Why is it important to know when a WordPress plugin or theme has a new owner?

One of the data points that WP Lookout tracks about WordPress.org themes and plugins is the listed author/owner of the plugin. This may seem like a relatively benign bit of information to care about. It’s reasonable to think most WordPress users have rarely paid attention to who is officially responsible for the software installed on their site.

But knowing who that person or company is, and when it changes, can actually be quite important for managing and maintaining the quality of your WordPress sites in the long term.

For example, if a plugin you rely on heavily changes ownership, that might be a signal that significant changes are coming up for the plugin’s functionality or business model. Plugin authors hand over ownership of their software for any number of reasons, including being ready to let someone else with more interest take on maintenance and feature development. Sometimes there’s an actual sale or acquisition involved.

As a result, what was free or community supported about the plugin in the past might become a commercial venture in the future, or vice versa. What might have been a once-quarterly release schedule for new versions might become a once-weekly schedule in new hands. What once might have been a rigorous attention to security and performance issues might take a back seat to other priorities, or the other way around.

All of these kinds of shifts can eventually have an impact on the WordPress sites that run the software. The level of confidence and trust in the software might increase or decrease. The responsiveness and helpfulness of the plugin author on support requests could really improve, or take a turn for the worse. And so on.

Many plugin and theme authors will helpfully publish a blog post or other announcement when they hand over control of the software to someone new. Ideally, they explain the context for the change and share some details about what it will mean moving forward. And hopefully we also get to hear from the new owner about their background and plans.

But even if no announcement is made, at the very least WordPress professionals who depend on a theme or plugin across many sites should know when the author changes. Unless a site owner is keeping track on their own, that’s not information you typically get in your day to day site management workflow.

WP Lookout makes it easy. We’ll monitor the listed owner of each plugin and theme in the WordPress.org directory, and if there’s a change, we’ll let you know. (If you’re signed up to receive immediate emails, Slack notices or custom webhooks, you’ll know right away.) Even if the plugin author stays the same but links to a different website URL for their author profile, we’ll notice that too.

The end result is that you know as soon as possible when there may be a shift coming up in the software you depend on, and you can take any action needed to protect the stability and performance of your WordPress site.