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Two Key Questions We Need To Answer

What are the best things the WordPress community can do to better support plugin developers and founders? Recent discussions around the Active Install data being removed from WordPress.org forces us to respond to this question if we believe a healthy third-party plugin market is essential to WordPress, as I do.

Estimated reading time: 36 minutes

The recent discussions around the Active Installs data being removed from the WordPress Repo prompted two questions I think we need to answer as a bigger WP community and particularly our members at Post Status.

As someone who lived in the WordPress product space for 10+ years and owned free and commercial plugins, I resonate with the issues and concerns being brought up today by plugin developers. (Here I am in 2010, writing Why We Need a Premium WordPress Plugin Market.)

What I want to do here is frame the conversation to be constructive and help us all make progress together β€” for the good of WordPress, plugin developers, and our members.

I'll try to offer as limited a commentary as I can here because I'd like your comments and responses to these questions:

1. Are plugins essential to WordPress?

Specifically, have (free and paid) plugins been β€” and will they continue to be β€” essential to the health and growth of WordPress?

My answer is YES β€” absolutely! Even if it's a messy market. And we have work to do.

As of this writing, there were listed 60,229 plugins in the WP repo, and of course countless other free and paid plugins elsewhere.

Plugins are key contributions to WordPress. They extends WordPress and allows WP to stay as nimble as possible for the enormous variety of uses in our world.

I started iThemes in 2008. We were early in the “premium” market. We didn't have to depend on the repo at the time, but I would have relished the opportunity to offer and sell our products there.

If your answer to my first question is a solid yes too β€” and I hope it is β€” then my next question is:

2. What can we do to create a more sustainable model and environment for WP plugin developers? 

THIS is where we need to start the conversation, in my view.

Merely suggesting to plugin developers committed to the WP.org repository that if they don't like the rules or changes they should go elsewhere isn't fair or reasonable to them.

If you're saying that to plugin developers, but…

  • You don't own a free plugin…
  • You haven't built your business around a free plugin…
  • You were early into the product business like I was at iThemes in 2008…
  • You already have an existing platform outside of the .org repo…

…then at best, you're not putting yourself in their shoes. You're not offering realistic advice.

I also don't think it's the best or healthiest answer for them or WordPress.

What I'm talking about and asking for are ideas that make incremental progress and improvement … TOGETHER.

For WordPress and the plugin developer ecosystem to start a dialogue that is perhaps overdue. I also want to keep in mind that this is an open source project, with projects teams and volunteers who are already overloaded.

I think we start with this question:

What are the big three things we as a larger WP community (together) can start working toward to support WP plugin devs better?

I'll offer some ideas to kick off this conversation.

Let's agree we're all in this together.

There's so much division and polarization in our world already today outside of WP. In the spirit of open source and WP, let's be a shining example to our worlds of what can be when humans start talking and listening to fellow humans. Leaving some of our past behind and simply understanding where we're coming from.

But at its simplest? Be open to the conversation.

At its best? Try to embody the other's perspective. Getting into their shoes. Seeing from their perspective.

One of my favorite conversations this year was with Birgit Pauli-Haack at WCUS. The topic was Core Contribution. We initially came at it from our separate sides. But then we started listening to each other. And now …. we're working together on some things we think will make a difference for ALL.

If you know Birgit, you know she's a very special human in the world and we're privileged to have her in WP.

But I wish we had more of these conversations in WP.

It'd be better for all of us.

I grant it'll be tough … but I believe in us.

Let's acknowledge that we need to talk … together.

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One Comment

  1. My brother Spencer and I have owned a plugin company since 2010. Fighting for top spot on the .org repo was crucial for us in the past. We are in the 70K plus active installs

    We tried to break in with other plugins. Recently, we decided to cut the other plugin(s) from the repo. We had customers telling us it was the best plugin they had used and solved what they trying to do. The problem is when we are stacked in the search with plugins not even related to what we were trying to achieve with much larger active installed plugins were showing over ours even though they were unrelated to search queries. Our data compared to our social plugin (the 10 year plus 70K active install one, was crazy as almost every free install was a premium extension sale of some kind. We could tell we were lost in a search where people were looking for a plugin such as ours but general “Photo” plugins where coming up instead no matter what we tried. Even tactics that had proven to work for our main plugin in the past. We also tried other marketing plans. After many hours, a few years and almost little to no growth no matter the hours or money spent we decided to pull it from the repo. We have had many of the users emailing us saying that there was no plugin that was even close to what we had. Woocommerce offers an extension that is supposed to achieve what ours does but has terrible reviews.

    I think that when the converted the .org repo from the old system to the elasticsearch one it was more about ranking with installs then “relativity” and “recently updated”.

    With our main plugin we have ways we hook people into purchasing our premium extensions but would would be awesome to see is a standardized way for free plugins to do this. I imagine a hook were users installing plugins see extensions offered by the plugins/themes. If we standardize something clean and not overly spammy looking where devs can hook into that show users what they offer that is premium would be useful. Not a “Premium plugins store” but simply a page or way to display offerings within the repo that users can choose to click see that would take them to place to purchase. There would also be a similar and standardized way of hooking into displaying on the wordpress install’s backend.

    P.S. – Birgit is awesome! πŸ™Œ

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