Jetpack 7.2.1 Removes Promotions for Paid Upgrades from the Plugin Search Screen

Earlier this month, Jetpack 7.1 added suggestions to the plugin search screen, a controversial change that has sparked debate this week. When users search for a plugin that matches a term for an existing Jetpack feature, the plugin now inserts an artificial, dismissible search result into the first plugin card slot, identifying the corresponding Jetpack feature.

The Jetpack team said users have a hard time knowing what features are available, with 45 modules packaged into the plugin. The idea behind the proof of concept for the suggestions was to improve the discoverability of Jetpack’s existing features. Many in the developer community became outraged after it was discovered that Jetpack was also advertising paid upgrades in this space as well.

The fact that it was rolled out with promotions for paid upgrades made it seem to many onlookers that the discoverability problem was just a pretext for injecting advertising. The WordPress Plugin Team also said it may or may not be a violation of the plugin directory guidelines but that the team was still “arguing about the semantics internally.”

Version 7.2.1 was released today, removing all feature suggestions that previously advertised upgrades.

“We made a mistake, and we’re moving to correct it immediately,” Jetpack team representative Jesse Friedman said. “Our intention with these feature hints is to help you discover helpful features of Jetpack that you already have, right when you need them most. Today we’re correcting an error in judgement that resulted in the hints suggesting Jetpack features that actually required an upgrade.”

Characterizing the mistake as “an error in judgment” is an admission that rolling out feature suggestions with paid upgrades was a conscious decision. One month later, the Jetpack team decided it was a poor choice. This appears to have be driven by the community’s reaction, but Jetpack did not elaborate on how or why they reached the decision to revert the promotions for paid upgrades.

Jetpack 7.2.1 Updates Design for “Hints,” Plans to Adopt WordPress Core Solution in the Future

The 7.2.1 maintenance release also changes the design for the feature suggestions, which they are now referring to as “Feature Hints.”

“We’re reducing confusion around feature hints by simplifying the design and changing some text; this way it’s clear that feature hints are from Jetpack and are easily dismissible,” Friedman said.

After updating to the latest release, you can see the revised design on the plugin search screen with new text: “This suggestion was made by Jetpack, the security and performance plugin already installed on your site.” Jetpack will disable the hints once administrators have dismissed three hints.

“Going forward we want to help create a feature hints solution that works for all WordPress users and plugin developers,” Friedman said. “We are excited to work with suggestions like this one, by Joost de Valk, and see how we might be able to find a solution in WordPress core to help users discover plugin features, and prevent this very common issue. Once a core solution is available, we plan to adopt it for Jetpack.”

Developers who still do not want to see any sort of feature hint when searching for plugins can use the jetpackcom_remove_search_hints filter to turn it off. Users can also install the Hide Jetpack Promotions plugin as an alternative.

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25 Comments


  1. It will be back when no one is looking. Either in JetPack or another plugin. The .org team said they are 100% fine with modifying the plugin search results as long as you can find any excuse to pretend it’s not an ad.

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    1. Pretty sure we didn’t say that.

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      1. You don’t have to. The response from everyone at WordPress.org speaks louder than any words (spoken or typed) ever could.

        It’s blatent advertising for a paid service (it’s the paid service part that everyone has the problem with) that’s injected as part of the core site outside of anything that Jetpack has a part in or controls, with 99% the same styling made to look as much as humanly possible like a standard search result. There’s no way that any other plugin would have been allowed to do this. We’ve all seen plugin authors slapped down in the forums and slack for a whole lot less.

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      2. @Michael Beaumont: They removed the “paid service” part. That is what this entire post is about.

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      3. You said it was OK to mess with search results in general. In the long run this WILL be proven to be to be a huge mistake.

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      4. @Otto this is a direct quote from an earlier article here (emphasis mine):

        “It’s not really advertising anything – it’s just adding search results for pieces of a plugin that you already have and might not know about, so it’s not really against any rules,” Samuel “Otto” Wood said.

        This boils down to: Adding search results is not against the rules. Unless I have a way worse understanding of English language than I think.

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      5. @Arūnas Mmmm… Nope, didn’t say that either. You might be reading things that aren’t there.

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      6. @Arūnas

        This boils down to: Adding search results is not against the rules.

        Adding search results has never been against the rules. But if you start breaking other rules by doing so, then yeah, that’s not okay either.

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      7. @otto Yes, that’s what this article is about. But my point was not. My point was that this was approved and sanctioned by the plugin team in the first place and was allowed to be released to the public. If any other plugin author did the same thing, they’d be at leave given a very stern talking to and have their plugin removed from the repository until the problem was resolved. While it’s good that its’ been removed, it should not have been allowed in the first place as no one other plugin would have been allowed with that code in it. I understand that the “guidelines” are open to interpretation, but they do seem to be interpreted in some inconsistent ways sometimes – with this being a prime example.

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    2. Then I re-quote myself:

      You said it was OK to mess with search results in general. In the long run this WILL be proven to be to be a huge mistake.

      I stand by that statement. I was always under the impression that search results should not be touched. I can’t have been the only one. Now the line is way more blurry, at least for me. Even premium plugins did not mess with the search, so far as i could see. Now its open season. If Jetpack is doing it, soon everyone will. And there will be no stuffing that particular genie into the bottle.
      I might be overly pessimistic about this, but I’m terribly afraid I’m not.

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      1. You guys seem to be making up things out of nowhere and straight attributing them to us. None of this is true, and none of you have asked our opinions.

        Ask, don’t assume. We’re happy to answer specific questions.

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      2. @Otto didn’t you just in this thread said that adding to plugin search results is OK?

        If I created a browser extension that would add Drupal to the top of Google search results for ‘CMS’, wouldn’t you see anything wrong with that?

        For me, that would be quite an equal thing. And in my mind both of them constitute messing with search.

        You say it is not. OK, lets live with that. I created a library that any plugin developer can use to do a Jetpack for their own plugin. I hope someone does, so we can have a test case with a plugin that is not owned by Automattic.

        If a lot of them do, the actual search results soon will not be visible in the top fold.

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  2. “The Jetpack team said users have a hard time knowing what features are available”

    I think most feature rich plugins have the same problem

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  3. Maybe they should just create a tab labeled “Premium” like Yoast and the others and stick the tab under their area in the dashboard. That to me would be fair. No need to fumble around with the Search results.

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  4. The Jetpack team said users have a hard time knowing what features are available, with 45 modules packaged into the plugin.

    Maybe that’s the problem. Jetpack is a big jumble of stuff. It’s time to pare it down into a number of smaller plugins that do one or two things and do them well.

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  5. The Jetpack team said users have a hard time knowing what features are available

    This is an argument against creating megaplugins with dozens of unrelated modules that cover everything from CDNs to CPTs and contact forms.

    The solution is to have smaller plugins dedicated to performing one task.

    It’s easy for an average user to understand what Contact Form 7, Google XML Sitemaps, or Wordfence Security do based on their names. What does a Jetpack plugin do?

    As Carl Hancock pointed out, hosts auto-installing JP without users’ input compounds the discoverability issue.

    Allowing megaplugins to modify the search page as a solution to their self-created discoverability issues gives them an advantage over single purpose plugins by allowing them to appear at the top. It incentivizes the wrong thing, it will be gamed.

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  6. Mega Plugins are fine when they have a proper design. The problem is jetpack has most of its functionality under the old style dashboard and it’s extremely unclear what’s enabled.

    Like Beautiful math, it’s enabled and it can’t be turned off from the new dashboard you have to go to the old school modules tab and turn it off that way.

    The problem with JetPack is it’s UI is rather confusing and doesn’t properly describe all of its functionality.

    Also, let’s look at how the structure is. Go under the “Writing” tab. Scroll down and bam enable/disable mobile theme.

    You can have a lot of functionality built into the plugin so long as the UI makes it clear what those functionalities are and there is solid documentation.

    But saying the solution to jetpack’s confusing features is to split it into multiple plugins is almost as bad as stuffing ads into the admin panel for those features. They are both terrible approaches to a complex problem.

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    1. “Like Beautiful math, it’s enabled and it can’t be turned off from the new dashboard you have to go to the old school modules tab and turn it off that way.”

      If it was an individual plugin, it would be clear where it could be disabled – the plugins page.

      Jetpack is too big to be broken up at this point. Single purpose plugins are a way of avoiding this problem in the first instance.

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      1. I agree Gary. We no longer use Jetpack in our client sites and opt for single purpose plugins. Jetpack plays semantics and skirts the rules. The Jetpack cloud logins use to drive us crazy as well. Bottom line Jetpack has become Big Brother. By mid-year we will have removed Jetpack from all of our client sites.

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  7. Looks like Finally a relief for so many WordPress developers. Jetpack is a big plugin that has got so many in-built modules. To make the users know the modules available in Jetpack, they cannot create a submenu for each module. Instead, they should focus on educating their users with the features they have. I don’t think email marketing is alone just sufficient to get this done. Aggressive Youtube marketing might be needed.

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  8. I do have notice is that when you searched for a particular plugins and if jetpack installed it will show you in the very first result. I think that company have adapt a new marketing strategy to aware of new features that a user might want to use.

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  9. Is Jetpack really useful, has anybody had happy times with it?

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    1. Just one data point, I have used it to post in Markdown at some point. So yes, a small percentage of its functions was useful to me at that time. The gallery functionality was also helpful for specific themes that lacked styling.

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    2. To be honest, it’s useful. Some modules are useful to me like: spell checking, CDN, comment form, social buttons, auto share to social networks, etc. I don’t say there’s no alternative, but here is about the usefulness, and yes, it’s useful.

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