Automattic Adopts Alex Mills’ Plugins

Automattic announced today that a team inside the company will be adopting Alex Mills‘ plugins and continuing their development and support. Mills, also known around the web as @Viper007Bond, was a WordPress core contributor and prolific plugin developer who passed away in February 2019 after a battle with Leukemia.

At one time last year, Mills was the primary author for and contributor to more than 40 plugins hosted on WordPress.org. The current collection seems to have been pared back to 17 of his most popular plugins. According to stats from WP Tally, these 17 plugins have a cumulative download count of 138,665,603 and a cumulative rating of 4.55 out of 5 stars.

“Since all of my plugins are open-source, they are free to be forked by reputable authors in the WordPress community. It would mean a lot to have my legacy go on,” Mills said in his farewell post earlier this year. The plugins are all free without any pro versions or monetization efforts attached to them.

“I’d never monetize any of my plugins,” Mills told the Tavern after his popular Regenerate Thumbnails plugin passed 5 million downloads in 2017. “I write them for fun not profit. It would be a conflict of interest anyway due to my employment at Automattic.”

Regenerate Thumbnails is active on more than a million WordPress sites and passed the 10 million downloads milestone in January 2019. It has already been downloaded more than 7,000 times today and has regularly received 3K-12k downloads per day throughout 2019.

The enduring popularity of Regenerate Thumbnails is a testament to Mills’ commitment to writing future-proof plugins. What started as a small plugin to fix a client’s problem in 2008 quickly became an indispensable utility for millions of WordPress users transitioning between themes with different image sizes. For those users who could never write their own script to generate new thumbnail sizes, Mills’ plugin was a little piece of time-saving magic that exemplifies the significant contributions plugin developers can make when they write and share code that solves a common problem.

Automattic plans to fork each of Mills’ GitHub repositories and will add them to the Automattic Github account. The team behind this effort is also adding the following paragraph to each plugin’s readme file:

In February 2019 Alex Mills, the author of this plugin, passed away. He leaves behind a number of plugins which will be maintained by Automattic and members of the WordPress community. If this plugin is useful to you please consider donating to the Oregon Health and Science University.

Automattic will also be answering support queries on the forums and the team is open to receiving help from other members of the WordPress community in maintaining and supporting Mills’ plugins.

“In times gone by authors left works of music, novels, poetry, and letters on their passing,” Donncha Ó Caoimh said on the Automattic Engineering blog. “They were static works of art frozen in time. Alex leaves behind his code that will continue to evolve and operate in a living world used by thousands (millions?) of people every day as they go about their online lives.”