Following the suspension of the famous Astra theme in August, contributors to WordPress Meta opened a ticket to introduce a new “delisting” status for non-compliant themes. Infringement of Astra, violating the ban on affiliate links in the list, but more than a million users at risk of not getting theme changes just like WordPress 5.5 was on deck for publication. The team contributed a patch this week for a delist status that will momentarily mask a theme from discovery, while also keeping it publicly available. Alex Shiels laid out how the new classification will work:
- Delist is accessible only from published state.
- Relist will reset to publish status.
- Delisted topics are removed from browsing pages.
While a complete suspension can sound like the right retributive punishment when theme writers breach directory rules, the desire for users to continue getting notifications outweighs the author’s throwing of the novel, particularly with a first-time offense. A delisting approach is more restorative in that it tries to preserve the bond that consumers have with the creator of the style, rather than actually enforcing a punishment that may potentially have a detrimental effect on those concerned.
The Themes Team has in the past been constrained in terms of possible measures to respond to breaches. ThemeIsle’s CEO, Ionut Neagu, removed his company’s famous Zerif Lite theme from the directory in 2016 for a five-month period that left 300,000 + users without maintenance and security upgrades. It also resulted in a 63 percent drop in the company’s sales for that genre, since ThemeIsle used WordPress.org as the main delivery platform.
Neagu noted how the current “to delist” classification for common themes allows a less serious transition back into the directory:
The practice of delisting is something that’s already been done by other companies in similar situations. For instance, delisting is what Google does all the time when they find a website that doesn’t comply. Then, the website is allowed to come back and appear on the ranking pages again when the issues are fixed.
In the end, I think this is a move in the right direction and an improvement to the process of what happens with a problematic theme.
Despite the divisive move that reduced ThemeIsle ‘s sales in 2017 from $120k / month to $45k / month, the organization continued to promote the theme, as well as new products, with WordPress.org as the key source to find them. Neagu announced that its sales appeared to be hit hard after the subject was revived. It lost momentum and did not ride its initial impact on the wave. In the wake of its breach, Astra did much better, than its short-lived suspension.
WordPress Themes Team member Alexandru Cosmin called for prompt consideration to be paid to the ticket to include the delisting status, as the team is preparing to implement certain new policies and criteria that are related to it. The fix was applied and then briefly reversed to examine how it affected theme trac seats, but it seems that the bugs are unrelated to the fix.
The volunteer Themes Squad has been, in effect, the de facto owners of the WordPress.org platform giving millions of dollars to theme writers and doing fantastic community service. But in order to promote and improve the development of the WordPress community, the team needs to follow strategies that establish a more restorative route for violators, rather than obstructing the development of goods where concerns have been addressed rapidly.