In a very irregular feature, we’re posting about various plugin guidelines and what they really mean to you.
This week, we want to remind you about a long-standing guideline in the repository, which is covered in item #7 – Don’t phone home A plugin that “phones home” sends back tracking information to the plugin developer once it’s installed on a site. This may include IP addresses, usernames, or other data. without consent.
No “phoning home” without user’s informed consent. This seemingly simple rule actually covers several different aspects:
The guideline goes on to break down what we mean in four main points:
- No unauthorized collection of user data
- All images and scripts shown should be part of the plugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party
- No 3rd party ad tracking
- No ad-spam
That second item (which I emphasized) is what we want to remind you of today.
Your images, your scripts, your CSS CSS is an acronym for cascading style sheets. This is what controls the design or look and feel of a site., etc, should all be included locally. Besides not tracking users, keeping everything locally will make your plugins faster. It obviates the problem of external load. It means when your server is down for maintenance, you didn’t just slow down everyone’s wp-admin. It means you’ll never DDoS A type of online attack where a large number of infected computers are used to overwhelm a target computer, to the point where it no longer has the resources to perform its normal job. Read more. yourself on accident.
Unless you’re a service, your plugin has no business phoning home to your own servers to load data. If you are a service, you must have this clear in your readme as to what the service entails, preferably with a link to your ToS and and explanation as to what is tracked. This is for your protection. By remote loading files, you have the ability to track users. Data tracking is a huge deal, and while we understand you want to do it for metrics, it someone was taking your data without permission or consent and selling it or using it to promote their code, you’d be pretty ticked off.
You can (and should) re-read all the guidelines on https://developer.wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-org/detailed-plugin-guidelines/ – we rarely change them though we may reword things for clarity.
If you have suggestions as to how we can be more clear about #7, please leave a comment and let us know.
Keep in mind, we’re not going to spell out everything to the letter, as in our experience that leads to people playing nit-picky fake-lawyers about everything, and still violating the ultimate rule of the guidelines which is ‘Don’t be a spammer.’ For example, we’re not going to make a rule for not stealing other people’s plugins. You already know stealing is bad, right? 😈