55,000 free or essentially free* plugins live on the WordPress Repository, making for a bountiful selection. Some might call it an embarrassment of riches. And if you’re looking to find one that meets certain requirements, you are likely to start there. But your search just as likely doesn’t end there.
There’s a lot of pride in the free nature of these bundles of extra features that can turn your blog into a [Shop] [Portal] [CRM]…you name it. The sky is the limit, especially when you factor in the bonus is that you’re only out time if your tinkering doesn’t materialize.
In many ways, the WordPress Repository represents the culture behind the world’s largest Content Management System. These plugins are free, and yet, most plugin authors take seriously our responsibility of producing quality code and encourage feedback from the community as if they were being paid.
A single source for all plugins
We all have to earn a living. And many authors offer freemium versions of their plugins as a way to get their foot in the door, which means that the true number of plugins are splintered across several 3rd-party aggregators and one-off developer sites (like Trumani). It would be nice in theory to bring those commercialized plugins into the WordPress Repository fold so that they can be easily searched and compared against others in the repository.
Know what you’re downloading
The WordPress Repository maintains tight guidelines for how a plugin is uploaded and versioned. End users are able to consume information about features, updates, and feedback in a familiar format. Speaking of feedback…
Know how the plugin has been received
I always discount reviews of a plugin unless they are from the WordPress Repository. Marketplaces will all have their own rules for reviews that are likely not as transparent and independent sites can control what feedback to show. You can search “best XX plugin” but, even then, it’s difficult to trust the sources of these lists. One poor offender is WPBeginner. They have written a few tiered lists about the best this and that and at the top is their own plugin, WPForms. They choose not to add a disclaimer because doing so “is not scalable.”
Other examples include “sponsored” lists and reviews that are bought and paid for by the plugin developers. As WPBeginner itself points out, “bloggers often tend to write reviews for products that they earn a referral commission from.” Go figure.
Jeopardizing the thorough review process
55k plugins are enough to keep any team maxed out, let al0ne the community of volunteers at WordPress.org who diligently review each plugin before it’s uploaded to the repository. The strict checks they have in place keep the website’s of those who would install the plugin safer. Could this team scale to support checking premium plugins? Probably not without compromising the integrity of their vetting process or beginning to charge for that service.
The WordPress team doesn’t operate in the model of a marketplace like CodeCanyon, which can bake in the cost of their review process into the fee of a plugin sold on their site. Ultimately, there would be a new cost, whether the end-users or the plugin authors would ultimately pay it.
Breaking with the culture of open source
There is not a theme or plugin for sale on WordPress.org. Yes, there are plenty of plugins that have a commercial counterpart, but there are most often very clear up-sell features included in the paid version. It’s just not a good match to have those paid plugins listed on an extension repo for a free application.
You already have a recourse without going through the WordPress Repository
Doing your research isn’t that difficult. You can pull up all relevant results by searching requirements followed by “plugin.” You should find all options available to you if plugin authors have adequately optimized their sites.
And let’s say you purchase a plugin and do not get what you were promised. You can in most cases request a refund. If that doesn’t work, you can then file a dispute with your card provider. And that will have to do.
Simply put, whether you think it’s a great idea or a terrible one, you won’t see premium plugins on WordPress.
*Some free plugins only act as an interface to a paid service. So, I suppose they’re free in theory, but useless bundles of code without ponying up for a subscription.