The WordPress documentation team has officially declared a new external linking in which it banned commercial links from the official documentation. The policy is applicable to those commercial blogs as well that are not likely to sell a product. This means that if you are publishing content only with an aim to present information and not to sell a product then also the policy is applicable. This is an important change that the WordPress documentation team has introduced and it quickly acquired the attraction of the WordPress developer community.
Statement from the WordPress team :
During a discussion about external linking policy, we came to the conclusion that we won’t allow, at least in the beginning and for the time being, any commercial blogs. So before you start arguing that some popular plugin’s blogs have valuable information, let me stop you right there.
Allowing “popular plugin’s/theme’s/services’ etc blogs” and all other commercial blogs will put us in a position to protect documentation from being abused as marketing media, to protect ourselves from accusations of being biased and to defend every decision we make along the way. And still, there will be dissatisfied sides claiming we weren’t fair and did them wrong. The idea of allowing external linking will become its own purpose.
Additionally, this will completely move the focus from an initial idea which is:
Benefit for the documentation user.
The team further added :
If this process should cost the Documentation Team too much of a time for weighing, deciding and defending made decisions, then there’s no time for actual contributing and there’s no benefit for anyone.
So any WordPress plugin official blog, theme’s official blog, market’s or shop’s (with themes, plugins, etc) official blog, hosting’s an official blog, other service’s official blog etc regardless if they are selling anything or not, is not allowed. This is why word commercials are wrapped into quotation marks.
This is in accordance with HelpHub’s (end-user documentation) practice that no plugin, theme, hosting etc will not be promoted or recommended. In HelpHub we are documenting only what’s in core or will be in core.
The same applies here. If the website is dedicated to a specific WordPress product (free or not), it is not allowed. These sites usually have the product name in the domain name but we are not going to limit the criteria there. I’m sure some cases will be unique and decisions will have to be made specifically for it.
Looking at the above statements it seems that the main intention behind taking the step is to protect the documentation from being misused. However, the new policy is going to hurt real sites that intend to present information and obtain some traffic as a result of the benefit provided. Hence, many among the WordPress developer community are unhappy with the decision and considering this as unfair.
On the other hand, the WordPress team has clearly given the below statement indicating that they are not interested to take the discussion further
“So before you start arguing that some popular plugin’s blogs have valuable information, let me stop you right there”
Even after getting a clear statement from the team, people started flooding the comment section with their personal views showing their disagreement with the decision. Let’s see what Joost de Valk said:
Comment From Joost de Valk (The Founder of Yoast SEO Plugin)
I understand that you want to prevent discussions about bias.
But I think your premise here is wrong: you’re saying you’re not “biased” if you’re not linking to commercial companies. I would say we’re all inherently biased, because some of those companies do a lot for the WordPress community, while others do not.
The companies that contribute to WordPress a lot used to get some links, and thus some promotion as benefit from the fact that they’re contributing. By removing that from them, you’re basically treating those that don’t give back the same as companies that do give back, something which I think is simply wrong. So I very heavily disagree with this decision.
In response to this, Milana Cap, a member of WordPress documentation team who actually made the policy changes official, replied :
I completely understand your point of view. There is no way to make this fair. And we can discuss many unfair parallels happening in open source communities; such as how many hours per week can be contributed by a freelancer vs paid company contributor, meeting times (where decisions are made) in the middle of the night in your timezone, etc.
But let’s keep in mind here that we are not talking about removing all external links from wp.org. I think we should be giving enough space to all companies that DO contribute. The same as there’s a page for Global Community Sponsors at central.wordcamp.org. Those are companies that financially sponsor all WordCamps but I think there should be a page at wp.org for companies that donate their time and expertise to the community (if such a page already exists I’m not aware of it).
We are talking here only about the documentation part of WordPress.org. Namely: HelpHub, Code Reference, Plugin and Theme Developer Handbook, Block Editor Handbook, Common APIs Handbook.
There are other places, such as contributors space to make teams handbooks, make teams blogs, global wp.org blog etc where I would like to see more data about people who do all the work.
The statement clarifies that the new policy is not going to affect the commercial sites from WordPress.org. In fact, it is only going to affect documentation sites such as HelpHub, Code Reference, Plugin and Theme Developer Handbook, and so on.
Here goes one more comment from a member of the WordPress community looks seriously unhappy with the decision
The more this gets discussed though the more it sounds like really undesirable gatekeeping.
In cross-post comments, there is a discussion of having a preference for trusting links from persons active and “well known” in the community over others.
And here a prejudicial policy against all things “Commercial” suggesting they’re inherently corrupt and not trustworthy nor valuable.
A links value is inherently subjective and ought to be dealt with subjectively. Trying to create high-level objective rules doesn’t seem beneficial or realistic. I certainly disagree that all “commercial” sites should be blanket banned.
I do think there are some low-level disqualifiers that could guide authors and moderators in what links are appropriate. Those should be criteria that directly impact the users of docs, and being commercial doesn’t. Those are things like, the source being accessible, the source not being paywalled, etc.
On the other hand, a few completely agree with the decision and welcome it happily.
The Bottom Line Given By WordPress Documentation Team
We haven’t figured out the best way to deal with commercial blogs or sites in a fair manner and thus our focus is going to be on links that don’t drop into that grey zone. We do expect to eventually get towards discussing how we can safely include commercial blog links (if this even is possible).
Well, this was just an overview of the new external linking policy announced by the WordPress team. If you want to go deeper and know more about this, you can follow this link
Do share your thoughts on this in the comment section below!