Matt Mullenweg, the CEO of Automattic and the founder of WordPress recently brought forward a proposal of not adding any new core features to WordPress, instead advocating a shift to a plugin-first approach. This approach is all set to impact the future of WordPress, with a new feature that was scheduled to be introduced with the next version of WordPress being dropped entirely by the core team.
While the founder insists that using canonical plugins can aid in improving WordPress more quickly, not everyone is convinced. Several core contributors are of the opinion that user experience will suffer due to this proposed change.
What Exactly Are Canonical Plugins?
The idea of canonical plugins dates back to 2009, when several discussions were held on the feasibility of developing new features in the form of plugins. The original post on canonical plugins outlines it as mentioned below.
“Canonical plugins would be plugins that are community developed (multiple developers, not just one person) and address the most popular functionality requests with superlative execution.”
In addition, it also specified that there would be “a very strong relationship between core and these plugins”. This relationship would ensure the security of the plugin code and guarantee that it meets the highest coding standards. All new versions of WordPress would be tested for compatibility with these plugins prior to being released for the public.
Developed directly by the WordPress core development team, these were referred to as canonical plugins to differentiate them from the non-canonical plugins designed by third-parties. The latter usually provide limited features to encourage users to purchase the full version.
Once any such canonical plugin is observed to be popular or useful for the majority of users, the team could consider integrating it into WordPress as a core feature. This approach would help the core team avoid adding any new features that won’t be of essential for the major proportion of users.
Is A Plugin-First Approach The Future Of WordPress?
Also referred to as the plugin-first approach, this also conforms to the WordPress philosophy of Decisions, Not Options. In short, this philosophy seeks to avoid overburdening end-users with too many technical choices.
By shifting the different features and functions to separate plugins, users similar to Pensacola personal injury lawyers won’t have to waste time disabling the functions they don’t require or understand and enabling the ones that are relevant to their needs. The main objective of this plugin-first approach is to keep the core lean and fast while simultaneously supporting the development of new experimental features that can improve WordPress.
In a post titled Canonical Plugins Revisited, Mullenweg insists that this is the approach WordPress should adopt moving forward. In his words, “We are reaching a point where core needs to be more editorial and say “no” to features coming in as ad hoc as they sometimes do, and my hope is that more Make teams use this as an opportunity to influence the future of WordPress through a plugin-first approach that gives them the luxury of faster development and release cycles (instead of three times per year), less review overhead, and path to come into core if the plugin becomes a runaway success.”
An Ongoing Controversy
The post however, received several comments of dissent from several developers. While one user agreed that a canonical plugin for a certain functionality is a better option compared to having multiple bloated plugins offering the same, they also noted that a single option added as a core feature would do the job in a better manner.
Some of the main problems that users pointed out included an inferior user experience, increased maintenance burden, difficulties in gathering user feedback, and so on. While WordPress is aiming to adopt a newer approach that would lead to faster improvements, there are still doubts as to whether this new system will work just as well for the end users.