Contact Form 7 Passes 40 Million Downloads

contact-form-7

Contact Form 7, one of the oldest and most popular WordPress plugins, passed 40 million downloads this week. Takayuki Miyoshi uploaded the plugin on WordPress.org 10 years ago and it’s now active on more than a million sites. Over the years, other developers have created hundreds of add-ons to extend Contact Form 7 beyond its core contact form capabilities.

I asked Miyoshi how he manages support for his free plugin and was surprised to learn that it doesn’t require much of his time.

“I receive 20 – 40 support requests every day,” Miyoshi said. “I look over them, but I don’t think I have to respond to all of them. I answer only when resolving the issue is surely important for the user and that can also help other users. Since in most cases I can pick up the answer to the question from the FAQ and docs, it doesn’t take so much time even when it’s a million active installs.”

His strategy seems to have been successful, as Contact Form 7 maintains a 4.5-star rating on WordPress.org. Miyoshi said that managing the plugin hasn’t impacted his life significantly other than helping his income become a bit more stable. His advice for anyone wanting to find the same success in authoring and supporting a popular plugin highlights his firm belief in the power of open source software:

Feedback is the most important. Don’t try to protect your plugins with walls. Keep them free. That’s the only way you can keep the quality of your code high.

Last year at WordCamp Tokyo, Miyoshi spoke about why people should choose free plugins over commercial plugins. He contends that commercial plugins cannot receive all of the quality feedback they need to improve (i.e. bug reports, security reports, and developer comments) because only paying customers have access to the code.

Four years ago, Miyoshi promised his users that Contact Form 7 would be free forever, because his plugin was the direct result of learning from others’ code.

“Before I started developing Contact Form 7 in 2007, I was an avid user of Ryan Duff’s WP Contact Form and Chip Cuccio’s Contact Form,” Miyoshi said. “I learned how to implement contact forms as a WordPress plugin by looking at their code. These developers were like teachers. If they didn’t publish their plugins for free, Contact Form 7…might not exist.”

Miyoshi attributes the growth of the WordPress developer community to the availability of free, open source plugins.

“Open-source code is the best educational material for developers,” he said. “Open-source community is invaluable for the new generation of developers. The community grows by bringing new members constantly; I believe this is also how the WordPress community has grown.

“The current trend is selling WordPress plugins and themes. Even if their license is compliant with GPL, wouldn’t it be difficult for developers to learn from them? This trend could weaken the WordPress community over time.”

Given the recent proliferation of commercial plugins with successful business models that have created jobs for many developers and support personnel, Miyoshi’s stance on these products weakening the community over time is somewhat controversial. However, his thoughts are worth considering, given his unique vantage point of having accrued a decade of experience supporting a popular free plugin.

Even if you disagree with Miyoshi’s basic premise, his conclusion that supporting free plugin authors with donations whenever possible is something most people can get behind.

“With your support, we can continue development of free plugins,” Miyoshi said. “Your contribution defends the philosophy of the open-source community. Please keep supporting.”

I asked Miyoshi if he has any plans to celebrate passing 40 million downloads of his plugin, and his reply aptly sums up the unglamorous, volunteer work of your average plugin author, “I’ll buy a cake and have a party alone.”

18 Comments


  1. One of the best plugins out there. Developer is humble and cordial as well.

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  2. Fabulous plugin – I use it on all my sites.

    “…supporting free plugin authors with donations whenever possible is something most people can get behind.”

    That’s a reminder to me.

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  3. This irritates me a bit:

    I look over them, but I don’t think I have to respond to all of them. I answer only when resolving the issue is surely important for the user and that can also help other users.

    This dev attitude of “it’s free so you’re lucky if you get support” is really tiring to me.

    Then again, I don’t use it. Tried it once or twice – HATED it – nuked. I have a paid plugin that is much better for my needs and I’m not so cheap that I think everything should be free. :)

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    1. This dev attitude of “it’s free so you’re lucky if you get support” is really tiring to me.

      That’s really an unfair response to plugin developers, and open-source software developers in general.

      The fact is, open-source software is given as a free gift, as-is…people are free to use it or not. Developers have absolutely zero obligation to users to provide support. To have a feeling that you are entitled to support, when you didn’t pay anything for something, is a bit misguided, don’t you think?

      The reason that plugin authors and other FOSS developers are not obligated to provide support is simple math. It’s simply not possible.

      Takayuki is one man. He isn’t saying that he won’t try to provide some support, but that he simply can’t respond to every single request. the fact he does at all, says a lot. Take a look the the plugin’s stats. 40+ million downloads, and 1+ million active installs. The active installs is the important number. It’s probably many times that as I don’t think WordPress[.]org updates that number once it passes a million. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) How would it even be practical to provide one-on-one support for that many people?

      Do the math for a second… If even only 1% of CF7’s users need support each year (which is really good), that’s still over 10,000 support requests per year. From it’s support forum page it looks like there have been 720 support threads in the last two months…That’s approximately 4,320 per year. So, let’s just say the number is somewhere between that and the 10,000. Just for argument’s sake, let’s use 5,000. If a plugin author spends 30 minutes per support request, that’s 2,500 hours just doing support. There are only 2080 work hours in a year, so it would take 1.2 years to respond to all those requests.

      That’s not taking into account that the plugin author is not getting paid for any of that time. It also doesn’t take into account that the plugin author needs to earn a living and have a life.

      So, why again, does it bother you that plugin authors are not obligated to provide support? You might want to trade places for a moment and see it from their perspective.

      FOSS has a lot of benefits over paid software. Not in every case, but definitely with WordPress plugins. We have found more bad code in premium plugins than in popular free plugins on WordPress[.]org. (Obviously there are exceptions.) There is little accountability in paid plugins and they aren’t required to follow WordPress coding standards, so they often don’t. Open source plugins can be analyzed by anyone, and everyone, so security issues get discovered much more quickly as well.

      So, when plugin developers say that they are not obligated to provide support, they’re not saying they don’t give a damn about their users. Many do…and they provide support even though they don’t have to. People just need to have realistic expectations.

      If someone gives you something, you don’t go and demand more from them…you say, “Thanks!” That’s just basic respect.

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      1. It’s pretty rare that I disagree with every single point in a comment. This is one of those times.

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      2. Also, the dev is NOT giving this as a “free gift”.

        The site is plastered with ads and he begs for donations.

        I suspect with that many downloads and active users there is something reasonable coming in.

        And….we all know it doesn’t take 30 minutes to answer a freaking support request in the forum.

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      3. Also, the dev is NOT giving this as a “free gift”.

        So…you paid for it? How much did it cost you? That sucks, because we got it for free, and so did everyone else we know.

        The site is plastered with ads and he begs for donations.

        So what if he added some ads to his site to help support it? He’s free to do as he likes. He definitely doesn’t “beg for donations”. Although I did see a guy on the corner last week that looked just like him..maybe you got the two confused?

        Seriously though…if you don’t like ads, then just use an ad-blocker.

        I suspect with that many downloads and active users there is something reasonable coming in.

        That’s not likely. I’ve never heard of a plugin developer that was able to make any kind of reasonable living off donations, or even ad revenue. It might provide some extra coffee or beer money though! But hey, I’m always open to being proved wrong, so we can run a test. If you would like to develop a plugin as successful and popular as CF7, you can test that theory out and let us know how it works. Let us know when you get to 40 million downloads, and the beers will be on you. :)

        And….we all know it doesn’t take 30 minutes to answer a freaking support request in the forum.

        Well, you would be…what’s the word…not correct…there. Clearly you’ve never done plugin support. We often spend more than 30 minutes (sometimes up to three hours) helping people with support requests. (And yes our plugins are free.)

        30 minutes is nothing. You often will go back and forth with people, not just provide a one-off answer. Sometimes you have to go back and research an issue, or run tests. Keep in mind support doesn’t only happen on the forums. A plugin author can have their support channel wherever it suits them best. We direct our plugin users to our site, and not the forums. Although, we do spend a good bit of time on the forums too. A response that is actually helpful will take more than 5 minutes to write.

        Even so, just for argument’s sake, we’ll say you were right. We’ll look at my example above using your math.

        If a plugin author spends 30 minutes per support request, that’s 2,500 hours just doing support. There are only 2080 work hours in a year, so it would take 1.2 years to respond to all those requests.

        If it only took 15 minutes per request,, that would cut the 1.2 years in half, and would still take the plugin developer 0.6 years (more than half a year, or approx 8 months.) to respond to all those requests.

        But say we change it up a bit more. Say it only takes 5 minutes to answer a support request.

        If it only took 5 minutes per request,, that would still take the plugin developer 0.2 years (aka 1/5 of a year, aka 10.4 weeks, aka 2 and a half months) to respond to everything.

        Even using your math, it still would take 2.5 months!

        Who do you know who works full-time for 2.5 months for no income? I sure don’t know anyone. Even using your math, that simply doesn’t work.

        How about dropping all the negativity and giving the guy a break? It’s a good plugin.

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      4. If you read my original post you’d see I used it a couple of times – HATED IT – and nuked it.

        You couldn’t pay ME to use it. My opinion – deal with it.

        I do use WP-Spamshield though. Thanks for the freebie. I wouldn’t pay a nickel for it though. If you didn’t create it – someone else would have. If you drop it – someone else will pick it up.

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      5. Wow. Now I know why not to create free plugin ever.

        Ron, people like you think world owes you big time. And you are doing big favor to the world by using the free stuff.

        How about volunteering to support for few months to those “we all know it doesn’t take 30 minutes to answer a freaking support request in the forum” and you will know.

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  4. Contact Form 7 really is one of the best contact form plugins out there. The code is well written, and it is reliable. We’ve used it since it’s early days….it probably was 2007 or 2008.

    We use it to power a number of different types of forms on both our sites and client sites. It may not have as many of the visual bells and whistles as say Gravity Forms, but it is pretty lightweight in code and overhead for what it does, and it hasn’t had any major security issues in a couple years, which is saying a lot, considering how many people use it.

    We do use other form plugins when we need more features, so we do like Gravity and Ninja as well, but CF7 is definitely our go-to.

    Kudos to Takayuki for the good work on this plugin over the years!

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  5. Contact Form 7 is a great free plugin with lots of features. Yes, there are commercial form plugins that are much easier to use, but you have to pay for that ease. Also, contact form 7 has almost all the functionality you need. Thanks for all the years!

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  6. Thank you for the excellent plugin, I am finding it works really well.

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  7. Hats off to Takayuki Miyoshi, my favourite plugin ever and one I install on every WP site I create.
    Thanks for creating this plugin, and your refreshing attitude to software development. One of the good guys for sure.

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