Astra WordPress Theme In The Bad Books



I’ll be honest; this isn’t the usual type of post I write. I don’t do news related articles. Some of you will probably say stick to reviews you heathen, and I’d understand. I feel I need to write this as a user of WordPress. 

As it affects users.

This morning, I was on Reddit, I’m often there, trying to help/learn something new. I did come across something that caught my eye. 

The Reddit link pointed to an article on Search Engine Journal entitled WordPress Suspends Astra Theme – Affects 1 Million Users.

Intrigued, I read the article, take a look at it yourself if you’d like. 

I don’t have a screenshot of the code in question, I’ve taken a screenshot of the SEJ article:

The Crux of the matter: 

That leaves over 1 million users (active installs of the Astra theme) in the dark. 

In happier times

It wasn’t so long ago that Brainstorm Force (the people behind the theme) celebrated 1+ million installs; actually, it was on the 14th of July they posted about:

“Celebrating 1 Million Active Installs! The Highest Number Any WordPress Theme Has Achieved.”

View post on WP Astra

Unfortunately, for BSF (Brainstorm Force), this celebratory milestone has been cut short. 

Q&A With William Patton from the WordPress themes team

Rather than conjecture and disinformation, I’ve asked William Patton (themes team rep) a few questions for fact-checking. 

Q. When did the theme review team spot this? 

Yesterday around midday. The theme was suspended, and the author contacted about 2 hours after first spotting it.

Q. So effectively, they were (dare I say it) breaking the law by not providing a disclaimer?

Yes, it’s been mentioned more than once that there is a possible law break or stepping on the wrong side of some regulations from lack of disclosure.

I don’t know the specific law details exactly, but it sounds pretty bad. One person mentioned it could be considered ‘fraud’ under some regulation, but I don’t know enough about that to say if it is or not.

Q. There’s an implication though, I mean, if a user isn’t aware of the fact if they purchase through the theme recommendations that the theme will profit, that’s bad, right?

Q. Some might say that 5 weeks is a long time to suspend a theme, what do you think?

When we looked at it initially, we saw 5; however, we could have miscounted. The decision to go with the five weeks seemed to fit the situation, though.

Q. Where there any other courses of action that were discussed?

We discussed contacting them first, but that was decided to not be effective based on past experience with authors in the top 10 list. 

When they have large user bases, theme authors fight hard to make no changes claiming that changing things with such large numbers of users might negatively affect their business.

We have started discussions with other teams about having alternative ways to handle disciplinary actions because, currently, we only have the option to suspend or to ask nicely repeatedly. Asking nicely does not work as often as it should 🙁

Q. Have you ever seen anything like this before?

Basically, a similar situation occurred about two years ago (different theme author). 

After we added that guideline, Astra added the first affiliate tracking code – they added the code 18 months ago. They added more over time, as well. 

Wrapping up

Whatever you think about the situation, whether you’re a theme/plugin developer, losing your presence will hit hard.

With the freemium model accounting (I’m guessing) for a large percentage of Astra premium theme purchases, there is no doubt this will affect their bottom line. 

That said, let’s not beat around the bush here. 

From my own personal viewpoint, I’d never use Astra again. Hey, it’s my blog, and it’s my view, OK? 

I cannot trust a company that:

A) Went openly against the guidelines that the review team put out.

B) Kept adding more despite the guidelines.

Couple this with no disclaimer? 

Well, I’d be surprised if this didn’t escalate; further, it’s only a matter of time. 

I’ve seen many people on Twitter, stating that this has left users in a state of flux, especially with WordPress 5.5 dropping later this month. 

The simple fact of the matter is this:

Astra got caught, whether you agree with it or not, the guidelines are there for a reason. 

The top ten that William mentions, well, they have ruined it for every other theme/plugin developer/company, it’s their actions that have bought about these guidelines. 

Over to you

What do you think? Do you use the Astra theme? How has this affected you? Let me know with a comment. Keen to get your side of the story.

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4 responses to “Astra WordPress Theme In The Bad Books”

  1. Saptak Avatar

    This is definitely bad news for me. I saw the post from the Elementor community from FB and it was really hard for me.
    I have been using astra pro for almost 2 + years and used it on all of my clients websites. Now I am not sure what should I do. Themes like these have a lot of options and knowing a theme and how to work with them is not an easy task. So some developers choose a single theme to learn and use it efficiently on sites.

    It was easy for me to work around with astra because I was using it for long and knew how to do changed using hooks.

    But now I am confused about what should I do. I am certainly changing the theme of my own site for sure. But contacting all my old clients for this may be a very bad idea.

    Another which I don’ understand is they were warned about this before so why not remove the links before this happened?

    The review teams say they noticed this affiliate link includes a few months ago so they must have discussed this before. right?

    There are few things that I did not like about astra before this happened.
    1. Astra free and Astra pro have the same number of premade templates to use. So even if you buy the Astra pro you can’t use agency version of the templates. So absolutely no extra templates if you get the pro.
    2. earlier they had terms like padding margin etc when you use the customizer which is easy for us to understand but recently they are changing this to something else. this sudden change is confusing old users for sure.

    What theme you are using Ben?

    1. Ben Avatar

      Astra has since published an apology here: it would seem they’ve openly admitted they were wrong and are doing their utmost to be transparent in the future and abide by rules.

      I dont condone what they did, they got caught. The theme is now back on .org which I find interesting in itself.

      The theme I’m using on LayerWP is the blocksy theme so far so good. Quite like it.

      Mind you I do change themes like clothes lol!

  2. mohamed el zayani Avatar
    mohamed el zayani

    It will only affects the online update of the theme. From operation perspective nothing changes. However you can still download the theme directly from the website.

  3. Felix Avatar

    Thank you for speaking up about this.
    I have just got approval from a client for a new project which includes using this theme in conjunction with LearnDash LMS plugin.
    Now unsure what to do.
    I wonder if there are compatible themes that play just as well as Astra does with LearnDash.

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