When ‘canonical plugins’ for WordPress were announced the post also mentioned that these plugins might have to move to a new structure, setup:
In order to have a system like this, each canonical plugin’s development community would probably need similar infrastructure to WordPress itself, including things like Trac, mailing lists, support forums, etc. These things will be worked out within the development community over the coming months…
If the community decides to open up the platform more this could have great advantages for these plugins but it would only restrict the damage done daily elsewhere. The inconvenience of being a popular open source platform with extensions and themes directory: popular plugins become orphans, themes aren’t updated with the newest features and could break a standard WordPress setup with new releases.
All themes and plugins hosted on WordPress.org are required to be GPL licensed so it would be simple for developers, designers to re-release ‘updated abandoned’ plugins and themes but users would not receive updates in the plugin and themes installer.
Enter GitHub. GitHub is a popular distributed platform used for many opensource software projects. Rails uses it, scriptaculous and Lussumo garden are other popular projects using GitHub. The SourceForge of the modern internet.
Git is a fast, efficient, distributed version control system ideal for the collaborative development of software.
GitHub is the easiest (and prettiest) way to participate in that collaboration: fork projects, send pull requests, monitor development, all with ease.
Where GitHub excels is the possibility to follow projects and also to fork a project, all while keeping the project leader informed of contributions.
I am not saying that GitHub the future of the themes and plugin directory is, but GitHub does offer an easy platform to overview many different projects. If a plugin or theme becomes orphaned, chances that someone else has created a fork are big and ‘repository moderators’ could opt to replace the main, original plugin with an updated commit.
A GitHub similar platform would also offer an easy platform for theme designers and child-theme designers to keep ‘connected’. It literally becomes easy to follow a plugin’s or theme’s history (themeline?) and to download new commits.
Could WordPress.org benefit from a similar setup?