Understanding the Open Source Environment and WordPress

By Lisa Sabin-Wilson

The WordPress software was built on an existing platform called b2. Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, was using b2 as a blogging platform at the time the developer of that program abandoned it. What did this mean for its users? It meant no more development unless someone somewhere picked up the ball and continued with the platform. Enter Mullenweg and WordPress.

Apply this same concept to plugin development, and you’ll understand that plugins sometimes fall by the wayside and drop off the face of the earth. Unless someone takes over when the original developer loses interest, future development of that plugin ceases. It’s important to understand that most plugins are developed in an open source environment, which means a few things for you, the end user:

  • The developers who created your favorite plugin aren’t obligated to continue development. If they find a new hobby or simply tire of the work, they can give it up completely. If no one picks up where they left off, you can kiss that plugin goodbye if it doesn’t work with the latest WordPress release.

  • Developers of popular plugins don’t hold to a specific timetable. Generally, developers are extremely good about updating their plugins when new versions of WordPress are released, or when flaws are discovered. Keep in mind that no timetable exists for these developers to follow. Many of these folks have day jobs, classes, or families that keep them from devoting as much time to the project as you want them to.

  • In the world of plugin development, it’s easy come, easy go. Beware of the pitfalls of falling in love with any particular WordPress plugin. Don’t let your website become dependent on a plugin, and don’t be surprised if a plugin isn’t there tomorrow. You can use the plugin for as long as it continues to work, but when it stops working, you’re faced with a tough decision. You can

    • Stop using the plugin and try to find a suitable alternative.

    • Hope that another developer takes over the project when the original developer discontinues his involvement.

    • Try to find someone to provide a fix for you (in which case, you’ll more than likely have to pay that someone for her time).

The world of WordPress plugins isn’t all gloom and doom, but it’s very important for you to understand the dynamics in play. Consider this information to be food for thought.