WooCommerce 3.6 to Add Marketplace Suggestions, Despite Overwhelmingly Negative Feedback from Developer Community

In one of the most unpopular changes in the history of the WooCommerce open source project, version 3.6 will introduce “Marketplace Suggestions.” The update adds suggestions to the products admin screen, which vary based on whether it’s an empty state or within the list of products.

“They are contextual mentions of official extensions that may be relevant to a customer,” Todd Wilkens, Head of WooCommerce, said. “This currently includes all extensions on the official WooCommerce marketplace, which is open for submissions and lists extensions written by Automattic as well as by trusted partners and third-party developers.”

The suggestions are on by default for users who can install and activate plugins. They are dismissible, but the frequency with which they will be shown is one of the most contentious aspects of WooCommerce’s proposed implementation:

  • We’ll only show 1 on the Products screen, and 5 on the Product – empty state, Orders – empty state or Edit Product metabox.
  • Each suggestion is dismissible, we are not providing an option to dismiss all suggestions (other than if you choose to hide them).
  • We’re only showing 1 suggestion at a time, if a customer dismisses this, they won’t see another one for 24-hours.
  • If suggestions are dismissed more than five times. No further suggestions are shown in that location ( i.e. Products Listing ) for a month.

WooCommerce is providing a filter to turn off the suggestions, and this will likely soon be available as a plugin from the community. It is not something that is easy for non-technical store owners to implement.

add_filter( ‘woocommerce_allow_marketplace_suggestions’, ‘__return_false’ );

“If the above removal-by-script option proves to be difficult to implement – for example, for those who are not comfortable adding custom code – we will explore introducing a simpler way to turn them off and include this in a point release (e.g. a toggle in core settings),” Wilkens said.

WooCommerce Developer Community Sees Marketplace Suggestions as a Major Disruption to Store Owners’ Workflow

The feedback coming in on the announcement post and WooCommerce’s GitHub repository is overwhelmingly negative. In a comment on an issue titled “Rethinking 3.6’s Dashboard Ads,” Josh Kohlbach contends that WooCommerce should limit its marketing to the plugin’s dedicated Extensions screen in the dashboard:

In addition, didn’t anyone think it might be a conflict of interest for WooCommerce the commercial entity to use WooCommerce the open source plugin to show ads in this manner? Bit anti-competitive to all the 3rd party devs out there (of which there are a lot).

WooCommerce already has an amazing page under WooCommerce->Extensions with full searching capabilities etc. Why would you want to show irrelevant ads during a user’s everyday workflow?! Store owners use these screen daily, it’s terrible UX.

I suggest that it gets ripped out in its entirety and filed under “cool implementation/fun to code but horrible idea for actual users.

For those who do not stand to benefit from profits from the 400+ extensions on the WooCommerce.com marketplace, the intrusions in the product admins screen seem all the more offensive. Marketplace suggestions have not been well-received by third-party extension developers.

“This is in direct competition to every third-party developer that is not selling on WooCommerce’s marketplace,” Jamie Madden, founder of the WC Vendors Marketplace, said. “I am one of these. This is advertising for your commercial products, no matter how you try and wrap this. You have an extensions page already which is more than enough, but advertising your products every 24 hours is going too far. This is completely unacceptable.”

The general consensus of those participating in the ticket is that injecting ads into product management screens will create a disruption to store managers’ workflow.

“I too am very concerned about this,” digital agency owner Erik Bernskiold said. “I get that WooCommerce want to benefit from their commercial side, too, and there are many ways to do this. But in this case, it feels like this is at a great disregard for the users. Hijacking a product list, order list or a user interface element in this way is a major interruption of the user experience. It’s not the place for an ad.”

Several participants in the discussion have suggested that WooCommerce make it an opt-in toggle in the settings.

“There is only one scenario where I think this feature should stay in place and could be beneficial: If this feature is controlled by an opt-in toggle in WC settings,” Jeremy Pry said. “Otherwise, this whole feature should be removed entirely. Store owners don’t need advertisements in their admin dashboard. In my opinion, leaving this feature in place would be very harmful to the WooCommerce community.”

Marketplace Suggestions Require Dismissal Every Day for 5 Days, Only to Return 1 Month Later

The fact that the suggestions cannot actually be dismissed for good is one issue that developers predict will end up aggravating WooCommerce users.

“Dismissing just to keep hounding the user, that’s not dismissing… that is snoozing,” WordPress developer Patrick Garman said. “Because I told you 5 times that I don’t want to see your ads, that doesn’t mean come back in a month. The average user shouldn’t have to use a filter to make ads go away.”

I would not be surprised if WooCommerce ends up dialing back the frequency of the ads after they are closed, given that nearly all those participating in the conversation consider it unacceptable to require dismissal five days in a row, with the same process repeated every month thereafter. The frequency with which they are displayed is unusually aggressive.

“I don’t think it technically violates the guidelines it’s just obnoxious and makes WooCommerce look like a low rent solution,” Astoundify founder Adam Pickering said. “It seems we are in a midst of a monetization push and they are looking for any where they can add up sells. Apparently doing so gracefully has gone out the window.”

Despite the overwhelmingly negative feedback, WooCommerce appears to be ploughing forward on its plan to ramp up its marketing in the admin. Automattic is a business and it needs to make money with WooCommerce. Most participants in the discussion do not seem opposed to WooCommerce making money with marketplace suggestions but are strongly requesting that they do not inject ads in places where users are working on their own products in the admin.

“There’s nothing necessarily wrong with ya’ll trying to squeeze out some more money from users – so long as it’s done tastefully, and in a way that actually provides value to the user, instead of spamming and hindering them,” @justlevine commented on the GitHub issue.

Based on the WooCommerce developer community’s feedback, many are in agreement that they will only support changes will be respectful to store owners working in the admin. They would prefer WooCommerce focused its efforts on improving the existing Extensions tab, instead of injecting items from the marketplace on other screens. The current implementation of marketplace suggestions needs work, because it is too heavy-handed in displaying ads after users indicate through the UI that they want to dismiss them.

Most participants in the discussion are in favor of letting store owners decide if they want to see ads for extensions on their product admin screens. They would prefer that users opt in through a more transparent way than simply agreeing to terms of service. At the very least, most prefer WooCommerce add a setting that would allow store owners to easily turn marketplace suggestions off. If Automattic wants this new feature to be successful, the company needs to revise the implementation to be something that doesn’t instantly make the majority of the WooCommerce developer community want to turn it off.


31 responses to “WooCommerce 3.6 to Add Marketplace Suggestions, Despite Overwhelmingly Negative Feedback from Developer Community”

  1. It would much better if they spend time and effort creating a better WooCommerce.com marketplace. It is one of the worst marketplace with scarse information, missing demos, no user comments, etc.

    • Why does this even illicit surprise? WP is not true open-source and contributors to it are simply free labor furthering Matt’s commercial goals. He threw users and developers under the proverbial bus last year and nothing has changed. I will bet anyone that more like this will come. Who wants to wager me?

  2. This behavior is kind of different from the Jetpack case. At least, they do in their product screens, not WP screens.

    The bad thing here is how they do that. It’s too much and too often. And there’s no way to disable it at all (coding is not an option for store owners).

    Agreed with Matt, it’s probably a good time to fork the project.

  3. Reading through the WC team reply comments on the announcement post can be summarised as “Thanks for your opinion – we’re doing this anyway.”
    No engagement with the community at all 😦 Very sad.

  4. I’ve seen hundreds of outraged comments about this change, largely from developers.

    I haven’t seen a single pull request to the WooCommerce repository, from someone outside Automattic, to propose any changes, improvements or the ads’ removal.

    As they famously say at Facebook: “Code Wins Arguments“.

    If you are a developer and believe these ads are damaging to your clients, your business or the WooCommerce community, contribute to improving that situation and the platform.

    That’s what open source is all about.

    • I haven’t seen a single pull request … from someone outside Automattic,

      From following the conversation, it seems like everybody from outside Automattic’s hope is that they’ll just press the “revert” button on the original merge, because the whole idea will scream “hi guys, it’s amateur hour, this is a plugin for mom-and-pop shops only” at users.

      Some people have suggested alternative areas of the dashboard where marketing is appropriate, but looking to third parties to produce code to tune Automattic’s marketing and stop themselves shooting themselves in the foot sounds a bit optimistic.

      Does code really win arguments at Facebook? If so, it’s hard to know why Facebook is still a creepy universal surveillance machine. I suspect that in reality, being Mark Zuckerberg and being able to say “the owners require profits, so do as I tell you” is what wins arguments.

  5. When will people realize Automattic answers to its shareholders, not WordPress users.

    Everything they do is designed to generate revenue, not to benefit open source community.

    Everything they contribute to the core helps WordPress.com, all free plugins they offer either have upgrades or paid extensions.

  6. Fortunately (?), this is the open-source movement, so opinions can run wild sometimes. At the same time, it means Automattic has to build extra muscle to deal with concrete and on-point feedback on the Web and in-person at meetups!

  7. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I’ve now added

    // Removes Woocommerce’s offensive advertising
    add_filter( ‘woocommerce_allow_marketplace_suggestions’, ‘__return_false’, 999 );

    to the functions.php file of all 6 WooCommerce sites that I maintain.

    This is a worrying trend from Automattic – first Jetpack, now WooCommerce. What’s next? Pushing their commercial agenda in the WordPress core itself?

    • Same. We have around a dozen active WooCommerce clients, but for some we no longer have access to their codebase to make the filter change. So I very quickly knocked this plugin together: Remove WooCommerce Marketplace Suggestions.

      Hopefully this should cover all of the many, many shop owners who don’t have the ability, the access or the budget to have that filter manually added.

  8. So Automattic have clearly learned nothing from the great G*******g debacle. One curious thing about the WC marketplace that I’ve never understood is that there’s absolutely no incentive to renew subscriptions. Renewal costs are the same as new purchase costs. Plus, they are way overpriced IMHO.

    Plugins get a major update say 3 or 4 times a year if you’re lucky. At the end of the subscription term, you might as well let your subscription lapse for 6 to 12 months, continue using the old version and then buy a new license when it suits. Or buy your plugins from elsewhere as I do.

    I really dislike this “new” Automattic and I am looking forward to seeing ClassicPress develop.

    • I’m just confused, if your a developer and they gave you a filter to turn it off, why are we still talking?

      Because if you’re developing third-party WooCommerce extensions, then you have an interest in the total market size of the WooCommerce extension market. If WooCommerce burn their reputation as “that pretty good, but annoyingly spammy e-commerce plugin”, then that affects you. Just because there’s a filter, doesn’t mean that 99% of users will know, or know what to do with it.

  9. How come my screenshot doesn’t get like some awesome attribution or credit – maybe even a free toaster or something like that? Nothing. No Love. ………at all?
    Fine, I’m gonna go get on the tweeders and hashbrown some #wpdrama

    • Or… get negative feedback, ignore, force it on the community anyway, get an even bigger backlash once actual users who use and pay for said extensions find out, then make a rollback release and admit “yeah maybe that wasn’t a good idea”… /shrug

  10. Yes, this is unacceptable, hence I created a plugin for this filter. So everybody can use it without any coding skills:

    WooCommerce Without Marketplace Suggestions

    The plugin just works, no options, no admin menu. Enjoy! 🙂

  11. Timmy just cranked out 3.6 rc 2.
    In this second release you’ll find …………….
    {{dramatic drumroll}}
    ……either a semi-decent surprise
    …..you’ll be severely disappointed


    • // Suggestions may be disabled via a setting under Accounts & Privacy.
      if ( ‘no’ === get_option( ‘woocommerce_show_marketplace_suggestions’, ‘yes’ ) ) {
      return false;

      Didn’t dig too deeply into the code but really hope this is enabled by default.

  12. In closing out our original post about Marketplace Suggestions, I said:

    We are listening to feedback on usefulness, frequency, and ways to improve extension recommendations. As with all thing open-source, they are subject to change.

    We are committed to working with our community, including the plugin review team, and responding to feedback. Just as a reminder, the Marketplace Suggestions feature was developed in the open in a long-running feature branch/PR which was merged to master a month ago. It was mentioned in the Beta 1 Release notes, and was testable during Beta1 and prior on master.

    It is often only when the release candidate comes out that we get certain kinds of feedback. It’s an important stage in the development cycle when we want and expect input. With the 3.6 RC1 live, we received specific feedback that we could take into consideration and act on. Thanks to the developers, end users, and the plugin review team for all their help.

    See all the details of updates and fixes in the 3.6 RC2 release post.

    Also, we continue to be in contact with the plugin review team to ensure the suggestions are in accordance with the guidelines. There is a live conversation on the definition of suggestion/advert dismissibility. We will participate in that conversation and honor the outcomes.


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