Previously on the CogitActive Saga:
I was looking for a system for my readers to share their quick comments (e.g. “Thank you”, “Great post” and the like) somewhere else than in the comment section. I decided to go for React & Share – Customizable Reactions Buttons.
Although the free version of the React & Share – Customizable Reactions Buttons plugin was not perfect (e.g. no access to the dashboard analytics), I was not planning to look for an alternative in the near future. As explained in the previous post, React & Share saw things differently:
We are closing the React & Share freemium plan in two weeks.React & Share
Finding this reaction plugin was no easy task in the first place (see A reaction plugin), but now I had two weeks to find a substitute…
Previously discarded candidates
Quick summary: I was looking for a reaction plugin with text buttons – not with emoji! Ideally, it should be multisite compatible, work without API key1 (i.e. no need to create an account) and be up to date! Well, during the installation of the React & Share plugin, I had to concede a lot of ground. In particular, I had to create an account in order to customize the buttons. Given my recent misfortune, I was nowhere to make concession again. The plugin will have to be autonomous: no account, no API key!
With time constraints in mind, I went back to my initial investigation hoping that one of the (not chosen) contenders might be a good alternative… However, my list of reaction plugin with text buttons was rather small:
Reactions – MyEffecto – Reaction Buttons
In short, the reasons why I didn’t choose any of these plugins are as follow: Reactions, as well as MyEffecto, required the creation of an account and Reaction Buttons was not multisite compatible. Not that it matters, but things actually get worst in the meantime: all plugins were out of date!
This plugin hasn’t been tested with the latest 3 major releases of WordPress. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.
I was surprised to see so many plugins – of those I considered a year earlier – abandoned. Whatever the reasons (e.g. lack of time or interest), the thing is that over the time authors will stop maintaining their plugins. Unbelievably, and unfortunately, this is the fate of many plugins in the realms of WordPress.
A so-called abandoned plugin is one that has not been updated for several years. This means no bug fix, no adjustment to the code (to account for changes in WordPress core) and, what is more, no patch to security holes. In spite of these vulnerabilities, they remain available for installation from the WordPress Plugin Directory.
It is important that you evaluate each plugin carefully before you install it. Check how long it has been since the last update. If it has been more than 2 years, you should think twice before installing the plugin because it is no longer actively maintained.Mark Maunder
New kids on the block
Not really! First, I knew what I was looking for (see above). Second, while some plugins get defunct, others were newcomers (or at least not yet on my list):
Da Reactions – WordPress Social Share Buttons & Analytics Plugin – User Reactions – ShareThis Reactions Buttons – WPAC Like & Reaction System
Without going through the reviewing process2, let me separate the wheat from the chaff. Briefly, I didn’t even try ShareThis Reactions Buttons because of 1) the requirement to create an account (in order to configure the buttons) 2) its use of reaction emoji (i.e. Like – Love – Wow – LOL – Sad – Anger) instead of text buttons and 3) its poor 1 star rating (only 1 vote). Similarly, I discarded the WPAC Like & Reaction System plugin immediately despite its five-star rating (only two votes). Of note, this plugin offers the choice between like/dislike buttons and reactions icons (with the possibility to change and/or hide the labels, but not the icons). However, visitors have to log in to react; a no-no given my configuration (see Network Settings).
Da Reactions (by Daniele Alessandra)
Without further ado, Da Reactions (aka DaReactions WordPress Plugin) was my favorite candidate. On the paper, it has great potentials: no API key, Multisite, and the possibility to choose between 250 icons. Admittedly, there was no text button option, but the prospect to upload my own SVG images3 (a feature now limited to the premium version); yet, I gave it a shot.
Once installed (version 3.5.0), the plugin added four submenus:
- Reactions manager
- General Settings
- Graphic Settings
I didn’t really have time to explore them fully, though. When I started to customize the reactions buttons (i.e. icons and labels), the plugin developed bugs and I had to deactivate and uninstall it. I tried to install it again, not network activated this time (see Network Admin Plugins). The plugin was definitively not working properly, so I didn’t push the matter any further. After all, it did not offer the possibility to have text buttons.
“Next in line, please.”
User Reactions (by Mantrabrain)
With this one, I broke my personal record for fastest install-activate-deactivate-uninstall sequence. There is nothing to add. Except maybe for the single-word comment written on my personal logbook: CRAP!
WordPress Social Share Buttons & Analytics Plugin – GetSocial.io (by Getsocial, S.A.)
Briefly, as opposed to the situation immediately after the introduction of the so-called Reactions few years ago, there was now a very limited number of
plugins categorized as reactions in the WordPress Plugin Directory – many of which being abandoned anyway. Therefore, to widen the range of options, I first considered including those with API (despite my unwillingness), but to no avail. Clearly, the current trend4 was no more into Reactions, but instead into social media sharing plugins! Now, among the (too) many plugin available, the GetSocial.io freemium plugin – an all in one toolkit, actually – had a Reaction Button app.
Hence, I installed the plugin (version 4.3 at the time) and activated it. I was then asked to create a GetSocial account. As already alluded, there were many tools (or apps) to choose from. I located the Reaction Button app and click on the Install App button. The installation process was straightforward indeed. Sadly, the button options were very limited: back to the emoji issue (see A reaction plugin). For this reason, I ended up uninstalling the plugin.
A temporary measure
I searched desperately the WordPress Plugin Directory for a free reaction plugins with text buttons. This was a fruitless attempt! I was left with no option but to go back to my ‘discard pile’, again. Among all the plugins I went through, the Reaction Buttons plugin (by Jakob Lenfers) was without a doubt second to none (back then), except for the multisite issue. That was not really a major concern given my intended use (on this blog only – that is not network activated). However, as previously alluded, it was now out of date.
As acknowledged by the author himself, he hasn’t
the time nor the interest . . . to improve it anymore. Going back to the abandoned plugin issue, this one had been tested up to WordPress 4.8.12. What about the post Gutenberg WordPress? You might recall indeed that WordPress 5.0 was no ordinary update given the introduction of the new editor. An update dreaded by many at the time! Nonetheless, the plugin should not have been impacted since it does not interact with the editor. Compatibility issues (with more recent versions of WordPress) were not as a concern as security vulnerabilities, though!
No plugin is immune to becoming a security vulnerability on a website, even simple plugins with small user bases. Simply put, the older a plugin’s code, the higher the risk of security issues.Dan Moen
Should I still use the Plugin? I was not the only, nor the first, one to ask such a question. Given the lack of update in recent years, Julian Stark asked whether it was
safe and recommended to still use the plugin (see support section). Jakob Lenfers, the author of the plugin, stated that
as far as [he] know[s], there aren’t any problems with it atm. The atm (i.e. at the moment) was around June-July 2019 (based on the posted time). Probably more reassuring, the security plugin I am currently using would alert me in case of unpatched security issues within the plugin.
The clock was ticking; therefore, I took a leap of faith. I installed the plugin, activated it and…
Few settings later, I was very happy with the outcome (compare the above screenshot with the one at the beginning of this post). Less professional looking than the React & Share plugin, this one had however more configuration options. In particular, I could have chosen more than these four buttons and I was able to customize their appearance to match those from React & Share (with CSS). Last, but not least, the plugin comes with rudimentary statistics; a feature that was not available with the freemium React & Share plugin. In fact, it could have been a perfect solution if still maintained by its author! Now, it was a good temporary measure:
“Could I find a better alternative? What about coding my own plugin? Any other idea?”
To be continued… (ASAP)
1 Briefly, an API key functions like a unique password allowing an application (e.g. WordPress) to communicate with different services (e.g. React & Share). ^
2 It is worth mentioning that what sounds appealing to me may not be what you are looking for. In other words, this is not a review about reaction plugins. ^
3 If you follow the CogitActive Saga, you may already know that SVG is a vector graphics file format that is natively supported by Inkscape – the editor that I use to create the graphics for this blog. ^
4 I was not looking specifically for such a functionality; still, it was a (bonus) feature of the React & Share plugin. Since then, the trend reversed. In today’s social media world, the reactions buttons are not the central feature anymore but the little extra (that comes with the Social Share Buttons). ^