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Add-ons, Plugins and Apps

Hi fellows, 

I would like to understand more about Atlassian's approach for Add-ons, Plugins and Apps.

I already searched at documentations and blogs, but things was not so clear for me about the differences.

Basically I would like to understand how could I explain using a simple way to other users.



Sloan N_ B_ Community Leader Mar 06, 2018

A service or piece of software that extends an Atlassian product. See app.

A service or piece of software that extends an Atlassian product. Add-ons, bots, integrations, and plugins are all types of apps.

A piece of software that extends an Atlassian server product. See app.


I pulled this from the Atlassian Marketplace Developer Glossary

In the end it is all the same. I must admit, Atlassian found a good way to confuse users. ;)


Like Alexander Goldabin likes this

Hi Niklas, thanks for sharing with me your perspective.


Just to add to this, originally plugin was the term for a piece of software that extended the functionality of server products, as it is a piece of software written in Java that is installed inside of the host product (Jira, Confluence, etc.).

When this functionality was brought to Confluence Cloud via Atlassian Connect, the software that extended the functionality existed on another server in any language, so the term plugin didn't make as much sense in that context. That's why they decided to use the term add-on.

Finally, in order to unify the naming convention (as well as introduce terms that many consumers were already used to like app and appstore), they decided to change the term for any piece of software that extended functionality to be called an app. This change was made around August of 2017:

Whether that's a good thing or not is a separate discussion...

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Hi Stephen,

Thank you for your detailed explanation.

Do you know exactly the time when this was brought to Confluence Cloud?

I'm preparing for a presentation and this information would be really useful 
to illustrate that changes.


I'm not sure what you're asking about - when was what "brought to Cloud"?  The name changes we're talking about were August 2017.  The Connect architecture for Cloud add-ons has always been part of Cloud, since it was created (Autumn 2011 if memory serves)

It's confusing, and I think Atlassian have made a poor choice of words.

Applications are the main products - Jira Core, Jira Service Desk, Confluence, Bitbucket etc

Plugins is the original (and most sensible) name for "compiled chunks of code that you can add to one of the applications that change or extend functionalities"

Those were renamed add-ons a while ago, and then again, more recently, apps, which is dreadful because it's a contraction of "applications" and is used in the wider world to mean "applications intended for mobile devices", not things you add to other applications.

It gets worse because developers for Server still effectively write "plugins", and those, apps for Cloud, and mobile clients are all totally different things.

However, to toe the company line:

  • An Application is one of the main products.
  • Apps are things you add to an application to change or extend functions of the Application.
  • If someone says "plugin" or "add on", they probably mean "app", and we should not really be saying plugin or add on any more.

Hi Nic,

Well, I totally agree with you. Atlassian's certainly chose the wrong words.

I appreciate your explanation. I hope Atlassian will someday fix this confusion.

Kindly Regards

In addition to these, the term extension was also in use in the past. :-)

It would be nice to be able to disable add-ons from a users perspective. Not every project or person uses the same add-ons. But are loaded anyway and slow the jira experience down quite a bit while trying to load jira issues. Example, for my project we do not use InVision, but is loaded onto every jira issue we have. This takes several seconds to load causing the jira issue page to load slowly ( Using Jira Cloud). It would be nice as a user to hide things like this.   

Thanks everyone this has been informative; however, I may still be a little confused. Considering Atlassian continues to use the term "add-on." I will continue to refer to add-ons accordingly and will refer to the term application when discussing Atlassian's products (JIRA, Confluence etc). 


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