WP Updates is a SaaS that allows plugin and theme authors to provide automatic updates to their customers. It is a third party distribution system that the author uploads their updated files to and WP Updates sends it to customers.
Or at least that’s how it is supposed to work.
Dev7studios — a company run by Gilbert Pellegrom and Iain Poulson — ran the project from inception in mid-2012 until June of this year. They sold it to an unnamed buyer through a brokerage firm in June. The new buyer requested a non-disclosure agreement, so Dev7studios cannot share more details about who they are or how to get in touch with them.
WP Updates went down around September 15th, frustrating customers trying to provide updates for their products. In response tweets, Dev7studios noted that they had sold the product — which has gone unannounced — and that they were attempting to reach the new owners as well.
WP Updates serves updates to about 100 customers. If every customer is on the introductory plan, which allows updates for up to 10 products, that’s about $500 in revenue per month. So not a ton of shops were affected, but obviously each of those shops could be shipping their product to hundreds or thousands of customers themselves — and to get completely cut off from your own product must’ve been terrifying.
It goes to show the danger of offloading a mission critical business component to a third party. The auto update mechanism is a distributed product’s primary connection to customer sites. The only real alternative would’ve been a complicated email explaining how to get new updates.
WP Updates is now back, and those affected have an opportunity to update to a new update system; but it just as easily could’ve stayed offline and a lot of people would’ve learned a very hard lesson.
I’m not against third party services at all. But I don’t know that I’d trust my product’s distribution to one when the consequences of losing the connection are that high. I especially think this in a situation where the provider (WP Updates) is such a small, niche product itself, and when there are other options available that are self-hosted, like the ones built into add-ons for EDD and WooCommerce.