WP User Avatar repurposed by it’s developers into ProfilePress, now a membership plugin

Firstly, it’s unusual for us to post what is essentially a negative opinion piece about a WordPress plugin. We love WordPress. We love the plugin ecosystem, and are huge fans of Open Source software.

Having said that, the rebranding and repurposing of the “Does what it says on the tin” WP User Avatar plugin into a fully-fledged, but “lite” version of the developers ProfilePress plugin in this way introduces any number of technical issues, security issues, and erodes confidence in website developers who have selected the plugin for it’s original purpose.

In case you’re wondering it was originally, WP User Avatar was a plugin that allowed you to upload a user avatar rather than having to use the 3rd party Gravatar solution),

This has not gone down well with us, our customers, or the WordPress community at large.

Suddenly repurposing a plugin with over 400,000 active installs into something totally different is just not on. We’ve had customers ask why we’ve installed a new plugin on their sites, we’ve had customers ask us if they’ve been hacked (after seeing a new top level menu link to ProfilePress and dashboard messages about ProfilePress, and we’re still in the process of cleaning this mess up for our customers.

ProfilePress (formerly WP User Avatar) settings screen.
ProfilePress (formerly WP User Avatar) settings screen.

Some backstory

In April 2020, the plugin changed ownership. ProfilePress had taken over from Flipper Code, the project’s only contributor since 2014. Bangbay Siboliban was listed as the plugin owner from 2013-2014. It is unclear if this was an acquisition or a simple transfer.

Under new ownership and its version 2.2.5 – 2.2.9 plugin upgrades in the past year, everything seemed to be status quo. ProfilePress kept the plugin going, fixing bugs for multiple releases. Until a few days ago, users were likely unaware that a tidal wave of change was roaring their way. No announcements on the ProfilePress blog. No sticky topics in the WordPress.org support forum. Just, here’s your new membership plugin that you didn’t ask for.

Users were greeted with a new settings screen and much more, an admin that was barely recognizable.

How have users reacted

As one user put it, “What the heck? Updated plugin and suddenly I have a full membership solution.”

“You had the plugin WP User Avatar that did one specific function — added an avatar to users like when they leave comments on the blog,” wrote another reviewer. “Now I go to update it, and BOOM, a 100% completely different plugin takes its place.”