302 – Eric Karkovack on the merits of canonical plugins in WordPress

302 – Eric Karkovack on the merits of canonical plugins in WordPress

Interview with Eric Karkovack and Nathan Wrigley.

On the podcast today we have Eric Karkovack. He’s been in the WordPress space for ages and contributes in a whole variety of ways.


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I’ve been wanting to get him on the show for ages, but our calendars kept colliding, until today!

We talk about two, not related, subjects. The first is WebP images, and the second is canonical plugins.

WebP images

You might not have heard of WebP images, but they’re all the rage! They are / were a project which came out of Google, and their intention was to create a new image format which would create images of high quality, but of a smaller file size.


They succeeded! WebP images are typically 20% smaller than their older relations, jpeg / jpg and png.

For images to work on the web, the technology needs to be adopted by the browser vendors so that they can interpret the files as they come across the internet and display them in your browser. That seems to be the case too, with about 98% of users of the web making use of a browser which supports WebP.


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Given all the above, you still cannot use them in WordPress, which seems a little odd! Why is that? Well, Eric and I talk about that on the podcast today, and the decision of the WordPress Core team to delay the adoption of WebP into Core until after 6.1 has been released.

Why was this decision made and when can we expect WebP’s in WordPress Core?

Canonical plugins

This is something which I really like!

This is a proposal (see the links below) to increase the footprint of what WordPress can do, without increasing the footprint of what WordPress can do. That makes sense, right?!?!

WordPress Core needs and wants to stay slim and lightweight. If memory serves, the mantra is that things will only go into Core if 80% of users need that feature. That’s a pretty high barrier.

What if 60% of users need a particular feature? It’s not 80%, but it sure is not 10%.

This is typically the domain of plugins. We carve off functionality to plugins and this has worked well. But now that +40% of the web is using WordPress, perhaps it’s time to expand the remit of ‘canonical plugins’, which is a new terms.

These canonical plugins would offer some pretty essential features, they would be tested thoroughly with WordPress Core versions, would receive frequent updates and therefore would have kudos; they’re more or less guaranteed to work out of the box.

If this were the case, they’d have some special status in the WordPress ecosystem. This could be good, but it could be bad. What if the functionality of such a plugin overlaps with already successful plugins? Perhaps some of the incumbent plugins have commercial plugins which might be impacted.

Eric and I get into this all as well.

It’s an interesting chat, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Mentioned in this podcast:

https://wptavern.com/webp-by-default-pulled-from-upcoming-wordpress-6-1-release

https://wptavern.com/matt-mullenweg-renews-push-for-canonical-plugins

Nathan Wrigley

Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social.

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Now, welcome your hosts, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there and welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast. You have reached episode number 302 entitled Eric Karkovack on the Merits of Canonical Plugins in WordPress. It was published on Thursday, the 3rd of November, 2022. My name's Nathan Wrigley and before we get stuck into the podcast, a few bits of housekeeping.

It's November, Black Friday is well, just around the corner towards the end of this month, and WP Builds has got you covered completely for WordPress and Black Friday. Head over to the Ever. So difficult to remember URL WP Builds dot. Slash black. Let me say that one more time. WP Builds.com/black.

And over there you will find a searchable filterable list of all of the products that we've been notified about coming up for WP Black Friday. If you're interested in putting a product on there, there's a blue button on the page. It says add. Product or something like that and fill out the form and we'll get it on that page as soon as possible should it fit the requirements of being a WordPress specific thing.

If you'd like to sponsor that page, there is some sponsored slots along the top as well, and the page gets quite a lot of traffic before Black Friday, so have a look at that. If you've got a product in the WordPress. The other thing to mention is that we've got an awards page. It's WP Builds.com/awards.

It's a bit of a silly thing, really. It's all about getting money raised for big orange charts. You donate $20 or more to big orange charts, and I will put you on that awards page and guarantee that you win a particular section. Like I say, bit of fun. WP Builds.com/. . The other thing to say is that WP Builds has got a Masteron install.

It's a little bit like Twitter, and over the last week or so since we had the announcement that Twitter had been acquired, a few people have joined over there wanting to separate themselves from Twitter. The URL for that is WP Builds.social. Yeah, it's a url. WP Builds.social sign up, I'll get you approved.

And then you can have a a free open source piece of software called Macon running the whole thing. The timeline is completely chronological. There's no algorithm putting things in front of you. It's just totally chronological. And you can block whoever you like or accept connections from whoever you like.

And the best bit, there's no ads, so that's really nice. WP Builds. Dot social. The last thing to mention just before we start is the fact that on this week in WordPress this week, it was the 31st of October, aka Halloween. We had a little bit of a surprise. Michelle Frette joined us and she dressed up as me in somewhat of a surprise.

So if you're interested in checking that out, you can find that on our archive. It's actually on the homepage of WP Builds.com. You'll notice that there's an icon there with four faces that have been altered into of all. Pumpkins . Go and check it out. It was well worth it, and I thank Michelle Frette for being such a good sport.

The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL, and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchase. You can find out more by going to the uniquely crafted url go.me/wpbuilds. That's go.me/wpbuilds. And we really do sincerely thank GoDaddy Pro for their ongoing support of the WP Builds podcast. They make the whole thing possible.

Okay, let's get stuck into the main event, shall we? The podcast, that's what you're here for today. I have Eric Karkovack. Eric Karkovack has been in the WordPress space for many years, and today we talk about two different subjects. We talk about the fact that in WordPress 6.1, which is a. Very soon to be released. It may even have been released. They pulled support for WebP. Now, you may have come across WebP images.

If not, we talk about what they are, and we also talk about what the benefit for them is. But then we talk about why native support for them has been pulled. What were the decisions there? Was there any conspiracy going on? Is this a strange decision, a sensible decision? Is this something that we can leave until later?

And then in the second half of the podcast, we talk about this interesting idea of canonical plugins. This idea has been floated that a subset of the plugins in the WordPress repository would be called canonical plugins. They're in effect, the kind of things that could have gone into core WordPress core, but it's been decided that they're best as a canonical plugin.

The benefit of that is if you use a canonical plugin, you would know that it was really tightly integrated with WordPress checked against all major releases. Up to date, secure, et cetera, et cetera. But you wouldn't need to necessarily have them in your website, although the functionality would be more or less guaranteed to work.

So that's the second subject. It's a really interesting chat by a very intelligent man, and I hope that you enjoy it. I am joined on the podcast today by Eric Karkovack. Hello, Eric. Hi Nathan. How are you? All right. Really good. Now, behind the scenes what Eric and I have had the most shambolic shambolic attempt over the last, honestly, what are we out at now?

I think eight months. It's taken us to get this podcast recording together. I think Eric was due to come on right at the beginning of 2022, and for various reasons we haven't been able to connect, family and emergencies and all this kind of stuff. But I am so pleased you finally joined me. Where are you joining us from?

I'm in Carlisle,

[00:06:30] Eric Karkovack: Pennsylvania over

[00:06:30] Nathan Wrigley: in the usa. Okay. And just tell us, oh, tell the audience a little bit about yourself. We're gonna talk about the subject of canonical plugins and WebP images, but yeah, just give us a little of, a little bit of a background story. Tell us how it is that you've come to be interested in WordPress.

I've

[00:06:47] Eric Karkovack: been a web designer since 1996. So back in the days of Netscape and just plain old html I came to WordPress. In the late two thousands, late odds. And have been working with it pretty much exclusively for about the last 12 years. And along with that, I do some writing for Specy Boy Design Magazine and the WP Minute and so yeah, that's pretty much my life

[00:07:18] Nathan Wrigley: these days.

Yeah. So you're a freelancer. Are You serve clients in and around your local area or globally? ? A bit of both.

[00:07:27] Eric Karkovack: I have some clients that are quite remote mostly centered here in Penn.

[00:07:33] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. Thank you. Certainly, thank you for joining us today. Usually when we have interviews there's often like a product that's being pitched or something like that.

A plugin developer comes on and wants to tell us about it, but that's not the case. We're talking about some sort of general WordPress topics. As I alluded to a minute ago, we're gonna be talking about both canonical plugins and WebP. Images and how they have been dropped from the most recent version of WordPress 6.1.

At the beginning, I'm gonna ask you to potentially pause this podcast. And in the show notes, there's gonna be a couple of articles linked from the WP Tavern, both written by Sarah Gooding. The first one is from September the 20th. It's called WebP by Default, pulled from upcoming WordPress 6.1 release, and the second one.

Was on the 12th of September, which was called Matt Mullenweg Renews Push for Canonical Plugins, and they are gonna be the basis of our conversation today. We'll take them in turn. Actually, let's start with the whole WebP thing. First of all, maybe you could explain what WebP is to our audience because they may not even have heard that term before.

Yeah, it's,

[00:08:44] Eric Karkovack: WebP is an image format created by Google. As far as I know. It's an open format. And it. It has the advantage in most cases of maintaining image quality while also keeping the file size lower. So if you had a photograph or even a an illustration that you would normally save, maybe as a PNG file, you could convert it over to WebP and save quite a bit of space, and it's still, keeps the image looking.

[00:09:15] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. My understanding was that if you took a jpeg image and then converted it, or, let's say you're in Photoshop or something like that, and you export it as a jpeg and then you export it as a WebP image, typically, obviously your results may vary. Typically, I think 20% is the kind of number in terms of the savings.

Which is quite a lot considering the amount of data. Photographs and images can take up on your server, but the intention up until very recently, just a few days ago, was that WebP was going to become the default image format for WordPress. But the story that you've linked to, that you want to talk about today that all got upended.

Are you able to give us some explanation as to what happened there?

[00:10:03] Eric Karkovack: Yeah, so the proposal initially was to. The images that you upload to your WordPress site and convert them to WebP automatically and serve those files up instead. So if you had a jpeg or a p and g or what have you, that's the format that would be used instead.

And so this was gonna be an automatic thing. You weren't necessarily going to even notice it as a user or a content. . But it was a default setting that you would actually, have to use a code snippet to opt out of rather than having a, just a little checkbox on the media setting screen.

So that caused a little bit of controversy. People, I think didn't necessarily want a. That chosen for them by default. They wanted to, have the option to still use the formats that, they had specifically saved an image.

[00:11:04] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I can't for the life of me, I'm gonna sit on the fence in this debate and I'm gonna try and present it from both directions, but I'm struggling to find a reason why you would wish to say if you upload a jpeg or you upload a p and g file, we are going to convert it.

Obviously I can see that there's benefits in terms of the amount of space that image takes off, so the web becomes a little bit faster. Yours pages are served faster, but it does. Like a curious decision to, to compel that the default version of WordPress will mean that if you upload those images, we're going to convert them to WebP, whether you like it or not.

That does seem it seems not in the spirit of what we're used to in WordPress, where it's you can do what you like.

[00:11:50] Eric Karkovack: Yeah. I know part of the performance debate that's been happening for the last year or so has been that you. Some of the other systems out there, I, I believe either Wix or Squarespace does this with WebP, that if we all switched to WebP, then WordPress would, as a platform would be more performing, which I can understand.

But yeah, the spirit of WordPress is really build what you want the way you want. And so forcing people to use that image format that they're not necessarily familiar with. It, it doesn't seem like a good fit at this time. I think it's something that you wanna make at least optional. Something that, you'd opt into and say, Okay, this is what I want for my site.

Cuz there are plugins that do this now. That you can install. So why force people to do it? It doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.

[00:12:49] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. So the decision, I think, ultimately came down to Matt Mullenweg and I'm gonna quote from the article. Sarah in turn is quoting what Matt Mullenweg said.

She's she quotes, I've been reading through all the conversations and issues here. I'm interested in supporting new formats and improving performance, but I think this change being pushed by default, and I presume. Keywords really to users when they upgrade to 6.1 is a lot for right now, including with some of the clunky interactions OSS still have around WebP files, and I didn't really know too much about that.

I've just been hearing for the longest time that WebP images are the future. We all should start using them. I didn't really realize that there, there were problems with some oss and I really don't even know what he's alluding to there. Perhaps you.

[00:13:39] Eric Karkovack: I know there are some older versions of Safari that do not support WebP.

I think part of the talk was in, in those cases where WebP is not supported, that you would replace it with the JPEG or PNG or whatever was originally uploaded.

[00:13:57] Nathan Wrigley: So the intention there would be to, let's say that you upload a JPEG image in what was proposed would be we'll store the JP.

In the media library, but it'll become invisible to all intents and purposes. But should we find a situation where we've detected that we're on an older version of safari, it's basically going to display a black hole. Actually no. Let's find the jpeg, which is somewhere, Stored in the media library and and we'll display that instead that, that seems like it would've been a fairly decent default.

So I guess it really just, the whole debate really falls around the idea that the choice has been taken away, that the default is gonna be, that it was gonna go to WebP instead of jpeg. Yeah,

[00:14:43] Eric Karkovack: I think that was really the biggest part of the issue. And then there's also like the angle. WebP is a Google format and not everyone's comfortable with Google.

Whether that's more in the cuz conspiracy theory realm or just the, just basic privacy concerns. Anything with Google is bound to get a little bit of

[00:15:07] Nathan Wrigley: Controversy, I think. Yeah, there were a couple of people in the comments weren't there of this article. I noticed that you managed to get the first comment in so that was quite good

But there were a couple of people in the comments who made that exact point. That there were, In fact, one of them says I. The devs working on it, meaning WebP are Google sponsored and WebP is a format created, developed by Google. Actually, I think he was talking about perhaps the the plugin itself.

Sorry, the implementation of this was being worked on. And if they're sponsored by Google and it's a Google file format, I'm struggling to see. What the issue might be there, whether or not they're whether or not you believe in those kind of conspiracies. I'm trying to invent a conspiracy where the outcome of this would be horrible.

So I'm trying to think of a way that Google could sneak something into an open project like WebP, whereby in the future, terrible things could happen. And I confess it's a lack of imagination perhaps on my part. I can't come up with anything which makes me concern.

[00:16:10] Eric Karkovack: Yeah I think in my opinion I believe it's more about a lack of trust.

If you remember the whole accelerated mobile pages Yes. Fiasco. And that, that, that really, I think, lost a lot of trust between you. Google and the community at large. So I tend to think that there's still some scars from that. Also, taking place here as well because I think users, once you lose that trust it, it's okay, just very unlikely to have any sort of nefarious you.

Motive here, but it's still Google and people are still going to question it.

[00:17:02] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Regardless of the constraints that an image format may present I, yeah. It may be people have just been burned and it feels to me as if that kind of love affair with properties like Google and Facebook, which, if you rewind the clock about 10 years, it almost felt like they could do no wrong.

It didn't. What they did, it, it all just felt that those companies were just benefit, benefiting us all endlessly. And then at some point in that intervening decade, it feels like a tide has turned. And in many ways we're now looking for reasons to trust them. And the default mode is to have a lack of trust of these companies and they've got to prove that things are benign.

So maybe that's where it's coming from. . I

[00:17:48] Eric Karkovack: think you're right. I, it, I, and I do remember those days, early days of Facebook and Google and you're, it's a great point. You really felt Hey, they were changing the world and look at all the great things that are gonna come of this and well, In

[00:18:02] Nathan Wrigley: some ways it did, but do no evil.

Yeah, remember that motto? Dunno if that's still in use. But yeah. So the commentary, I think about 50% of it was Oh, that's disappointing. This would've been good. We want WebP images to, to take over. And then there were the other people such as yourself who said, Let's not rush it. Let's just see. I don't think we need to move away from JPEG and so on.

There's kind of a curious comment that came somewhere and it was the idea that in the media library, I can't find that particular comment now, but it made me think in the media library, why not just be able to upload. All of these image images, and if you choose to have a WebP version or an AVI version, I'm gonna say Avi, A V I F, which is a different image format and seems to be possibly something that will replace WebP in its time.

Why not just have an option in the media library to just select which of those you want to be created and then select which one you want to be in your post or whatever it may be. The choice on the user instead. And I just thought that was quite a nice idea because soon as it goes into the default media library, it just becomes one image really, doesn't it?

And you wouldn't know particularly that it's a PNG or it's a jpeg, but having the choice might be quite nice.

[00:19:24] Eric Karkovack: Yeah. I think as a, as someone who builds websites, I try to optimize my images. I try to save them to be as performant as possible. I, when I upload a WordPress, I want the choice if I, if WebP can save me, 20 kilobytes or whatever, that's wonderful.

Maybe something in the admin can show me the difference. Maybe there's a tool that can compare and let me decide then if I, if it's worth the conversion or not. But the, the other issue with this is, WordPress, when you upload a, a large image, it makes Yeah, basically three other

[00:20:08] Nathan Wrigley: copies.

Yeah. Which you never really get to see, do you ? It's just something you don't Yeah.

[00:20:14] Eric Karkovack: You have the thumbnail and the medium size and the large size. And the full size. And so if it's doing this for every image you upload uploaded jpeg, you've got four versions of the jpeg, and then you've also got four versions of the WebP file.

That's going to. Hogging up storage. Yeah. Where it really doesn't need to.

[00:20:34] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah, that's a good point. The the other thing that was mentioned one of the commentators actually makes a this is quite a compelling point actually, and it kind of reinforces what you were saying about, let's just wait and slow this down and just see, what the, how the ground is.

In six months time, they, somebody called Mark said that they tested WebP on their site six months ago. And they. Everything up as WebP images and had immediate problems feedback from users who said that they were using Old Mac. Presumably that's the safari connection that you made who were basically seeing black holes.

So yeah, maybe it's a real thing, if you've got a, if you've got an older Mac and you can't update that machine or you don't wish to update that machine, potentially you are blocking people. If you are only going to.

[00:21:26] Eric Karkovack: Yeah, that, that's definitely a consideration. If you, any time you're looking to adopt a new format or even a new, css, feature, it makes sense to look at your analytics and look at what the support is and see, make sure you're serving the audience that, that's been loyal to you, Nobody wants to go to a website where the, the nice hero image is just the big black box.

wouldn't be the most efficient way to, to make sales or convert new customers. Yeah,

[00:22:00] Nathan Wrigley: it'd be interesting to see how this goes for the moment. It's obviously been pulled to the disappointment of the Google sponsored core committer, Adam Silverstein. He was saying that, Still trying to figure out exactly how this can be implemented and how we can make it so that WebP does at some point come become the default.

And then let's move on to the next piece cuz it fits in perfectly with this. The implication from all of this, and I think a lot of people connected the dots here, was that potentially something like WebP. Could become the domain of something called a canonical plugin. And I'm gonna ask you, if you're listening to this, maybe go and read the second piece that I mentioned from the WP Tavern.

Do you just wanna give us your impression of what a canonical plugin is? Because it, this may be a phrase that people have just simply never heard of before. We've got plug-ins, but what's a canonical plug? Yeah, this one was a bit new

[00:22:58] Eric Karkovack: to me as well. But basically it, it's a plugin that is built by core contributors, from what I understand of WordPress.

It's meant to be an official extension of the core software, even though it's not necessarily. In core like you can think of Gutenberg in that way. We still have the Gutenberg plugin and, the block editor first appeared as a plugin. We were able to install that and try it out first and see, how.

W what it was all about. It was refined and, rebuilt from there and eventually merged decor. And I think that's the same idea here, is where you would have these plugins that extend WordPress in some way. That. Have the potential to be a core feature, but it's not necessarily a guarantee.

So you're able to add this functionality. It's well maintained. It's tested against the latest versions of WordPress to con. To ensure that they continue to work and if it becomes a popular enough feature that someday, it graduates into core.

[00:24:17] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it's a really interesting idea.

Ever since I've been following WordPress, the premise has always been really keep WordPress core light. Lean and the anecdotal statement, and I've no idea this is written down and canonized anywhere, is that if 80% of the people need it, it should be in core. If just 50% of the people need it, it's.

Probably not the domain for core, it's probably the domain for a plugin. This feels to me like that's, is stretching that boundary a little bit, and it's basically saying if it's close to 80%, but not quite 80%, there's a very strong possibility that this in the future could end up in core.

Why don't we? Why don't we ship it as a canonical plugin? And see what the user base makes out of it. Now, some interesting things that come out of this. So you're quite right, it's, it was, they'd be developed by community members. It says in the post, by the way, I'm quoting from Jen Milo who Sarah Gooding herself is quoting from.

And they would, according to this, they would represent the most popular functionality requests with. Purative execution, they'd be gpl. They'd live in the.org repo, and they would be closely bound to things that would be required, possibly in WordPress core. The coding standards would be, that they'd be monitored and it would be made sure that they were tested prior to releasing new versions of WordPress and so on and so forth.

But this is where it gets a bit murky for me, or murky is the wrong word. It gets a bit interesting. It, and I'll quote, There would be a screen within the plug-in section of the WordPress admin to feature these canonical plug-ins as a kind of editor's choice or verified guarantee. These plug-ins would be a true extension of core WordPress in terms of compatibility, security, and support.

And whilst that sounds really great, I, I. On your Android or iPhone, you've got the app store and similar things like that happen. You get an editor's choice section. It does feel like almost strange to hear those words, the idea that some plugins would be given sort of special status because of the fact that they are these canonical plugins.

What are your thoughts on that? Yeah,

[00:26:36] Eric Karkovack: that is an interesting slope, right? Because you have. There could be cases where you have functionality that simply doesn't exist elsewhere, or it's just a basic extension of what the core, functionality is. And that I don't think it's a, necessarily an issue there, but as we were talking about offline, what about, if it's an seo.

Plug in. What if it's, something to compete with advanced custom fields for, because custom fields is, built into WordPress, but not necessarily in a nice visual manner. So there, there is a bit of a slope here. Are you competing against the rest of the ecosystem? How does that make the other developers of those plugins feel?

And you. Long term you also wonder, how are they going to keep up with maintenance? Cuz I know that was a concern and also, how do they decide what the line is there of what should become a canonical plugin and what is more. Appropriate for the ecosystem at large to

[00:27:52] Nathan Wrigley: handle?

Yeah I can see this from two completely contrasting directions, and the first direction I'm thinking of is me the WordPress website implementer. I want to build websites for other people and I want get my hands on plugins so that I can extend what WordPress does and. Presumably do that as affordably as possible.

From that point of view, this seems like a really fantastic idea. There's now gonna be potentially a suite of plugins that have been given this editor's choice or whatever status. I know for a fact that they're gonna be a bit, have been tested with course, or I'm gonna be very satisfied from that point of view.

I'm not gonna hesitate in using them. So all good feels. I've got a load more choices and I'm really clear about the security posture and that they've been tested and so on. Okay. Then you've got the other side of that coin, which is the plugin developer side. The person that's built up a business, like you say, maybe it's an SEO plugin or an advanced custom fields type plugin, or just something along those lines.

And if I'm now in competition with a canonical plugin, I'm gonna feel a little bit, I'm gonna feel a little bit different about it because I'm gonna be competing in what suddenly feels like an unfair marketplace. Yeah.

[00:29:14] Eric Karkovack: The closest I can think of to this is that we have, the block editor and then we still have page builders like Elementor or Dvy or what have you.

Does it get to that point where it's, That you're competing with a core feature or are you basically, are they going to limit themselves to the point where it's not going to be a a killer of third party plugins. It's going to be just, the most basic of enhancements.

That's where I. Wonder, where do they draw that line?

[00:29:53] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. And I think the WebP thing that we were talking about a moment ago this feels like really solid territory for something like a canonical plugin because I can't see a commercial angle in that. So what I mean is if it becomes a canonical plugin and you just want to say, Okay, make every image from now on, make it WebP I'll never use the jpeg or the p and g again, I just.

Do that. I just can't see any problem with that because, I can't see a way to spin that out commercially anyway. But if it was something like a canonical SEO solution, which I can imagine the user base of WordPress would be clamoring for something that was free, had been tested and so on, a fairly robust.

Yes. Fairly simple SEO solution. Then you are competing with the likes of Yost and all the other different players in the SEO market and that does feel like something that we've not dealt with just yet. Yeah, it's,

[00:30:56] Eric Karkovack: it's new territory, that's for sure. I'll be interested to see, how this gets adopted and, what types of plugins will be available, , my sense is that it's going to lean toward things that are just, vying to become a feature in core but maybe aren't quite ready yet. And I know one of the arguments for this type of system was that it would give more development time, because right now I think it's a little bit rushed with the WebP example, they were, really going quickly to try and get this into 6.1 before it fell off.

So maybe that allows them to, do things like security enhancements or, just basic stuff that, maybe should take a little bit more time to get right. Rather than just throwing it into Coral at once. So that's my hope anyways, that they really focus on those

[00:31:53] Nathan Wrigley: type of things.

Yeah, that's right. At the moment we're, I think we're either just shy of, or maybe we've just crept over 60,000. Plugins in the WordPress repository, so they're all, freely available, open source, gpl, all of that good stuff. But also, I think there was a few people in the comments of this post who made the point that the WordPress repository.

Is a little bit broken in terms of discoverability because the person that made the comment, and I can't find it, but it'll be in there somewhere, that the big players manage to rise to the top. By the fact that they've, they've been in the market for years, they've got lots of installs, so they get surfaced in that way.

It may be that there are nefarious ways. I don't really know of getting your plugin discovered, and Maybe this would short circuit that a little bit and it would break the connection between discovering things I don't really know.

[00:32:54] Eric Karkovack: Yeah, that would be interesting to see because Yeah, you're right.

A lot of these plugins that are, in that, the the top echelon on the directory, they've been around for years. They have a lot of users. It doesn't necessarily speak to quality. Some are very high quality. Some may not be as a user, if I'm looking at that, I'm choosing the most popular plugins because hey, that's what everyone else is using.

They all the while there could be something even better that has come out and has a much smaller user base, but I may never know it because I'm going to have to dig into the repository for several pages before I find.

[00:33:36] Nathan Wrigley: There was somebody else, and again, a novel idea and one that I quite like and I can't find the comment right now, but I'm gonna paraphrase the intention of what they were saying, and I'm this really interests me.

So let's say that in the future, a couple of years from now, there are. I don't know, 10 canonical plugins that are out there and they're listed in this separate section and there they all are and they extend core in a very straightforward way, and they probably just do one thing and do it exceedingly well.

That's the intention of those things. They extending core a little bit. What about instead of having them in a separate area where you have to go and download them? What if there was a section in the WordPress admin where in effect you just toggled them on? So in our case, you would go to a panel a settings area within WordPress core, and let's take the example of WebP.

The, the, it would say something along the lines of, make all your images be converted to WebP. And if you wish to do that, you tick the box, toggle it on, and in the background it goes and downloads that canonical plugin and installs it for you. But it feels like it's a setting.

So it's already a feature of core, but it's not, it's a canonical plugin. I thought that was a curious take on it, and in a way it gets rid of this problem of competi. . Yeah,

[00:35:00] Eric Karkovack: I like that a lot. It, it makes sense. We've seen that if you've ever installed like a third party theme Yep.

You'll normally see, these are our recommended plugins that go with our theme, and they have little, little switch that you can flip on and the plugins install for you. This makes a lot of sense. Even if you, whether you have it on a separate screen within the admin or it, like with WebP, maybe it's on the media setting screen.

[00:35:29] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that would make sense. And it just feels to me like if it's going to be extending core that feels like the most sensible place for it, rather than you having to go out and discover it, I'm also assuming that there would be no overlap. You wouldn't get two canonical plugins doing the WebP thing because that wouldn't make sense.

[00:35:51] Eric Karkovack: Yeah I would assume that it's going to be you. The same process that they would have for adding features to core. They have discussions about it and make proposals. I would hope that, they'd have a similar system set up so that we don't have overlap and we don't have overreach either that, we do things that you know, may negatively impact security or performance or things like that.

Make it as simple as possible to. To find and use and, not necessarily step on a lot of toes and it along the ecosystem.

[00:36:32] Nathan Wrigley: It says in the quote again from Jay Milo, that this, these would be community developed and it said a require I'm just paraphrasing that really it would be multiple developers, so we wouldn't just be relying on one person so that, if somebody stepped away, then the development could continue.

That, is a little. of an Achilles heel in it, in that I, WordPress core itself is largely I dunno exactly what the percentage is, but there's a lot of volunteer time, shall we say, put into it. And it feels like the same is being suggested here. I think there's a couple of pieces here.

Firstly, people are going to say why are we getting the community to do this separately? If it belongs in core, Let's just put it in core. But also the sort of, the worry, the concern that even if it is multiple people, that they might just, walk away from WordPress and so those things dry up and it becomes then difficult to keep those things going.

[00:37:31] Eric Karkovack: That is a, that is definitely a concern because you could have a plugin, Let's just say it, You're running one of these canonical plugins for say, three or four years on a website, and it's decided for whatever reason, that either they don't have the human resources to maintain it, or the feature is considered obsolete.

What happens then? Can I continue to run that plugin or am I. At a risk because it's no longer going to be maintained. Is it going to break in a future version of WordPress? So I think, whatever becomes a canonical plugin, there really has to be a long term commitment to it. And otherwise, it could be the same issue we've seen over and over again with third party plugins that, you may find something that you like, it works for you, and then all of a sudden the developer disappears or it gets bought out by somebody else.

And the feature set isn't quite as good as it used to be. You run into that

[00:38:37] Nathan Wrigley: same. . Okay. Let's, both of us not sit on the fence anymore. Let's decide what do you think? Is it a yay or a na for canonical plugins? What do you reckon?

[00:38:48] Eric Karkovack: I like it. I think they're, as long as they're careful with what they decide to make into a plugin, I think it's something that can benefit WordPress as.

[00:38:57] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I think I'm in agreement. I think the idea is really appealing to me. I confess at the beginning I was really trying to PAs it and I couldn't work out what the difference between a canonical one and a regular one was, and then given a little bit of thought, I understood it more.

However, given that I'm. I'm saying this is a good idea. I've got some little caveats there and my first little caveat is that I like the idea of it being settings inside of a menu somewhere that appeals to me more because you can imagine the inevitable arguments that are gonna break out where.

Something about a canonical plugin, treads on the toes of a commercial plugin. And if it was in core or if it was appeared to be in core and it was just the setting, people wouldn't feel that conflict. But just the idea of labeling something as, I don't know, a preferred editor's choice, whatever it might be.

I I just think there's potential there for a rift to occur in the community. So there's that and also, I think it should be heavily limited. I think it needs to be scoped out from the beginning and constraints put on what a canonical plugin can do, but also what areas we want to stray in.

Do we want anything to do with seo? Do we want anything to do with custom fields? Do we want anything to do with importing and exporting post types, and so on and so forth. What are the 5, 6, 10 maybe? Things that we need and get those hammered out first and get the community agreeing on those so that the people that are developing them feel that they've got the wind behind their sail, if

[00:40:33] Eric Karkovack: yeah I think, with those caveats I think that's, it could be something successful. We've seen them do this in the past with other things. I think the article mentioned the REST API actually started out as a plugin. Yeah. A as did the block editors. There, there's precedent for it.

And if they're, cautious in the approach, I think it could be very

[00:40:53] Nathan Wrigley: successful. Yeah, I hope so too. We'll have to revisit this topic, Eric, in about three years time and. Potentially nothing will have changed, but it'd be nice to see where this has gone. Eric, if people want to reach out with you and have a little bit of a chat with you, I dunno if you do the whole social thing or broadcast your email address or whatever it might be, but do you wanna just give us a little bit of a hint as to where we can find you?

A website, a Twitter handle, something? Sure.

[00:41:20] Eric Karkovack: My website is clarks.com. That's k a r k s.com. And from there you can get links to everything I'm writing and working on these days. And also my social media accounts

[00:41:34] Nathan Wrigley: as well. That's a cool domain. I like that. It's just got a really nice sound, doesn't it?

cas.com. Yeah, you're quite jealous of that. . Eric, thank you for joining us on the podcast today. I really appreciate it. Oh, thank you, Nathan. My pleasure. I hope that you enjoyed that chat with Eric Karkovack. It was an absolute pleasure chatting to somebody that I've been meaning to get on the show.

For a very long time. I hope that was of interest. If you've got any thoughts on the podcast, head over to WP Builds.com. Leave us a comment, search for episode number 302, and go right to the bottom and leave us a comment there. Alternatively, you can use our Facebook group, WP Builds.com/facebook, or as I said at the start, join our mustard Onin, install WP Builds.social, and you could leave us a comment over there.

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Okay, we will be back next week. It'll be David and I having a chat next week about WordPress Business Bootcamp, our ongoing series, which is drawing to a close. Now don't forget though, we'll be back on Monday for our this week in WordPress show. It is live, 2:00 PM UK time. Find it at WP Builds.com/live. Give us a comment or two there. It's lovely when people join in and if you don't see you for any of. We'll be back next week. Don't forget our Black Friday page.

Go and check that out. We will see you soon. Stay safe. Bye-bye for now.

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