet can be free. No hidden costs, playing with words - free, through and through.

What does free mean?

Free to use

We will never charge a lichess user. There are no premium accounts. Everybody has unlimited access to all features without paying a cent.

Free of advertisement

Advertisements are the cancer of the Internet and an insult to our intelligence. They need us to be stupid and they make us stupid. Please, use an ad blocker, especially if you have kids using the Internet. Lichess never shows advertisements.

Free source code

To be free, software must be open source. Lichess is released under the MIT license, which means everybody can read the entire source code and make sure nothing evil is being done under the hood.

This is our vision. This is our promise. It has always been this way, and will always be, as stated by the "about" page.

How it works

So we want lichess to be free, and will tolerate no compromise! But of course, running a website has a cost. We all know sites run on web servers, and web servers must be rented from hosting companies.

Let's see how much it costs exactly to run a chess website that makes more than 15 million pageviews per month.

Lichess currently runs on five servers. Three of them are generously donated by lichess supporters (thank you!), and I (Thibault Duplessis) pay for the remaining two servers. It amounts to $170 per month. Great news: I have a job (at and I can completely afford that. Lichess is my hobby, and all hobbies cost a bit of money. I can tell you that the joy of building lichess is absolutely worth the price I pay for it!

So yeah, free!! You found it. The Internet service that doesn't see you as a source of revenue. Okay, it's not the only one (hopefuly!) but still worth mentioning, right?

Want to help?

If you think that's great, and want to help cover the servers' cost, now you can. I've just added a donation page.

Note that there are plenty other ways to help lichess be the awesomest place to play chess on the Internet.