Introducing A New Extension to Facilitate Woo.com Product Updates

Update (March 27th 2024): We’ve received some questions around the impacts of Woo.com Update Manager for developers and store owners. We’ve added a Q&A at the bottom of this post with some more information. Learn more.

We’re introducing an update to the management of Woo.com extensions and themes.

The new Woo.com Update Manager extension

To better align with WordPress.org’s guidelines, we’re transitioning Woo.com extension and theme update functionalities from WooCommerce core to a new extension: Woo.com Update Manager. This move is aimed at enhancing update efficiency, ensuring your Woo store always has access to the latest features and improvements. Installation of the Woo.com Update Manager is essential for up-to-date store maintenance.

We will release this new extension alongside WooCommerce 8.8, which is currently scheduled for release on April 9th. 

Impact on store builders:

  1. Update Management: The Woo.com Update Manager will be the new method for updating Woo.com products, replacing direct updates through WooCommerce or WordPress admin interfaces. This extension works in the background and doesn’t add any new pages or screens to your store. 
  2. Installation Process: We’ve simplified the installation of the Woo.com Update Manager. Prompts on the WooCommerce -> Extensions -> My subscriptions page and the Plugins page will guide you through an easy installation process, including remote setup from Woo.com and support for any issues.

Note: Manually downloading this extension is only required for existing marketplace subscribers. New subscribers won’t have to take any extra steps to install it — it’s all taken care of, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free setup.

Why we’re implementing this change:

This update aims to align WooCommerce with WordPress.org guidelines and elevate your user experience. By adopting the Woo.com Update Manager, updating processes for Woo.com products will become more streamlined. In the near future, we plan on adding new and exclusive features to this extension that will enhance your experience with WooCommerce further. 

Q&A (updated March 27th 2024)

Why is Woo making these changes?

We got some feedback from the WordPress.org plugin review team letting us know that the way we were handling updates wasn’t compliant with their guidelines. Here’s the specific guideline that WooCommerce wasn’t fully compliant with. Splitting update management into a separate plugin (that isn’t available through WordPress.org) brings us into compliance with these guidelines.

What is actually changing?

Marketplace extension functionality is being split into its own plugin called the Woo.com Update Manager. This new extension is designed to keep the update flow exactly as it was in versions of WooCommerce prior to 8.8 in a way that is complaint with WordPress.org‘s guidelines. In short: extensions updates in WooCommerce 8.8 will be essentially identical to how they are in WooCommerce 8.7 if you have the Woo.com Update Manager installed.

Are automatic updates forced if I use the Woo.com Update Manager?

No. We’re against forced automatic updates as much as our developers are. Beginning WooCommerce 8.8, the Woo.com Update Manager will allow you to optionally enable automatic Marketplace extension updates (just like how things work in WooCommerce 8.7), but you’ll be able to disable them just like how you currently can.

We are we requiring another plugin? Doesn’t this just add bloat?

These are totally fair concerns. Performance is something that the Woo team are focusing on currently, and I know they’re implementing this plugin in the most performant way they can. The reason for the additional plugin is that bundling these features in WooCommerce Core isn’t compliant with WordPress.org‘s guidelines – splitting things into a separate plugin brings us into compliance.

What if I don’t install this plugin?

Just like you can currently, you’ll be able to manually install and update Marketplace extensions from Woo.com (by downloading the .zip and uploading it to your site). The plugin is required for automatic updates, but it’s not required to use extensions that you have a subscription for.


45 responses to “Introducing A New Extension to Facilitate Woo.com Product Updates”

  1. Ian Atkins Avatar
    Ian Atkins

    Will this then break plug-in updates via site management platforms like managewp and wp-umbrella?

    1. brentmackinnon Avatar
      brentmackinnon

      Thanks for asking about this! We’ve been using the same setup in our core code for years before moving it to the Woo.com Update Manager extension. During all this time, we didn’t run into any problems with site management platforms like ManageWP and WP Umbrella.

      We’re pretty confident that everything will keep working smoothly, and you won’t face any issues with your plugin updates. But, of course, we’re always here to help if something comes up.

      Let us know if you have any more questions or need help with anything else!

  2. Fredrik Melén Avatar
    Fredrik Melén

    I have a CI system that builds docker images. I do not have wordpress instances running at that point. The filesystem is isolated per image in docker swarm and is volatile when the actual system is running. I do not want to update in the running instances, that would just fail miserably for several obvious reasons. Please let me keep one way or another to download the plugins a head of time without running wordpress / woo and your new extension. I can’t be the only one that handles large production wp sites that uses pre built images.

    1. Jacklyn Biggin Avatar
      Jacklyn Biggin

      Hey Fredrik! You can download Woo Marketplace extensions from Woo.com and then manually install them into your site. Head over to https://woocommerce.com/my-account/downloads, login, and then you’ll be able to download any extensions you have an active subscription for.

      Let me know if this doesn’t work for your use-case – happy to help work out what’s best.

      1. Hello can you explain how to install it manually, I just can’t found it? Thank-you.

        1. Jacklyn Biggin Avatar
          Jacklyn Biggin

          Take a look at this post, especially the “How do I install the WooCommerce.com Update Manager?” section!

          https://woocommerce.com/posts/introducing-woo-com-update-manager/

  3. IT HKBO Avatar

    You mentioned usage of management, update dashboards like ManageWP will most likely not run into any issues. But are we still able to exclude automatic updates from the core for the plugin under the extension as to enforce update schedules and reporting by a management platform. Or will this particular feature conflict with the ability to precisely set update routines?

    In addition is this extension safe to auto deploy in bulk does it have any required manual interaction after each existing woocommerce installation. Because if it is the latter April 9th is very soon if you manage hundreds of clients.

    Is there any testing period set before the use of the extension alongside 8.8 is enforced. Or are we immediately required to use this when 8.8 is deployed and if not is temporary downgrading supported for installations that might cause function conflicts.

    To put it simply outside of your closed testing are we the community going to be able to test this without having to resort to backups and adhoc deployment in case of problems.

    Thank you for your time

    1. Denis Dvali Avatar
      Denis Dvali

      You will be able to disable the automatic updates from the core as usually. The feature shouldn’t conflict with the plugin management platforms in case they are basing their functionality on the core’s mechanism of plugin update, which Woo.com Update Manager seamlessly integrates into. Basically, if the platform is working fine with the older versions of WooCommerce (8.7 and earlier), it should continue doing so with the new extension added.

      Woo.com Updater Manager can be installed using automated tools, as there is no configuration or other manual interaction needed for the extension to work after it’s installed and activated (assuming your store is already connected to Woo.com).

      You can test Woo.com Updater Manager with Beta or Release Candidate versions of WooCommerce 8.8, which will be available for download and testing on March 26 and April 2 correspondingly. The extension will not be effective on older versions of WooCommerce (8.7 and earlier), as those are handling the plugin updates without the help of the companion extension.

      1. IT HKBO Avatar

        Thank you very much for the clear and fast response on our questions Denis. We will plan a test batch of client deployment than on April 2th and flag Woocommerce plugin as not trusted in ManageWP until we are sure there are no unexpected problems that arise. Just incase for some reason we are unable to meet the April 9th deadline to handle any custom coding issues.

        How ever for future changes (which we hope will not happen any time again soon) Could you note down the suggestion to corporate to inform customers, clients on such a critical change at the least a month before the deadline?

        That would give a bit more leeway when managing hundreds of clients because not only we have to inform our team we also need to inform our own customers that might want to handle back-end management themselves and suddenly are greeted with a different plugin setup.

        1. Jacklyn Biggin Avatar
          Jacklyn Biggin

          Thanks for the feedback. I totally understand how having a longer lead-time would have helped with this change, especially for teams like yours who are working across multiple clients. How much notice we give about updates has been something that’s been discussed a lot internally – I’ll pass on your thoughts to the relevant team.

      2. This is contradicted by the latest information from Woocommerce support:

        From an email exchange with them:

        MY QUESTION: “Will I be able to prevent all automated updates?”
        THEIR REPLY: “Yes, don’t install the updater.”

        1. Jacklyn Biggin Avatar
          Jacklyn Biggin

          Hey Brandt. For clarity:

          * To receive automatic updates, the Woo.com Update Manager is required, BUT
          * If you install the Woo.com Update Manager, you’re not required to receive automatic updates

          Installing the plugin provides you with a choice. Just like how you can with any plugin you install from WordPress.org, you’ll be able to disable automatic updates to WooCommerce Extensions from the marketplace. The behaviour you’re used to in WordPress 8.7 will be very similar to the experience you’ll have with the Woo.com Update Manager.

          Let me know if you have any further questions – happy to answer them!

  4. We test all updates for conflicts with other plugins and the framework we use before installing across client sites. It sounds like this is going to force updates and bypass our quality control capabilities. While it takes more time on our end, we routinely find issues to be addressed and without that process, client sites will break. How is this a benefit?

    1. Jacklyn Biggin Avatar
      Jacklyn Biggin

      Hey Drew! You’ll still be able to disable automatic updates as usual. The intention of this update isn’t to force any updates or bypass anyone’s QA processes, but rather to bring WooCommerce Core into compliance with WordPress.org’s guidelines: https://developer.wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-org/detailed-plugin-guidelines/#8-plugins-may-not-send-executable-code-via-third-party-systems

      Whether you choose to update your client’s Woo extensions will remain your decision.

      1. Thanks Jacklyn, we still prefer handling updates manually through the plugin dashbaord, not something through WC.

        If we can disable updates as you say, there’s no need for this plugin.

        What I’m hearing with this announcement is WC says agencies can no longer run WC or any extensions without also using this plugin. How are agencies supposed to accept this? What happens if an agency opts against using this update manager extension?

        1. Jacklyn Biggin Avatar
          Jacklyn Biggin

          If you’re comfortable with handling updates manually, you’re correct, you don’t need this plugin.

          Agencies (and everyone building on WooCommerce) can continue to run Marketplace extensions without this plugin. The plugin just makes it easier to (optionally) enable automatic updates – it’s the same functionality that’s already available in WooCommerce 8.7, just implemented in a way that’s complaint with WordPress.org’s guidelines.

          1. That’s good to hear! Woo should consider including this incredibly valuable info in the notice as it’s pretty clear agency users are extremely upset.

            To be safe, I would be grateful if you could confirm if both of the following statements are correct:

            1) After April 9, I can continue log into my WC account, download extensions as needed for testing, then install them manually at client installs afterward.
            2) After April 9, I will not need to install this new plugin in order for WC and all extensions sold through WC to continue functioning.

        2. Jacklyn Biggin Avatar
          Jacklyn Biggin

          @Drew – comments don’t nest deep enough for my to reply to the comment with your questions, but:

          1: Yep! Just like how you can with WooCommerce 8.7, you’ll be able to continue logging into Woo.com, manually download extensions, and then use them for testing/installation.

          2: Correct. If you’re handling updates manually (like it sounds like you are), you’re good to go without the Update Manager plugin.

          I’ve added an FAQ to the end of the post. Lemme know if you have any more questions!

          1. That’s great and I really appreciate the clarity here. I hope adding that info to the new FAQ section goes a long way toward easing the anxiety I’m sure other agency providers are feeling.

            And thanks for really listening to these responses.

  5. This is a horrible decision. Adding another plugin should not be the way to handle this. We already have 2 different solutions in place for managing updates.. and one of those solutions brings in revenue. What you should be doing is ensuring compatibility with WP-Tookit as that is the standard now. You have seriously let us down.

    1. Brent MacKinnon Avatar
      Brent MacKinnon

      Thanks for your feedback. We were required to introduce the Woo.com Update Manager to meet WordPress.org guidelines. It’s also an opportunity to improve security and features for WooCommerce stores. We understand adding another plugin isn’t ideal, but this step is necessary for these improvements. We’re here to help make this transition as smooth as possible and ensure our solution works well with tools like WP-Toolkit. Your input is valuable, and we’re committed to addressing your concerns about compatibility.

  6. As if our sites didn’t already have enough plugins installed. Not happy.

    Many developers are creating updater plugins now and it’s frustrating to have multiple plugins installed purely for the purpose of updating. In some ways it defeats the purpose of having plugin update functionality built into the WordPress core.

    WordPress performs more poorly with every added plugin. Please reconsider. #lessplugins

    1. Jacklyn Biggin Avatar
      Jacklyn Biggin

      We understand that installing more plugins can be frustrating. This update was required to bring WooCommerce into compliance with WordPress.org’s guidelines. You can learn more about these guidelines at https://developer.wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-org/detailed-plugin-guidelines/#8-plugins-may-not-send-executable-code-via-third-party-systems. It’s likely that other developers also received notices that their plugins were not compliant with this requirement, which is why you might have seen an influx in developers creating updater plugins.

  7. I’m glad about this

  8. Is this going to be more reliable than your current solution of connecting our website to Woo.com, or is it basically just the same code, but moved into a plugin?

    The current update functionality is horrible. I’ve lost count of the number of sites that I’ve had to stuff around with trying to refresh the connection because the site doesn’t let you update a plugin, even when there’s a valid subscription. Prior to Automattic buying Woo, everything worked seamlessly when we were able to enter license keys into the plugin settings. As soon you decided to force everyone to connect their sites to Woo.com/WordPress.com, everything went to 💩 and became unreliable.

    1. Brent MacKinnon Avatar
      Brent MacKinnon

      > Is this going to be more reliable than your current solution of connecting our website to Woo.com, or is it basically just the same code, but moved into a plugin?

      To start, it’s the same code. That’s a good thing for the sake of making the transition easier.

      But, moving this functionality into it’s own plugin does afford us the opportunity to make improvements to security, reliability, and to add other functionality that will make the update experience better.

      Anthony, if you’ve got ideas, pains, specific feedback, I’d love to hear it. If we can solve the pains you’re describing it will be a huge win for the community. Feel free to ping me in the Woo community Slack, or respond here!

  9. Dave Loodts Avatar
    Dave Loodts

    There is this referral to the WordPress guidelines. But that’s not clear to me.
    With that logic, you stated that every plugin should have another plugin to manage updates?

    So, Yoast should build a “update manager” to do updates for their Premium or WooCommerce extension. Does Gravity Forms need to build an Update Manager plugin to manage their extensions.

    Why can’t every Woo extension have their own license field? Like the majority?
    Why the need for an extra plugin?

    Or “just” maybe the real reason is to manage the correct way of using licenses. Which is a valid reason, but dare to mention it. One license per site, and with a required extra plugin there’s this control.

    By the way: i understand the idea of the plugin. And it brings -in the end- more options to market other extensions, then going via the core plugin. Get that. And it would be better too, then the core plugin gets leaner.
    But just call a cat a cat and do not just only finger point to the guidelines. That’s clearly not the only reason, right.

    1. Brent MacKinnon Avatar
      Brent MacKinnon

      Hey Dave, I definitely understand the skepticism, and you’ve got some good questions.

      In the spirit of transparency: WordPress.org reached out to us to let us know that we weren’t in compliance with their guidelines, and we negotiated a deadline to make these initial changes. The specific guideline in question is item 8: https://developer.wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-org/detailed-plugin-guidelines/#8-plugins-may-not-send-executable-code-via-third-party-systems

      > Why can’t every Woo extension have their own license field? Like the majority?
      Why the need for an extra plugin?

      It makes life easier for our customers if they can pay for all of their extensions with one account, without needing unique accounts and payment methods for each unique extension. If we want a central service to manage updates for everything you’ve purchased from us, the guidelines say we need to handle updates through a separate extension, as plugins may not send executable code via third-party systems.

      1. Thanks! ❤️

  10. I try my best to reduce plugins. I never see the need in having a plugin to update other plugins. Doesn’t make sense to website developers and website owners.

    So what this enforcement will do for me is this…

    Over time I will be stopping using Woo plugins and use 3rd party plugins. Woo plugins usually have less features and cost more than 3rd party ones anyway.

    I am assuming we do not need the plugin do update WooCommerce itself? So if it’s WooCommerce and then no Woo subscriptions I guess thats OK then, we do not need it.

    1. Brent MacKinnon Avatar
      Brent MacKinnon

      Hey Laurence, I’m sorry to hear that.

      In the end, the great thing is that it’s totally your choice. We hope that we continue creating extensions that people want to use, and we’ll make it as easy as we can for folks to keep their extensions and WooCommerce up to date. Unfortunately, it was necessary for us to create this extensions in order to maintain compliance with WordPress.org’s guidelines.

      > I never see the need in having a plugin to update other plugins. Doesn’t make sense to website developers and website owners.

      In this case, the need in having a plugin to update other plugins is due to WordPress.org’s guidelines. You can learn more about these guidelines at https://developer.wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-org/detailed-plugin-guidelines/#8-plugins-may-not-send-executable-code-via-third-party-systems

      If you experience any issues with the Update Manager, please let us know. We’re doing our best to make this a positive experience for folks, despite the requirement to add an additional plugin.

  11. Phillip Avatar

    This is so unnecessary and an immense nuisance to developers that like to limit plugins. WooCommerce developers have failed to come up with a better solution than creating another annoying plugin. My client has been asking about Shopify lately, so I think it’s time to drop WC.

    1. We understand that this change may initially seem inconvenient. However, this decision was made with the goal to remain in compliance with WordPress.org’s guidelines.

      The introduction of the WooCommerce Update Manager is a response to a specific guideline from WordPress.org (item 8), which states that plugins may not send executable code via third-party systems: https://developer.wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-org/detailed-plugin-guidelines/#8-plugins-may-not-send-executable-code-via-third-party-systems. This specifically impacts the way we send auto-updates, and the plugin is only required for automatic updates, but it’s not required to use extensions that you have a subscription for.

      Another way to remain in compliance would be to require customers to have unique accounts for each extension, which felt like more friction than what we’ve ultimately implemented. We are always looking to iterate, however, and if anyone can see a better way to do this given the guidelines, we will consider other solutions.

  12. Stephen Avatar

    Hi, do I need this to automatically update WooCommerce PayPal Payments and WooCommerce Stripe Gateway plugins ?

    1. Brent MacKinnon Avatar
      Brent MacKinnon

      Hey Stephen, thanks for the question. You’re right: If you want to continue receiving automatic updates for your extensions, like the WooCommerce PayPal Payments and WooCommerce Stripe Gateway extensions, you will need to install the Woo.com Update Manager.

  13. What would it take for Woo/Automattic to provide a composer repository for Woo extensions? Other plugin vendors offer this for paid plugins/extensions.

    1. Brent MacKinnon Avatar
      Brent MacKinnon

      Hey JB, thanks for the question. This is something that has been discussed internally a little bit, but we haven’t prioritized a project like this so far. We understand the benefits it could provide, but we also need to carefully consider the potential risks before investing. For example: our extension code is currently private, and Composer packages are generally public (though there are private options).

      We’ll definitely take note of the question, and continue to evaluate this option and whether its right for Woo. We’re certainly looking for ways to improve the developer experience.

      Is there a particular problem you’re looking to solve, or workflow you’re hoping to improve where a composter repository would be the ideal solution for you?

  14. Brent – Appreciate you taking the time to respond. I can imagine your team has plenty of feature requests and other items vying for your attention, so I’m glad to hear that your team has discussed composer.

    I’ve been developing with the roots.io stack (namely Bedrock) for a while now, and among the many advantages is package management using composer. The key pain point with standard WordPress is defining/versioning plugins – to track plugin changes, I have to commit the entire plugin to version control, which gets messy quickly.

    With composer, I can specify a wpackagist package/version as a single line in the composer.json file (ref: https://wpackagist.org) Since this based on standard PHP composer, GitHub’s Dependabot can easily be set up to handle updates. Then if a plugin update goes wrong, I can quickly and easily rollback the commit. This is a huge quality of life upgrade when working with multiple environments. In fact, it’s hard to imagine working on a web app without a package manager (I also work in Rails, ASP.net, Laravel)

    Woo extensions put a wrinkle in this approach. Since as you mention, they are private/paid code, and thus aren’t available from wp-packagist. There are workarounds like SatisPress, but these have their issues (ref: https://roots.io/bedrock/docs/private-or-commercial-wordpress-plugins-as-composer-dependencies/)

    However, vendors like Freemius offer plugins via private composer repos, which require authorization in order to retrieve plugin packages. My thought is that if 3rd party plugin vendors are already doing this, surely Woo/Automattic could too, if not better.

    I do appreciate that Woo/Automattic wants to stick with guidelines from WordPress.org. There is enough inconsistency/fragmentation in the WordPress ecosystem already. And while this is a reasonable solution to the issue outlined by WordPress.org, I consider it a step backwards for all but the WP beginners. In fact, I think the strongest argument for a private Woo Extensions composer repo, is that it would greatly benefit developers, without hindering less technical WordPress/WooCommerce. Considering that Automattic is the highest profile company in WordPress, and that Roots is already sponsored by WordPress.com, I hope that your team can prioritize this and other improvements to developer tooling.

    1. Brent MacKinnon Avatar
      Brent MacKinnon

      Thanks JB! It’s really helpful to hear this, and we’ll make sure the right folks internally hear it as well.

  15. This is going to cause issues with sites and delays in updating. This isn’t a good idea at all. This is going to force interaction with clients that don’t even know how to login to woo let alone add this app.

    1. Jacklyn Biggin Avatar
      Jacklyn Biggin

      Hey Stef! This change was made in response to requirements from WordPress.org – we needed to ensure we are in compliance with their guidelines. Note that if you handle updates for your clients in a non-standard (eg: you have a custom deployment setup to update clients sites) you can continue to use this process without the Woo.com Update Manager. You only need this plugin if you want to handle updates from within WordPress.

  16. Hey Jacklyn, we do not have a custom deployment setup. We manually take care of 600+ sites and we cannot have this. Right now it is hindering us from updating 10 sites and 3 new client sites. Denis Devali above said to someone ” You will be able to disable the automatic updates from the core as usually” uh, where? I’m not seeing that anywhere. A loom or screenshot would be really nice about right now. 3 days without any information as to how to disable this.

  17. Cont’d I wish this allowed us to edit our comment. I forgot to mention that we use shell access for all updates using CLI and in some cases we have to use manual for Pro apps. Not always, but sometimes.

    I also forgot that we have several sites running custom complex sites that require staging enviros be used first, before updating live.

  18. My site is telling me to install this, however, i do not allow outside updating automatically, or manually, until i can see and research any update. So if i dont install this, will it stop working? I will begin looking for other options, as i am not comfortable with this at all.

    1. Jacklyn Biggin Avatar
      Jacklyn Biggin

      Hey James! If you have auto-updates disabled and don’t update your Woo Marketplace extensions through wp-admin, then you don’t need this plugin. Nothing will break as a result of you not installing it, and you can continue to update extensions by manually uploading the new version to WordPress.

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