25 Comments


  1. In a lot of cases, I actually see the “Powered by *” link for themes as useful for site visitors. Similarly, I find it somewhat handy when site owners have a “Colophon”-like section that lists the plugins in use on the site (some might see this is a potential security threat, though).

    However, if plugins/themes do add any public-facing links, I think it’s essential for them to provide an option via the Admin to remove the link. Uncheck a checkbox and link is gone. Unfortunately, most themes have the link hardcoded and force you to edit the theme.


  2. @Mo Jangda – Well, for any plugin that is hosted in the repository, if they don’t have the links turned off by default with an option to turn them off and on, they are candidates for removal or suspension. So you shouldn’t have to worry too much about those on the repository.

    I agree, a powered by link is helpful. I’m routinely clicking on those links or looking for that text just to see what the original theme was. But I usually know where to look when I’m wondering about specific functionality on a WordPress site. As a last-ditch effort, I can always email them and ask them.


  3. My stand is clear. Frontend credits should be optional regardless of how they are written HTML comment or a link.
    Both theme and plugin credits should be optional.
    There is no, to me, good reason why themes credit links cannot be optional. All I can think of is that they needed more designs from the start and designers are more cranky about GPL etc so to accommodate them themes were given the right to have credit links.

    So I go back to my original question, as a plugin or theme author, how much credit do you really need?

    As much as the end user deem appropriate.

    But the more interesting question is: Why should themes be allowed have non optional credit links?
    Jeff and others what are your best arguments?


  4. The main reason for the links on the front end are SEO. Of the links you mentioned only those on the page in the repository will be seen by search engines. At most you’re getting two links from a single page, albeit on a very strong domain.

    If your link appears on the site itself then it could generate hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of links.

    I don’t mind if the front end links are on by default. In many cases the links are the only reward a theme or plugin author gets for their work. However, they do need to be easy to turn off for the average user. Something as simple as a text box or checkbox in the theme or plugin admin panel. No one should ever be forced to display credit links.


  5. @Andreas Nurbo – I’m fine with the way things are. I understand the difference between plugins and themes and the external link guideline. You’re in the position where you will have to agree to disagree because it looks like it won’t be changing anytime soon, especially after what Mark said in the forum regarding plugins and themes.

    Theme credit links can be argued but I think it’s one of those argue until you pass out scenarios.

    All I can think of is that they needed more designs from the start and designers are more cranky about GPL etc so to accommodate them themes were given the right to have credit links.

    I think of Marks answer as the core reason why themes and plugins are handled differently concerning the credit link guidelines. It has nothing to do with anything you just mentioned.

    Your last question is answered by Mark, go read it :)


  6. @Jeffro -Ive read his post and the comments even commented. Marks answer is bullcrap and I don’t buy it at all. He also doesn’t answer the question I post here. I haven’t heard a single argument pro non optional theme credits but yet that is what the directory finds acceptable.

    And of course its until you pass out scenarios since those who are pro have ZERO rational arguments for why its should be the way it is. It would be to many links if plugins were allowed to do it is such a crappy argument its laughable and scary at the same time since people seem to totally accept it. It also doesn’t answer why theme credits doesn’t have to be optional.
    Why is it so hard to go with all credit links must be optional standpoint?


  7. It’s funny that this article appeared today, as I’ve just managed to get the Lazyest Gallery plugin up and running on my install. It throws in it’s own “footer” with two links back to the author’s site (one of which is directly to the plugin). After reading through this, I took a look through the plugin files, and the site (plus paypal link) is pasted all over the files. But funny enough, there’s not a single link in the admin page on the back-end. Go-figure.

    Having just recently started to get more and more into theme design, I find that a small credit on the theme footer is fine (on a theme I built for some friends, it’s 9px and simply says “theme design by gatekeepeR” which links to my site), plus of course, one in the back-end – the theme file.

    At the very least, it shows that the end-user of the site didn’t design the theme they use. Other than that, I’m in agreement that I don’t need author URL’s pasted all over the place or a huge glaring tag. I’m content to give credit where it’s due, but in moderation, of course. When I was running the iNove theme and made wholesale modifications, I didn’t drop mg12’s credits. I just added “modifications by me” to the footer. I’m not going to take credit for someone else’s hard work and labor of love, but I’m also not going to attribute any of my foul-ups to them either. I want people to blame me if they don’t like my modifications.

    For a theme, it’s a method to showcase the work. How many small businesses that don’t have in-house web-design have a small copyright/credit to the designer? To some extent, it’s also a matter of pride – if I do something that I’m proud of, I want to show it off and receive the accolades (and hopefully more business if I’m in the business) that can come from that.

    Going back to my example of Lazyest, dropping one of the links out would be ideal. I’d love to have this “seamlessly” integrate into my site without the “billboard” – but I’ll give the man (or woman) his due. He worked hard and it does what I was looking for. If there wasn’t a credit, I’d be sure to tell anyone who asks what’s powering it.

    Perhaps this is part of the future of paid plugins – the ability to remove the credits with a “purchased” plugin? But you were discussing the repository…


  8. Someone using your stuff on their blog and writing an actual article about it is worth more than about 100 credit links to me. I’ve definitely gotten more traffic this way than some silly link in a footer. And, it’s quality traffic because those people are coming for a good reason.

    As a theme developer, I too used to hate people removing my credit, but after a while, I got a little smarter. Having 100s or 1,000s of links on unknown blogs doesn’t do me much good. Making it easy enough for Jeffro to change his footer text and write an article about how cool of a feature his theme has is worth much, much more.

    It’s silly for themes to not give users an option to disable this (unless the theme doesn’t have an options page). Don’t even get me started on plugins.

    Oh, and users will just like you a lot more by giving them a choice.


  9. I can’t remember but one of the sitemap plugins I used added a link to their site at the bottom of the page.

    [short code] was added to the page and voila, but it added that link.

    Athaualpa which I so love……you can remove the extra link by going to the functions file.

    I have this policy: IT IS MY SITE AND I WILL DECIDE WHO I LINK TO.

    I had a link (57 x 57) for WPtavern, and since we know Jeff does not have a 57 x 57 badge (that’s what the theme had), I spent some of my time and created the 57 x 57 badge and linked to here.

    See the difference? I CHOSE to do it, and did a bit more. I don’t use the “57 x 57″ theme any more. The theme is GreatIdeas, while typing this response I looked at it. Holy crap I have 25 themes, I got to delete 24 of those.

    Anyways, Athaualpa adds 3 links. Most themes I have seen add 2.

    Powered by WordPress
    Theme by

    In a way I agree with that, in a way I do not.

    Plugins just for a sec – I have this view: It is none of your business what plugins I use. There was a forum post about someone going on about WP not needing to know the URL. Isn’t this similar but for the whole world?

    I had a plugin that after an update (which I used for a year or two), started to add a link.
    I commented it out on the source code until I found a replacement.

    Back to credit: What do you people think of creating a CREDITS page? a link on the sidebar? (other non-footer options).

    I am sort of going the credits page.


  10. My pagebar plugin puts an HTML comment in the frontend (like “pb255″) simply for support reasons.
    People are writing mails about problems with the plugin but forget to mention the WP and plugin versions used. So i first have to ask back, then they anser me and finally I have all the information I need and a fourth mail gets on its way.
    This can take some days because of different time zones and circadian rhythms. With the comment in the HTML code I’m almost always able to determine the needed version information right away.
    Security might be an issue I must admit.


  11. I think it would be terrific if plugin authors could add links onto the front-end to take a little extra credit for their work, but it just isn’t possible without turning everyone sites into a big plugin-developer billboard.

    You can only run one theme, so adding a credit link isn’t going to get in the way. End-users can install dozens of plugins; if each one added it’s own link things would just get ridiculous.

    I see little point in worrying about such things though. Plugins which add links on the front-end will naturally die out of existence.

    IIRC Twitter Tools has an option to add a link on the front-end. I assume it isn’t turned on by default (I can’t remember), but even if it was, I’d be okay with that since it’s very easy to turn off anyway.


  12. @miroslav:

    Back to credit: What do you people think of creating a CREDITS page? a link on the sidebar? (other non-footer options).

    A colophon page is a great idea, especially if appropriate filters/hooks are provided so that theme/plugin developers can add an option that allows the user to add the theme/plugin credit/link to the colophon. I think it’s such a great idea that I submitted a ticket for it.



  13. @Andreas Nurbo – if a theme is released under GPL (which it needs to be, in order to be included on the wordpress.org repository), then credit links are optional, regardless of what the author says. (Where things get knotty is when the designer has used CC-licensed resources in their theme. I don’t personally believe it can be legal to relicence other people’s content without their say so, but even if it’s legal it’s certainly unethical.)

    However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. Credit links, as well as being a form of thank you to the designer and an acknowledgement that the blogger didn’t do everything themselves, are often the only way of telling readers where the theme comes from and where they can download it for themselves. If people are that bothered by crediting theme designers, they can make their own themes. Problem solved.

    Historically, plugin developers have been far more likely to be hardcore GPL advocates than theme developers and that’s why plugin linkbacks never really gained traction. I would have no problem including plugin-related links on the front end of a site if that was what the developers wanted. They give me a useful plugin, I give them a link in exchange. It seems fair enough to me, though of course there is always going to be a minority of users demanding something for nothing.


  14. @that girl again

    However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. Credit links, as well as being a form of thank you to the designer and an acknowledgement that the blogger didn’t do everything themselves, are often the only way of telling readers where the theme comes from and where they can download it for themselves.

    With respect to use of code released under GPL, the only thing that matters is the intent of the user. The intent of the developer is completely irrelevant. Under no circumstances should users be guilt-tripped or otherwise coerced or compelled to do anything.

    The GPL is quite explicit in this regard. Usually claims contrary to the clear wording of the GPL delve into supposed violations of the “ethics” or “spirit” of the GPL. Such arguments usually originate from developers attempting to “have their cake and eat it, too” – that is, attempting to benefit from the good publicity of releasing under GPL while at the same time attempting to compel their users to give up some of the freedoms protected by the GPL.

    It is not unethical or otherwise wrong in any way whatsoever for a user to remove a credit link from a theme. It is, however, wrong to tell a user that he is somehow wronging the theme developer by his removal of that link – or that if he doesn’t like having that link there, then he should code the theme himself.

    If people are that bothered by crediting theme designers, they can make their own themes. Problem solved.

    If theme developers are bothered that users are removing their credit links, then they can release their code under a license other than GPL. Problem solved.


  15. @Andreas Nurbo

    Why is it so hard to go with all credit links must be optional standpoint?

    I think Marks answer is generally the way he and Matt both feel about the guideline with themes and plugins. In this matter, I think you’ll have to realize that this is the way it’s going to be, despite your best arguments against it. While I still don’t like the fact that I can’t control the behaviour of revisions from the back-end of WordPress, I’ve given up my argument for it. Somethings in the world of WordPress are just going to be the way they are. This is one of those issues.

    Tell you what though, I am going to ping Matt Mullenweg and point him to your comment and we’ll see if he gives his thoughts on why their is a difference between the two.

    @RJ – I like your line of thought. You raise a point that I thought about after I published the post and that was the model of paying to remove the credits. I think this is one of the dumbest things worth paying for. It’s not like I want to remove the credits, I just want credits to be where they ought to be and only on the front-end of my website when I specify them to be.

    @Justin Tadlock – Justin, you’re a shining example of someone who ‘Gets It‘. Theme Hybrid is such a nice piece of work that I’ve opted to keep the link in the footer. What good is thousands of links with no substance? I think it would be much better if I took a plugin and wrote a review or found a plugin that solved a problem I had and then tell the world through a blog post. Choice is good.

    @Miroslav Glavic – I like you’re linking policy. As I mentioned to Justin. There is a big difference between just a link and a link with substance. I don’t like the idea of a plugin created credits page either unless it’s created by me. A good plugin for this roll is called WP-PluginsUsed by Lester Chan. Let’s not forget that their is an annual tradition now of giving thanks to plugin authors started by Matt last year. I totally forgot this year though.

    @Latz – Is your plugin in the repository? If so, wouldn’t it be better to provide support for it on it’s own section of the WP.org forum? Usually, the WordPress version and plugin version info is provided up front in a support post.

    @Ryan – Why is the extra credit needed? The way I see it, the plugin repository and the plugin management pages provide plenty of opportunity to credit the plugin author. Any credit delivered to that plugin or author beyond those standard means I consider to be extra credit. That extra credit should be given by me, not by the plugin or theme author.

    @Chip Bennett – There are already numerous plugins available that give end users the chance to create a dedicated page or post which lists all plugins in use. In fact, the one I linked to by Lester Chan is my favorite because it pretty much takes the same information from my plugin management page and puts it into a post via shortcode. Therefor, this is not something that should be addressed in core since standard credits are already handled by the core.


  16. @Jeffro

    There are already numerous plugins available that give end users the chance to create a dedicated page or post which lists all plugins in use. In fact, the one I linked to by Lester Chan is my favorite because it pretty much takes the same information from my plugin management page and puts it into a post via shortcode. Therefor, this is not something that should be addressed in core since standard credits are already handled by the core.

    I’ve seen similar responses in the ticket itself. IMHO, such responses totally miss the point of the suggestion, which is standardization. Plugins are inherently counter-productive to the goal of standardization (regardless of whatever it is that one desires to standardize).

    Saying that one can write a plugin for a colophon page is true, but irrelevant. The point of the suggestion is to provide standard hooks for plugin and theme developers to use to provide credit/link options to their admin pages, so that if a user opts to provide the colophon page, he can optionally allow his plugins/themes to hook into that page.

    No plugin can provide a reasonable or meaningful alternative.

    Further, wordpress.org could then develop consistent guidelines regarding plugin/theme credits/links, because the asinine argument about theme = one link and plugins = several links becomes moot. (For the record, the argument is not that plugins should be allowed to force a credit link, but rather that themes should be required to make their link optional and default to off.)

    And finally, the PluginsUsed page isn’t sufficient, either, because it doesn’t give the user the ability to choose which plugins he credits – only all active and/or all inactive plugins.


  17. @Jeffro – One more:

    I think Marks answer is generally the way he and Matt both feel about the guideline with themes and plugins. In this matter, I think you’ll have to realize that this is the way it’s going to be, despite your best arguments against it. While I still don’t like the fact that I can’t control the behaviour of revisions from the back-end of WordPress, I’ve given up my argument for it. Somethings in the world of WordPress are just going to be the way they are. This is one of those issues.

    I don’t think we should ever give up arguing against an obviously discriminatory practice, just because it’s “the way they are” or because it’s “the way Mark and Matt both feel”.

    The argument that plugins are required to make credit links optional and default to “disabled” because a site may display several such plugin credit links, but a theme is allowed to provide such a link with no user option to disable it is acceptable because a site would display only one such link is asinine.

    The principle is user choice – not SEO (theme credit links can be SEO-spam, too, after all), not number of links displayed (if all credit links are required to default to disabled, and must be enabled by the user, then all such credit links would have been explicitly enabled by the user).

    The guideline for plugins enforces user choice, by requiring plugins to provide a configuration option for the credit link, and requiring that option to default to disabling the credit link. The guideline for themes utterly ignores user choice, by allowing themes not to provide a configuration option for the credit link – much less requiring that the (non-existent) option to default to disabling the credit link.

    There is no reason whatsoever to accept this discrimination just because it’s “the way it is”.

    If Mark and Matt believe any of the above arguments for this practice, then, plain and simply, they are wrong.


  18. @Chip Bennett – Just to take a step back for a moment. The credit thing has been in place for both guidelines for a long time. The system seems to have worked. Only now am I really seeing a shift to have the same guideline for plugins applied to themes. What is truly broken because of the guideline mis-match?

    What if I create a poll and I ask the question, should the credit link guideline for plugins also be applied to themes? Have Yes or No as the answer and then wait for the results. If the majority of people were to vote No because they are quite happy with the link showing up by default for their theme? Do you think make the change for the sake of consistency between the guidelines for each repository or do you leave things alone because the votes have shown they are ok with the way things are.


  19. I don’t think we should ever give up arguing against an obviously discriminatory practice, just because it’s “the way they are” or because it’s “the way Mark and Matt both feel”.

    Ok, but in the same vein, I don’t think it’s good to spend all your time and energy on something that is not detrimental to the WordPress project in it’s entirety. This guideline will not bring the project to its knees. All I’m saying is that Andreas has an argument that’s been heard by both Mark and Matt and nothing has changed. Personally, in the extreme measure of this entire post, the theme repository and the back-end of WordPress provides the same opportunities as plugin authors to give credit where credit is due without a link on the front-end of the site.

    Just seems like on an issue such as this one, you and Andreas are going to have to muster up a pretty strong group of vocal people who feel the same way regarding the guidelines and hope that change happens because of it. Let me email Matt and point him to this post and a few comments and let’s see if he chimes in.


  20. @Jeffro

    The credit thing has been in place for both guidelines for a long time. The system seems to have worked. Only now am I really seeing a shift to have the same guideline for plugins applied to themes. What is truly broken because of the guideline mis-match

    The requirement that the plugin provide a user-configurable option to enable/disable the credit link, and that such option default to “disabled” is actually quite new (basically, since Mark’s recent blog post). So, it is only natural that the issue would arise now.

    What if I create a poll and I ask the question, should the credit link guideline for plugins also be applied to themes? Have Yes or No as the answer and then wait for the results. If the majority of people were to vote No because they are quite happy with the link showing up by default for their theme? Do you think make the change for the sake of consistency between the guidelines for each repository or do you leave things alone because the votes have shown they are ok with the way things are.

    Internet polls are notoriously unscientific. Results must be evaluated accordingly.

    More importantly, I would hope that decisions would be made based on what is obviously right and wrong moreso than an unscientific internet poll.

    Ok, but in the same vein, I don’t think it’s good to spend all your time and energy on something that is not detrimental to the WordPress project in it’s entirety. This guideline will not bring the project to its knees.

    I’m not expending much time or energy on this matter. I’m just commenting on your post (which, coincidently, happened to be about the differences between allowable links in plugins and themes). I’m not particularly upset about it; I’m just speaking up about something I see to be wrong.

    Just seems like on an issue such as this one, you and Andreas are going to have to muster up a pretty strong group of vocal people who feel the same way regarding the guidelines and hope that change happens because of it. Let me email Matt and point him to this post and a few comments and let’s see if he chimes in.

    I’m also not really interested in recruiting the torch and pitchfork brigade. I just get tired of hearing poor arguments for decisions such as these.


  21. @Jeffro
    Wow – Mark’s answer is in reponse to my comment, but I never noticed it. I’ve just left a response, which includes:

    Additionally, it’s just occurred to me that one of my plugins (not yet in the repository but hopefully one day when I clean it up), requires an external link to Yahoo! because it uses their currency rates api.
    The plugin is free, it’s GPL, but it makes a call to a Yahoo! api and they require the link. Are you saying that plugin can’t be added to official repository?

    Anyway, I still think I’m entitled to add a link if I want to. In over 10,000 downloads, I’ve only ever recieved one $15 donation. I’m not paid for my efforts, but I’m not allowed to ask for a link in return for providing free software? Man, that’s harsh…

    Note, I always provide a way to turn the link off (except in the Yahoo! case as it’s required) and I don’t add a link if it doesn’t make sense.


  22. I’m not complaining about lack of donations by the way, that’s never bothered me, but being told I can’t add a link does smart a little.

    By the way, I agree with Justin Tadlock in most respects, but would argue that it’s still my right to add the link if I allow it to be turned off.

    I know WordPress itself used to have blurb saying please link to them in the footer because it was their only form of promotion. I don’t know if they still say that anywhere, but they used to. They’re big enough they don’t need it now, but my little plugins might benefit from the exposure (not from SEO, there’s very little SEO benefits left for such links these days.

    As a end user, I appreciate seeing the links when I go to someone’s site, so I can find that plugin and use it myself.


  23. Any plugin that attempted to add something to my footer or to my sidebar or basically anywhere on my front page without asking me first would get instantly deleted, regardless of what it does, regardless of how useful it is.

    Plugins should *never* add linking content to the front facing part of the site without asking. And IMO, good plugins won’t even have the option to do so.

    A plugin is not a vehicle for advertising your site.


  24. @RJ – Just stumbled upon this discussion and you mentioning Lazyest Gallery. Would you believe I didn’t know about any of these rules about frontend links when I uploaded the plugin to the WordPress repository? It’s no problem to me when the banner does not display. I develop this plugin just for the fun of it, and I have made the credit banner optional a few versions ago.

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