Classic SEO plugin's obfuscated JavaScript

Some of us (particularly @1stepforward!) are aware that the Classic SEO plugin inherited a load of obfuscated JavaScript files when it was forked from Rank Math, and the authors of Rank Math have declined to assist in any way. It’s particularly frustrating for ACF users because there’s a bug which interferes with the SEO scoring mechanism for custom fields.

Because Rank Math is in the WP repository, it has to abide by the repository’s guidelines, and I’ve found that guideline 4 states the following:

Obscuring code by hiding it with techniques or systems similar to p,a,c,k,e,r ‘s obfuscate feature, uglify’s mangle, or unclear naming conventions such as $z12sdf813d , is not permitted in the directory. Making code non-human readable forces future developers to face an unnecessary hurdle, as well as being a common vector for hidden, malicious code.

So I decided to email the main WordPress plugins email address as follows:

I need to inform you that the plugin “WordPress SEO Plugin - Rank Math” (URL below) violates at least one of the repository guidelines.
https://wordpress.org/plugins/seo-by-rank-math/
Guideline 4 states (paraphrasing) that code must not be deliberately obfuscated. Here is the reference:
https://developer.wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-org/detailed-plugin-guidelines/
However, all the JavaScript files in the “assets/admin/js” folder of Rank Math plugin are obfuscated.
This makes it impossible to verify the plugin’s lack of malicious intent, and prevents other developers from investigating bugs or developing integrations.
I would appreciate if this matter could be investigated and hopefully resolved so that future tags contain human-readable JavaScript files.
Yours etc.

I’ll let you know about any response.

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Hello Andy,

First of everything, we are sorry that you were not able to find the public repo of the plugin.

It is linked from our Readme file here:

Also, please stop spreading lies. You never contacted us. Do not say things like

the authors of Rank Math have declined to assist in any way.

We have always provided support and tried to help the ClassicPress community as much as we can by still supporting for WordPress 4.9

Top of it, being a developer, you left a 1-star rating without ever contacting us.

We had our Pro version and free version’s GH repo combined for long and recently decided to separate them and thus a new repo of Rank Math free.

If you need any file from any of the previous versions, please ask but do not complain without asking.

We are here to assist. Take care!

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Well there you go folks, there’s the response. Knowing their reputation for agressiveness I would expect nothing less.

What they haven’t said is that the Github repo they created 17 days ago doesn’t contain the source files for any earlier versions of the plugin.

So for a very long time they were in breach of the WP repo guidelines, even if, strictly speaking, they aren’t now.

But it’s still virtually impossible to debug Rank Math on a live site unless their build process can be replicated, because the source JS files don’t have a 1:1 relationship with the distribution files.

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Hello Andy,

Leaving a 1-star review is not rude but replying to it in a professional manner is. :slight_smile:

You said you acted on someone’s misinformation but then in the first post here you mentioned that you contacted us and we did not revert back.

Please get it all together and then post a reply.

I don’t think anything else needs to be said.

Have you tried http://www.jsnice.org/ ?

Yes. Still pretty incomprehensible.

Have you tried passing the code through several times?

Thanks @zigpress. That’s good work.

Just want to start off by saying it is not my aim to antagonize Rank Math. I was grateful to be able to use RM as a base for Classic SEO and RM certainly seemed to be the preferred option among the ClassicPress community.

Having said that, I do believe RM could have been more helpful. It’s taken RM a long time to embrace the open source philosophy and I’m still not sure they have even now. Their GitHub repo was only created on or around 11 June 2020, probably to coincide with the release of v1.0.44 (although there’s no mention of this in the release notes).

Just as aside, I did come across this in the many fruitless times I’ve searched on Google for a Rank Math repo: [ link removed - see below ]

So that does appear to show that RM hasn’t always been helpful.

I also agree with @zigpress that the source files on the repo bear little resemblance to the compiled files. So, all in all, it’s still not very helpful and does absolutely nothing to address the “future developers to face an unnecessary hurdle ” issue in the WordPress guidelines.

Yup.

Yes. I have spent a bit of time playing around with jsnice and although it does help a little, it still leaves a lot of code that is difficult / impossible to follow. So far, I’ve been able to make any changes that are necessary to the compiled code but I know that’s not an option longer term.

Rank Math Unminified Source

Well it appears that Rank Math have removed the page I referred to in my earlier post and, instead, redirected the URL to their GitHub repo. For reference, the link used to be

https://support.rankmath.com/ticket/unminified-source/

It also seems that Rank Math have done their best to remove the page from Google cache and the Wayback Machine (web.archive.org). What they can’t do, however, is to remove the copy of that page from an old backup of my browser’s cache.

Here’s the page, with the subject Unminified Source, that Rank Math seem so desperate to hide:

Things like that really don’t impress me much.

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Oh well, I guess I stirred the hornet’s nest, but with people like that it was going to happen sooner or later anyway. They don’t embrace open source. They grudgingly tolerate the letter of it (though not the spirit) when they have no other option. When Rank Math was selected as the fork base my immediate thought was “this will be interesting”.

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If you search for “Rank Math Unminified Source”, it still shows up in Google but if you click on it, you get redirected to GitHub. Smooth. :sunglasses:

RM was a popular choice with the CP community. I’ve always known we wouldn’t get any help from RM but I spent a good while evaluating all SEO plugins and examining the code of each and again, RM seemed like the better option.

But in any case, as I see it, they are still in breach of the WP guidelines. And possibly GPL.

Once I’ve got version 1 of Classic SEO sorted, my priority is to then look at the JS and your help (and anyone else’s) would be greatly appreciated.

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The unnamed [email protected] person (they never sign their emails) finally replied, and said:

They are not obfuscated, but they are heavily minimized.
It makes it harder (and more annoying) to read, but it does not qualify as obfuscated. It’s basically right on that line.

I disagree strongly and replied saying so.

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WordPress just need to take a look at their own guidelines and ask themselves “will RM’s code force future developers to face an unnecessary hurdle”, the answer to which is undoubtedly “yes”.

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Rank Math drop support for WordPress 4.9

Quick update. Rank Math have just released version 1.0.45 of the plugin and now, at the top of the admin screen, they have a notice which reads:

From the next update, you’ll need atleast WordPress 5.0 to run the Rank Math plugin. Please update to the latest version.

And here’s what they said just a few days ago:

So Rank Math is officially history.

But there are, of course, many alternatives including our very own Classic SEO :slight_smile:

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It didn’t need to wait too long for a revenge. :slight_smile:

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No and it’s not much of a surprise tbh. I think we all knew it was coming.

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