Recently my WordPress plugin, Artiss YouTube Embed, was bought by a third party – a company named Applian Technologies Inc. They wanted the existing user base to help promote their video software products.
What happened, unsurprisingly, was that the plugin was re-branded and released with links to their site. This included a “download bar” – a series of 3 links which appear under each video. This was switched on by default but could be easily switched off in the settings screen.
The first 2 links allow you to easily download the video and convert it to MP3. The last link was to the companies product page (initially this wasn’t a nofollow link but I advised the company to add this in so they don’t affect user’s SEO). To add benefit they’ve create an affiliate scheme – simply sign up and enter your affiliate ID and you can make 30% off any sales generated from this link. I’ve done just that and have left this download bar on.
By adding their own corporate identity to the plugin – still provided free of charge and supported – they were able to take off my administrator side advertising, as well as requests for donations, etc, that were in the instructions.
Unfortunately, it’s been met with complaints. And they’re not mild either. Some advised people to avoid the plugin at all costs because of the supposed “under-handed” way this has happened.
One user got particularly vocal complaining that it broke WordPress guidelines and had complained, asking others to do the same too. The result – on Friday the plugin was removed from WordPress.org. No-one told Applian that this had happened, however they’d already contacted WordPress pro-actively to see if there was any merit in the complaints. They were told it broke the rules but it’s not clear. Indeed, they received replies from 2 different staff at WordPress and were given different answers. If begs the question – if they can’t decided amongst themselves, how are we supposed to interpret it? Here’s the guidelines it’s apparently fallen foul of…
The plugin must not embed external links on the public site (like a “powered by” link) without explicitly asking the user’s permission.
So if your plugin is designed to add links to a site and it does so once activated, does this break their guidelines? If this is the case then there’s a LOT of plugins that should be removed. including their own Jetpack plugin. I understand it for the commercial link but the rather useful “Download the video” link? If, as a developer, we want to add something later that we think would be beneficial, we have to leave it switched off and hope the users bother to switch it on? Basically, it’s a bit “fuzzy”. Applian are now changing the plugin to be “opt in” in future but are making changes elsewhere to promote the links further.
But, personally, I don’t get the complaints. It adds some links, which you can switch off. Ok, that last one broke guidelines and was removed. The addition of the links, though, are mentioned in the change log and shown in the screenshots – it’s hardly been hidden. I’m not sure what people want – a high quality plugin for free, with free support and they’re surprised when the developer adds something to promote their company?
Also, I’m shocked by the surprise some of these users are expressing at finding these links. They’re running a website, which they say is important, but happily update plugins, ignoring the change log, and obviously don’t test on them on their site beforehand (after all plugins can cause websites to break) and then complain at some supposed “under hand” sneaky tactic.
In the meantime, I think there are some people who need to wind their neck in. Of course, all of this are my own opinion and not those of the new owners, who have been remarkable good about it, answering all complaints and even asking for assistance on improving wording, etc, to avoid mis-understanding. Probably not surprisingly no-one has offered to help them – I’ve always been of the opinion that you shouldn’t complain about something unless you’re prepared to offer alternatives.
The above has been modified as half was written before some of the events occurred, and the other afterwards. As a result the post was a bit inconsistent so has been re-worded to more accurately reflect my own, eventual, feelings on the subject.