The other day, I was performing a plugin search for something to help me remove all the Post Revisions I had accumulated over the past few months as part of my clean-up process. Unfortunately, the plugin I used in the past was no longer available but it’s how I found that out that was the interesting thing. While the plugin was listed, the description said the plugin was empty and no long available. Just for giggles, I tried to install the plugin and nothing happened. Upon looking at the Trac changes for the plugin, the last thing the plugin author did was delete all the files. After getting in touch with Otto about the plugin showing up in search results, he removed it but told me it wasn’t the proper way to go about closing a plugin down. So what is the proper way?
How To Orphan A Plugin:
Plugin authors have the ability to not only add other authors to the commit team but also hand over the entire plugin to someone else. Removing all the code related to the plugin is frowned upon because someone else could use that code either as a fork or the foundation for a similar type of plugin. But if you really want to have your plugin removed from the repository, sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your request should do the trick. If a plugin author decides to orphan a plugin that I’m using, I would really appreciate it if in the last update, somewhere within the readme or change log it stated that it would be the last version released and that it would no longer be supported. This would give ample opportunity for me to look at alternative plugins.
Adopting A Plugin:
There currently is no official way to adopt someone’s plugin. There has been some discussion in the past about creating an orphaned plugin program but those ideas never materialized. One of the reasons why the program never saw the light of day is because there were so few people wanting to adopt a plugin. Otto recommends trying to contact the author, and if that fails, email the plugins team email@example.com. Show that you have code changes already made, as a good will thing, because what we don’t want is somebody taking over a plugin and making just superficial changes while putting their own name on it, sort of thing. So the plugins team verifies the code, tries to contact the original author, wait a reasonable time, etc.
There used to be a third party site that dealt exclusively with abandoned plugins called WPRecycle. It was an offshoot of Pluginchief.com but it looks like the website has since gone offline. I’m going to try to get in touch with those behind WPRecycle to figure out why the program failed or why the site has gone offline.
While researching for this post, I came across an article published by Matt Jones on the Digwp website. Even though it was a pitch for the WPRecycle program, he came up with a stat that showed 1/3 of the plugin repository at that time had the 2 year update warning. I wonder what those numbers are like today with 25,369 plugins in the repository.
It’s worth noting that a plugin update can occur with no code changes taking place. If only a readme file of a plugin was changed this would count as an update and would reset the 2 year warning.
Just What Is Abandonment?
It’s hard to talk about plugin abandonment because there are no hard set rules that dictate when a plugin is officially abandoned. This was one of the biggest problems the core team faced when they discussed the requirements needed for a plugin to reach this status. A plugin with good code that doesn’t need to be updated for extended periods of time could be considered abandoned even though it wouldn’t be.
Do you think orphaned plugins is a growing concern or is there a natural process in place that prevents this from ever becoming a serious problem? I would only consider it a serious problem if we reach a statistic where 50% or more of the plugins in the repository are abandoned. However, what if the total amount of plugins in the repository is 50,000 and 50% of those are dead? That still leaves us with 25,000 active plugins. What would the numbers have to be for a tipping point of users not finding the extensibility that has helped make WordPress as popular as it is today?
Let’s continue this conversation in the comments.