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WordPress Announces Canonical Plugins. Some Thoughts On proposed Names.

The WordPress Core Commit Team ended their meeting after WordCamp Orlando and has announced on the development blog that there will be canonical plugins in the future.

What are ‘canonical plugins’?

The first question which comes to mind is ‘What are canonical plugins?‘. The team has provided the following definition:

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. These plugins would be GPL and live in the repo, and would be developed in close connection with WordPress core. There would be a very strong relationship between core and these plugins that ensured that a) the plugin code would be secure and the best possible example of coding standards, and b) that new versions of WordPress would be tested against these plugins prior to release to ensure compatibility.

Canonical plugins will not be developed by one plugin developer anymore but by the community. They will also have their official web presence on the plugin repository instead of on website of the (original) developer.
What does this mean for several plugin developers? If you have a popular plugin and your plugin contains a ‘Donate’ button, be prepared to ditch this button if you want your plugin to be taken in consideration. This would be the case for example for. Arne Brachold’s Google (XML) Sitemap Generator and Donncha’s WP Super Cache plugin.

How to name ‘canonical plugins’?

The team clearly identified that the term canonical rather niche is and asks the community to vote on how these ‘super plugins’ should be categorised/labelled. The entry on the develop blog offers some names for canonical plugins:

Standard – Implies that these are the standard by which all other plugins should be judged, as well as the idea of them being the default plugins.
Core – Makes the close relationship to core WordPress development very clear, and has the implication of bundled plugins (even though we don’t need to actually bundle them now that the installer is right in the admin tool).
Premium – Identifies these officially-supported plugins as best-in-class and of the highest value, and could potentially disambiguate the word Premium as it is currently being used in the community (to refer to anything from commercial support to licensing terms to actual code quality).
Validated – Focuses on the fact that the code is reviewed for compatibility with core and for security.
Official – Makes it plain that these are the plugins officially endorsed by the core team as being the best at their functions.
Canonical – Maybe once people get used to it, canonical wouldn’t confuse so many people?

I know that when browsing the download section at Apple’s website I am usually tempted to first check the Staff Pick labelled downloads so there’s no doubt that a great name, label would highly increase the popularity of these plugins. But I do have some concerns with some of the proposed names.

  • Core : I do not think that any plugin should be called core unless it is added to the core code of WordPress itself and thus not a plugin anymore;
  • Standard : To me this somehow implies that they will be wrapped up together with the download. Similar to Askimet and Hello Dolly. Is this the way forward? Maybe and it would be great to immediately provide the user with a great selection of plugins without making WordPress itself bloatware. But if the name Standard is chosen and they are included in the download, this would certainly restrict the number of canonical plugins… unless you see no issue in adding 100 plugins to the download;
  • Premium : I think Premium has become standard for commercial themes and to avoid confusion this status quo should be maintained;
  • Official : What happens to the other plugins, non-canonical plugins? Are they unofficial? This is bound to create a big divide in the plugin community and I would rather not see this name become… well official;

Personally I have not been able to come with an alternative name but I think that canonical the best of the proposed ones is. Otherwise I would lean to something along the lines of Community Maintained or Community Pick.

Can you think of another more appropriate name for canonical plugins? Go cast your vote.

Last but not least, what about Askimet? Matt has more than once said, and I defend this decision, that Askimet works best if the secret juice is not open sourced. Would this exclude Askimet and should this exclusion have an impact on Askimet’s inclusion?

Canonical plugins, have you gotten used to canonical already, would also require to have excellent community support and have a Trac system, but more about what this could imply and how this could improve in another entry. Right now, my vote goes to ‘canonical‘.