Of all of the good decisions Blizzard made when they created World of Warcraft, one of the best was providing a robust API for third party developers to write addons for the game. Installing addons is easy, you just download the addon, unzip it, and put it in the Interface/Addons directory.
The problem is keeping track of addons. The last time I looked, I had over 70 addons installed, and that’s not atypical. A number of addon distribution sites sprung up to give developers a place to list their software and a place for players to keep track of updates to their favorites. Curse.com is one popular example, and WoWInterface is another.
Some other approaches became popular as well. A number of addon collections were created — someone would package a number of useful addons, make sure they all work together, and then distribute them together. Users were then freed from the burden of updating each addon individually, they just had to download updates to the collection when they were released.
The next phase was addon updaters, desktop software packages that keep track of the addons you’ve installed and update the ones that are out of date. The most popular of these is WowMatrix. It’s an ugly piece of adware, but it has a comprehensive directory of addons and makes managing those addons really easy.
Unfortunately, WowMatrix, for all its benefit to players, was leeching from the addon distribution web sites. And yesterday, on the day when World of Warcraft released its huge 3.1 patch, those sites started blocking WowMatrix. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.