Developers Raise Concerns About Plugin Listings Outranking on Google Search

WordPress core developer John Blackbourn sparked a heated discussion yesterday when he posted an image of his WordPress User Switching plugin ranking higher for the listing than the page on

Blackbourn later apologized for the inflammatory wording of the original post, but maintains that .com plugin listings being displayed higher in search results is not healthy for the open source project.

“This was a frustrated 2AM tweet so I could have worded it better, but the point still stands,” he said. “The plugin pages on dotcom are little more than marketing landing pages for the dotcom service and they’re strongly competing with the canonical dotorg pages. That’s not healthy.”

Several others commented about having similar experiences when searching for plugins, finding that the often ranks higher, although many others still see pages ranked highest.

Blackbourn said his chief concern “is the process that introduced the directory clone on .com either disregarded its potential impact on .org in favor of inbounds or never considered it in the first place – both very concerning given the ranking power of .com.”

The tweet highlighted the frustration some members of the open source community feel due to the perennial branding confusion between and Nothing short of renaming will eliminate the longstanding confusion, but this is unlikely as Automattic benefits from tightly coupling its products to WordPress’ name recognition.

“Duplicate content confuses the human + search engines,” SEO consultant Rebecca Gill said. “Search engines won’t like it, nor will humans trying to find solutions to their problems. There is already enough confusion w/ .org + .com for non-tech folks. This amplifies it. Noindex .com content or canonical it to .org.”

Participants in the discussion maintain that the duplication of the open source project’s plugin directory “creates ambiguity and confusion” but WordPress co-creator and Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg contends it also gives plugin authors greater distribution.

“It’s providing distribution to the plugin authors, literally millions and millions of installs,” Mullenweg said. He elaborated on how the cloned plugin directory is integrated with Calypso,’s admin interface:

.com has its own plugin directory which includes the .org one, it provides more installs and distribution to the plugin authors, which helps their usage and for commercial ones gets them more sales. The plugins are not altered. .com takes no cut for the distribution.

When participants in the discussion suggested that other hosts doing the same thing would create a wild west situation for plugin rankings, Mullenweg said he would not mind if the plugins were “duplicated and distributed by every host and site on the planet,” as they are all licensed under the GPL.

Outrage against distributing plugins in this fashion was not universal in the discussion. A few commenters support this strategy and see it as beneficial for the long-term health of the open source project.

“I’m all for it to be honest,” WordPress developer Cristian Raiber said. “Anyone could scrape those pages but not everyone gives back to WordPress and makes sure it’s here to stay for the next decades. Controversial, I know. But I prefer we build together instead of alone.

“I fail to see how this is not an advantage to anyone who hosts their plugins (for FREE) on w[dot]org ?” Raiber continued in a separate response. “Is it about being outranked in Google’s SERPs for brand kws? Why has this generated so much outcry when the intent is clearly beneficial?

“This FINALLY solves a friction point for potential buyers. Streamlined plugin installation and usage vs ‘here’s a list of 55 steps you have to take to install my plugin.’ Users want options, different uses cases and all. I want to make money so they keep growing this product.”

XWP Director of Engineering Francesca Marano suggested that has benefitted from the branding and reputation of .org, which is built by volunteers. She also proposed that Automattic “has the resources to do a whole rebranding which would ultimately benefit both projects.”

Mullenweg responded to these comments, defending’s efforts in fending off early WordPress competitors and cited Automattic’s preeminence in contributing back to core, despite taking in less revenue than some larger companies making money from the software:

Since its foundation, .org has benefitted from the branding and reputation of having a robust SaaS version available from .com, including a free version, something basically no other host does. Over 200M people have used it, and countless started on .com and then migrated to another host. The shared branding made it very difficult for services like Typepad to compete. You want to see what WP would look like without it? Go to Joomla.

.com has also been the source of countless performance improvements, we deploy pre-release versions of core to millions of sites to find bugs and do testing, making WP releases way more stable for regular users and hosts. No company contributes more, even though many make more from WP than .com’s revenue. It would have been way easier to fork the software, not merge MU. Most hosts (and many community members) bad-mouth .com while not contributing a fraction back to core. Hosts spend tens of millions a year on ads against .com. I get attacked constantly.

In 2010, when the WordPress Foundation was created, Automattic transferred the WordPress trademarks to the Foundation, after having been the temporary custodian of the trademarks until that time. As part of the transfer, the Foundation granted Mullenweg use of the WordPress trademark for

This trademark was deliberately secured, and the company does not appear to be open to renaming the platform. This doesn’t mean can’t do anything to mitigate the confusion that scraping the plugin directory creates. Participants in the discussion suggested that forego indexing the pages they created for plugins that developers submitted to the open source project.

“You can control SEO by telling search engines to not index those pages of open source software developed for .org on the .com domain,” WordPress plugin developer Marco Almeida said.

“I have 20 free plugins on the repository and I don’t see how my plugins will benefit if we open this pandora box and normalize cloning these pages and diluting the importance on search engines.”

Developers who are just now discovering their plugins cloned to listings are also wanting to know how many of their installs come from so they can better understand their user bases. Mullenweg suggested developers who want a different listing for users can sign up for the .com marketplace.

Tensions remained high as the heated discussion continued throughout the day and into the evening with criticism flowing across X (Twitter), Post Status Slack, and other social channels, as many developers learned for the first time that their plugin listings have been cloned on As long as a commercial entity shares the open source project’s branding, these types of clashes and friction will continue popping up.

“Personally, I can’t help but empathize with plugin authors that chose to support OSS and find the directory cloned in a commercial service, albeit free, with no access to stats,” Francesca Marano said. “As I mentioned before, the main issue is the confusion around the two projects.”


23 responses to “Developers Raise Concerns About Plugin Listings Outranking on Google Search”

  1. If one actually looks at the 4 freedoms the GPL instills, you’ll truly understand Matt’s current disappointingly predictable “hey y’all, we give you EXPOSURE, you should be happy with it!” position has now validated all GPL clubs. Thanks, Matt! b2/Cafelog says hello world.

    • Given that Matt has no conception of the difference between what’s legal and what’s ethical, and all other webhosts should start offering nulled/license-stripped versions of all premium Automatic plugins for free. It’s GPL, after all!

  2. There are a few issues here. One is that on the dot com version it says “Free on Business plan”, but actually, it is free regardless. It makes it seem as if it is something dot com is providing. Seems a tad misleading.

    The comment implying it would be great if all of the hosting providers did the same thing, forgets about the confusion caused by finding 20 search listings and not knowing which one to go to for support. It is a problem not knowing which one is the source.

    • This is exactly what I’m discussing just few moments ago on Twitter with another user, the real issue is not the cloning per se, but using and “selling” my free plugin as asset for business user.
      The link to the author on the .com version is replaced with a “search results” page and there is no link to the support page (but I don’t know if the link will be displayed to business users) or basically read the reviews (and make a new one perhaps?).

  3. I am a bit confused by this, as a user I go directly to when searching, I don’t know what those on do. When I was using, no plugins were allowed, but I realize that that has changed for at least some .com sites.

    Certainly the lack of data for plug-in developers is a problem, and .com vs .org counts should be part of the missing data needing to be restored, I would think.

  4. I don’t have an opinion about the cloning itself, more about the reactions that just shows there’s a big gap between how Matt (and Automattic) feels appreciated and what really boils in the active part of the WP community. It’s lack of empathy and appreciation, both ways. Mainly as a result of untransparency, bad communication and a proper governance model by the leadership team.

    By the way: redistribution is part of the GPL freedom. Matt is 100% right, but Matt wears multiple hats, and it’s not obvious and easy to wear them on the same time. Like announcing 100 year hosting plan on Open Source conference cause you sponsored the place, or cloning the full rep cause you build-maintened-paid for it. He should have know how sensitive this can be. And you don’t have to be a SEO-expert to know this would rank top 3 straight away. Named domainnames still work fine.

    To solve all of this, i guess the leadership needs the close the gap. Redefine what open source really means. Is it all steering the wheel and have real influence? Or is it looking over the shoulders off the leadership people and being half happy by contributing via bugs, support, documentation and organizing community stuff. And if my assumptions are false and incorrect, why are contributors feeling this way?
    Of course, community can steer a bit but from what i’m seeing, you have to be very patience and stuburn. +10 year old Github tickets are now seen as fantastic addition. An uber-smart team has an offer ‘they’ can’t refuse; meaning the Performance Team; 2 years, such an incredible outcome.

    Also redefining the financial model around contributors, the unpaid pure independent volunteers. Meaning: not the contributors who’s job is to contribute.

    Also the transparency of financial contribution. It’s not only core software, the site has totally it flaws but it delivers the task. I can’t imagine how much it costs to run and maintain. If Matt’s is upset around the appreciation around that (or testing updates on .com), maybe.. you know… lack of clear communication.

    Also we have to work on saying thank you. There’s a clear taboo on that. It’s open source, off course you work for free and sponsor this and that, right. Euh, NO!. The mindset if broken, the communication around thank-you’s are broken, and certainly the appreciation. Guess what follows: frustration.

    In the darkest place of my mind i’m just thinking: it’s all getting to big and to diverse to handle, the ship has sailed, the gap stays.

    So, yes. I’ll get the frustration around the cloning part, i see reasons why this boils and it’s sad to see Matt feels attacked again and again. That is a real shame. So, if i was on board on the leadership team. The first thing i would clone was my communication team, maybe triple it. Next governance model like Drupal Board of directors (google it). And maybe then some day: clean sheets, renewed open source strategies and no drama. That would be a nice day, right.

  5. I’ve talked to so many people on non-WordPress events and people are surprised that WordPress is free. WordPress is mainstream, so everyone is being told to “Use WordPress”, but there is a huge confusion between and

    At this point, I feel that Automattic is intentionally abusing this. It’s not that much about the duplication of the repo and giving exposure to plugins – it’s more about the dishonest and misleading tactics which David McCan also pointed out here. They have changed to context around the plugins from “it’s free, open-source, download” to “you can get this with WordPress business plan”.

    I really don’t think cloned the repo just to give more exposure to all of the plugins. They did this to show the value of their Business subscription, where they charge users for installing free plugins. They essentially cloned repo pages to market all of the plugins as the features/benefit of their Business plan (without any mention or link back to that these plugins can actually be downloaded/used without any paid subscription).

    I’m sure they are aware of the public confusion between and, and they see business opportunity in this, rather than a problem (which undermines and the rest of the WordPress community).

  6. Generous and conscientious developers like John Blackbourn made WordPress for me.

    Sadly this does not surprise me anymore after the forcing of Gutenberg into core and setting up a web design agencies to compete with it’s most supportive users.

  7. I don’t get the hate that gets. I mean I kinda do, but it’s disappointing. They are a very good host. The lower tiers are somewhat limited, but it ends up creating a better experience for everyone involved. If you want to use plugins and other features, the higher tiers like Business and Commerce are actually pretty damn cheap compared to the competition while not limiting you to a certain number of visits or whatever. Performance is top notch. It’s easier to get started compared to most other hosts. This price+performance+ease advantage is why gets so much bad mouthing from competitors in the ecosystem.

    We live in an era of comfort and abundance, so every day there is an “outrage” over some or other non-issue. could certainly point to the .org as the canonical source, but other than that there is no problem here. This doesn’t hurt plugin developers in any way.

  8. Twitter/X isn’t the place for a civil and nuanced discussion.

    I’ve mentioned this in a few places but let’s do it again: WordPress is at its heart a blogging platform. It provides us with a way communicate in a noise-free environment. Wouldn’t the project be best served if Matt took advantage of this and addressed concerns through a blog?

    There is a lack of effective communication. It only feeds the distrust out there. Yet every few months we seem to have this type of incident.

    Every community will have disagreements, etc. That’s a healthy thing. But this is an example of something that’s unhealthy. I think leadership can do better in this area.

    • Wrong.

      Technically speaking Twitter/X IS the place for a civil and nuanced discussion.

      On and other similar blogs……..things are censored due to moderation.

      Yes you can have a civil discussion out there on Twitter/X

      The problem with blogs is the owner(s) can control the discussion and that should not be it.

      Look at the sub for WordPress on Reddit? 4 people control things.

      Even at WordCamps you can’t have a proper disccusion. You are fully entitled to say someone is wrong and that you disagree with their opinion(s). Depending on that someone…you could get kicked out because that someone can’t handle criticism.

  9. Why is the focus only on the software? It’s not just redistributing GPL software – it also fully cloned the text copy and plugin descriptions.

    These should have canonical links pointing to .org because all the content is originally from .org.

    This is literally what the canonical tag is for. So Matt saying they have no control over Google seems disingenous.

  10. I completely understand the concerns raised by developers regarding plugin listings outranking on Google search. It’s essential to maintain a level playing field to ensure that users can easily access and choose the right plugins for their needs. Hopefully, this issue can be addressed to provide more transparency and fairness in plugin discovery. Thank you for shedding light on this matter! 👍

  11. The situation where plugin listings outrank on Google Search raises valid concerns within the developer community, and I share these concerns. has long been the authoritative source for WordPress plugins, known for its transparency and developer-friendly environment.

    When listings surpass in search results, it can lead to user confusion and potentially compromise the credibility of plugins. Developers invest significant time and effort in creating plugins, and fair visibility on trusted platforms is essential.

    Maintaining the integrity of search results ensures users access the most reliable and up-to-date plugins. This issue highlights the importance of search engine algorithms accurately reflecting the quality and authenticity of resources, especially in the WordPress ecosystem.

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