Ivan Jurisic mentioned in our recent interview that his team acquired the Under Construction Page plugin after contacting the original developer that had abandoned the project on WordPress.org. Since I had been on the lookout for a plugin to purchase or takeover for awhile now I thought this was a pretty clever way to expand my plugin portfolio. I searched the plugin directory and built a list of plugins that intrigued me and had not been updated in quite awhile.
Then the cold emailing began…
Half of the plugins I marked as possible candidates had out of date or missing contact information and I wasn’t able to reach out to the developers at all. The other half just did not respond to any of my attempts via email or social media. My last resort was to contact the plugin directory administrators directly to see if any movement can be made but I couldn’t bring myself to do that.
In hindsight, these results shouldn’t have been very surprising. People in the WordPress community have been lamenting the state of abandoned plugins for years. Digging Into WordPress wrote about this problem all the way back in 2012 and while some attempts have been made to organize and solve the problem they have all fizzled out fairly quickly with one small exception.
The Adopt-Me Tag
After several posts on WP Tavern about the state of abandoned WordPress plugins a movement was made to begin marking plugins in search of new developers with an “adopt-me” tag on the plugin directory. Plugins with the tag are easily discoverable with a quick tag search:
This seems at first glance to be a great solution to the problem of abandoned plugins. Developers can mark their plugin in need of new leadership, drop some contact information in the plugin description and then sit back and wait for someone interested to come along.
But has it worked? This unofficial program started in February of 2014 and as of the date of this post there are only 25 plugins using the “adopt-me” tag out of tens of thousands of plugins on the directory (many of which haven’t been updated in years). Several of those 25 plugins are actually ones mentioned by name back in 2014 as word of the tag spread throughout the various popular WordPress blogs.
The problem with “adopt-me” is obvious: most developers don’t just wake up one day and decide to stop working on their plugins. Abandonment happens over time through decreased interest or outside forces that contribute to work stopping. I would bet many of you reading this post have plugins you haven’t touched in years because of lack of time or disinterest. It’s totally natural to eventually just stop worrying about updating plugins until they became lost thoughts to you.
Is WordPress Plugin Adoption Viable?
In theory I say yes but in practice I’m not really sure.
Even if you look beyond my own struggles to make contact with the owners of abandoned plugins there are still glaring issues with going through more organized methods like the “adopt-me” tag. Many of the plugins with that tag have been sitting there for years and most have low installation numbers or use outdated API calls or third-party technology. The current crop of plugins up for adoption just aren’t very attractive projects.
The real gems are plugins without the tag that have just been anonymously abandoned by their creators but those are the hardest people to reach. It seems clear the WordPress community needs a more pro-active approach to getting these abandoned plugins into the hands of new developers. Sitting back and waiting for someone to tag their plugin isn’t generating enough interest currently and more organized attempts at creating adoption programs have either failed or never gotten off the ground.
The fact that there are no official means to take over a plugin or communicate your desire to do so via WordPress.org is probably all that needs to be said about this issue. If the administrators of the largest plugin collection in the world don’t want to deal with the problem it’s going to be an uphill climb for anyone else who wants a working solution.
I’m going to keep my cold outreach going for awhile as I continue to try and grow my plugin business and portfolio. If anyone out there has a better solution that was is currently available to take over lost plugins please let me know.