WordPress Documentation Team Bans Links to Commercial Websites

WordPress Documentation Team Bans Links to Commercial Websites

This week WordPress’ Documentation team announced a ban on links to commercial websites in a revision to its external linking policy:

During discussion about external linking policy, we came to 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.

Despite the announcement’s abrasive phrasing discouraging further discussion on the matter, the controversial decision stirred up a heated conversation in the comments. Yoast founder Joost de Valk contends that companies contributing to WordPress might as well receive some promotion as a benefit:

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.

Milana Cap, the Documentation Team member who penned the announcement, clarified that the policy change does not remove external links to commercial sites from WordPress.org. It only applies to documentation sites, including HelpHub, Code Reference, Plugin and Theme Developer Handbook, Block Editor Handbook, Common APIs Handbook.

“There is no way to make this fair,” Cap said. “And we can discuss about 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.”

Timi Wahalahti suggested one solution would be to better utilize the Five for the Future pledges page to identify significant contributors to documentation if links to commercial sites are no longer an option.

Several commenters noted the value of linking to additional examples and resources but also recommended WordPress put a version or timestamp in place to give the reader more

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This article was written by Sarah Gooding and originally published on WordPress Tavern.

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