The Plugin API, dubbed "Workbench", is an upcoming feature that allows modders to easily add more content to the game. In contrast to mods, plugins will not require any alteration of the minecraft.jar itself. But they will also be slightly limited in their featureset. The Bukkit team will help make the official Plugin API.
The Plugin API has been planned in some capacity since at least July 5, 2010, shortly after the release of Alpha 1.0.1_01. The release was originally stated to be planned for 1.3, then for 1.4, and then it was accidentally stated by Curse that it would be implemented in 1.5, but has since been delayed.
The following features are planned as part of the Plugin API:
- Plugins will be targeted at multiplayer, eventually extending into singleplayer as well.
- It aims to support directly adding plugins allowing installation directly in the game, reducing time and effort to install modifications, and making it less prone to accidentally destroy the game.
- The Minecraft website will be revamped, helping to bring the most interesting community plugins and custom maps to the surface.
- It will be easier to add and animate models.
- It will change the way the game stores data regarding its many materials and items.
Resource packs were added in 1.6, and the release of a self-updating launcher for running newer versions of the game and allowing for more functionality makes it a step closer to the incorporation of the Plugin API. However, resource packs are not to be used for adding plugins, a separate API is to be used to accomplish this. Rather, resource packs simply modify the look and feel of the game, while plugins aim to change how the game functions.
At MineCon 2012, Mojang shared their vision for the future of the plugin API. The full presentation can be watched here:
As of October 26, 2013, the Plugin API/Workbench cannot be found on its GitHub page. Furthermore, the developer website has also been taken offline (http://dev.minecraft.net).