Enhanced Plugin Installs Axed From WordPress 4.2

A few days ago, we highlighted how WordPress 4.2 radically improves the installation and update process for plugins. Several readers commented on the article expressing that automatically activating plugins after installation is a bad idea. A decision was made during the March 25th, WordPress core developer chat to remove enhanced plugin installs from WordPress 4.2 and punt it to a future release. However, enhanced plugin updates will remain in WordPress 4.2.

New Plugin Update Routine
New Plugin Update Routine

It’s uncommon for functionality to be removed from WordPress this late in the development cycle. Drew Jaynes, who is leading the 4.2 release cycle, explains that the feature just isn’t ready.

Prudence demands that we decide whether to do things now vs do things right. In this case, we want to make sure we handle the user experience of activating plugins after installation the right way for most use cases. So we still have ‘Shiny Updates’, but we’re going to have to fall back and regroup on ‘Shiny Installs’.

On the Make WordPress core blog, Aaron Jorbin outlined three issues caused by auto activating plugins.

  1. Plugins that require after activation steps (such as connecting to Jetpack or Google Analytics, updating permalinks for BuddyPress, etc) aren’t obvious. We need a way for plugins to provide a notice upon activation that shows what to do next.
  2. Since the menu isn’t updated, users still need to do a page refresh in order for the changes to actually go in effect and for them to use the features of many plugins.
  3. There are plugins such as maintenance mode ones that users will not want to be activated right away.

The idea of installing plugins inline is sound, but until the user experience issues are addressed, the plugin install process will remain the same.

25 Comments


  1. “The idea of installing plugins inline is sound, but until the user experience issues are addressed, the plugin install process will remain the same.”

    You are a man of power and a man of the people Jeff

    Good to know that the WordPress devs do listen.

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  2. That’s great. Good call to hold it a bit until it’s ready. The easiest solution I can think of is a two step process. Like.. You click the “Install” button, the button change to show a loading effect, then the plugin gets installed and the button becomes an “Activate” button. That should have be like this from the beginning.

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    1. That has issues, mainly the fact that by making installs asynchronous, activation would need to be blocked until after all the installs take place. Also, what does the post activation page look like? If you are on the recommended tab, should that be cached with your recommended plugins when you install? Should you see a notice of “recently installed but not yet activated plugins”.

      This was absolutely considered, but the can of UX worms here is much much larger and it’s also not what the majority of end users need.

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      1. The fact that the majority of users don’t care is not an excuse to do something more lazy, where there’s a way to please everyone, making the installation easy and fast, but still giving the user the option of activate or not. That’s why I think my proposal is a good middle ground.

        Auto-activation also implies that developers needs to keep in mind what is happening after installation, and they should change their plugins accordingly (if necessary). Even if there’s an opt-out option, devs should still make changes to accommodate to this. Even if a small percentage of plugins require modifications, I think this is unnecessary.

        Again, if there’s a middle ground that can make everyone happy, there’s no reason to not go that way. Especially if a bit more work on the core can avoid a lot of work of hundreds of developers.

        I’m also responding here to your last post, that I just read.

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    1. Network activating by default was never a part of this, nor should it be. If you are managing a multisite network, the assumption is that you know what you are doing. It’s part of why there is no initial user facing option to turn on multisite.

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  3. Absolutely the best move to make. “Been there and done that” and also “been there and didn’t do that” – very stressful and painful lesson. ;)

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  4. Thank you! Thank you! Keep the good part (updates) and punt the not ready for prime time part (installs) is absolutely the best possible news!

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  5. I think it’s a wise move to postpone it for now, but I’m pleased they’ve decided to leave the enhanced plugin updates. I totally agree with the comments above on managing multisite networks, if you run one you should be in complete control anyway without simplified management of plugins.

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  6. Thanks for the update Jeff, I saw the same concern on a few private WordPress groups I am involved in. Many users were complaining about the auto activation. Really happy to see however that improved update process is still going ahead :)

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  7. When the UPDATE NOW button is pressed allow a second screen to give the user the option of doing an AUTO ACTIVATION or ACTIVATE LATER.

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  8. Good deal. I’m glad it’s axed. I don’t need no auto-install nothin’. :D

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    1. Temporarily until all possible scenarios can be accounted for. I bet if you download WP 4.2 Beta2 and install it on a test site you will feel differently. Very cool stuff, but just needs some fine tuning.

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  9. Thanks very much for this. I have a question about auto-updates, though. Won’t the same issue with the menu not updating occur with auto-updates since the screen won’t reload? That wouldn’t be an issue most of the time, but some plugin updates add new sub-menu links, such as the very latest WordPress SEO by Yoast update, which removed several sub-menu items and amalgamated them into two new sub-menu items. So wouldn’t these changes to the menu still need a page reload after an auto-update? If so, is that something that is being addressed in time for the April release? Thanks very much for the info :)

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    1. Just to be clear, I mean the auto-updates demonstrated in the article above (elsewhere referred to as Shiny Updates). Thanks!

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      1. @ Julie – the animated gif is just showing how the new Shiny Updates feature works. It requires that you to actually click something (the update now link) in order for the plugin update to happen. All WP auto-updating stuff happens in the background and does not require any clicks by you. So those things are actually 2 totally different things. As far as I know automatic background stuff and Shiny Updates are 2 entirely different animals.

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      2. Hi Ed, thanks for taking the time to reply. Yes, I understand the difference between auto-updates and Shiny Updates, which is why I came back to clarify my meaning. I guess I didn’t do a good job at it!

        My question is about how Shiny Updates behave. When you click the button, the screen doesn’t reload. So, in the event that a plugin update adds a new menu item (as described in my original comment), the user would still have to refresh the screen for the changes to take effect. That seems to me to be a glitch in the expected user experience, and am wondering if it will be (or already has been) addressed in time for the April release. Thanks again, and cheers!

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      3. ah ok got it. I am a decent coder and know my way around WP pretty well, but that is the extent of my credentials. So I am going to state what I know from that/my perspective. I believe the Shiny Updates feature is done with AJAX and what is really cool thing about doing anything that uses js/AJAX is that you can do things in real “real-time” vs doing something with only php code, which executes/processes in real-time, but you are always seeing the past and not now/the current moment. Example: a php function is processed and you see a displayed message. In that moment you see “now”, but in reality the function was already processed so technically you are seeing the past – yeah wrap ur head around that one. :) I am not a js or AJAX expert, but what I do know is that AJAX works very similarly to Visual Basic (VB) code that is used in most Microsoft applications so you can actually access things in real-time from the client/your browser as they are happening in real-time.

        So to answer your question to the best of my knowledge I would say that since AJAX (assuming that is AJAX is used for Shiny Updates) is being used then browser refreshing is not going to be any sort of factor because of how AJAX works in real-time. So if the Shiny Updates code was doing what it does by using just php code then a browser refresh would be a factor in this equation. Hope that all made sense. :)

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  10. WP automatic updates (wp version updates/upgrades) happen in the background so they would not be affected in any way. I have never tried to do/setup automatic plugin and theme updates so not sure if they are done in the background as well. I assume they are.

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  11. LOL uh yeah – Configuring Automatic Background Updates kind of says it all. ;)
    https://codex.wordpress.org/Configuring_Automatic_Background_Updates

    By default, automatic background updates only happen for plugins and themes in special cases, as determined by the WordPress.org API response, which is controlled by the WordPress security team for patching critical vulnerabilities. To enable or disable updates in all cases, you can leverage the auto_update_$type filter, where $type would be replaced with “plugin” or “theme”.

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  12. *cough* MAINTENANCE PLUGINS *COUGH*

    I am completely against the WordPress servers/people/mascot/etc…turning things on or off without asking me, or updating things without asking me. things can go the funky way (bad funky not good funky).

    I have a snow plugin on my site. I don’t want it active during spring/summer/fall. So this automatic active thing is not something I would like.

    On another site I have a Santa is coming plugin, I de-activate it on Dec 25 at 2am. Don’t activate it again until Dec 1. (it has a countdown as well). My snow plugin again (see line above) I put a Santa “flake” so it snows Santas for most of December.

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  13. Weighing in – I am not wanting WordPress to do plugin or even core updates in the background without having my request. If some really want this, have it be to be switched on actively, not the default. It is a big lack of control over the blend of plugins I’ve selected for a site.

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