Last October, the WordPress.org plugin directory introduced a new “Compatibility” feature that allows users to vote on whether a given plugin version works or doesn’t work with a specific version of WordPress. The idea was to provide a more reliable indicator of plugin compatibility so that you wouldn’t need to worry if upgrading will break your blog. Five months have passed since then, and yet only 2% of all plugins listed in the directory have the green “Works!” seal marking their compatibility with the latest release of WordPress (2.9.2).
Is the vast majority of plugins truly broken, or is the voting system just not working out as well as expected? The compatibility statistics I collected via the WordPress.org API seem to indicate it’s the latter.
Note : Only the most recent release of each plugin was analysed for the purposes of this chart.
Since the day the voting feature was introduced, users have cast a total of over 39 600 votes (80% “works”, 20% “broken”) for 5093 plugins. Unfortunately, for most plugins there’s still not enough data to produce a definite verdict. They are stuck with the inconclusive “Not enough data”, which doesn’t really help users decide whether it will work on their site.
For contrast, here’s what plugin developers say about the compatibility of their plugins.
Based on the “Tested up to” field in plugins’ readme.txt files. Again, only the latest release of each plugin was analysed.
Of course, one of the reasons why the voting feature was introduced was the author-provided compatibility data often being incomplete or out of date. The user votes were supposed to serve as a more accurate, socially validated indicator of plugin compatibility. Judging by the overwhelming amount of “Not enough data” verdicts, it seems that we’ve just taken one often-unreliable indicator (the “Tested up to” field) and added a mostly useless one.
What’s more, if my experience with plugins is anything to go by, trusting either of these indicators would make one severely under-estimate how compatible existing plugins are with the latest releases of WP.
Then again, maybe it’s still too early to judge. There’s been some talk about adding the ability to vote for plugins from within the WP admin dashboard, which, if implemented, would definitely increase the number of votes dramatically. Eventually, the voting mechanism might actually produce useful results at least for, say, 30% of plugins.
All charts and statistics discussed in this post were based on data retrieved from the publicly accessible WordPress.org plugin API. On an unrelated note, I really need to find a better charting app.Related posts :