What the hell, Jetpack? You’re slowing me down!

It’s easy to see the name Jetpack and think blazing fast speed that will make your site fly.

There are one or two parts of Automattic’s Jetpack plugin that could help boost your website speed. But among its 40-something modules are several that will slow your site to a crawl.

Jetpack fans respond to critics by pointing to the plugin’s solid code base and Automattic pedigree.

Even without upgrading to a paid Jetpack plan, the plugin has a robust feature set. Plus, it’s well maintained by key WordPress contributors.

So does Jetpack really slow down WordPress? Or is the issue more nuanced than that?

The answers are yes, and yes.

The Jetpack plugin, if used incorrectly, will slow your site.

Should you even use Jetpack?

The upside

  1. Jetpack offers a lot of features for free. If you need those features, and free is best for your budget, then Jetpack is a good option.
  2. The plugin’s features are broken up into modules. Unless a given module is active, it won’t be loaded. Meaning that module can’t slow your page speed.
  3. The Automattic folks write quality code, and they keep it updated. There’s little chance they’ll abandon the Jetpack plugin.

The flip side

  1. There are better plugins and services available to accomplish probably any of the things you might otherwise handle with Jetpack. Some are free, some paid.
  2. You have to create a WordPress.com account to tap into many Jetpack features, and some of your site’s data and content is passed around the web. Securely passed, but still…stuff happens.
  3. There are several things you ought to know about Jetpack and its modules so that, if you do decide to use it, you’ll run it in a way that helps – not hurts. (I’ll cover those caveats in the “What you need to know about Jetpack” section below.)

A final reality check

If you tried to install and activate plugins to match Jetpack modules feature for feature, you’d likely slow your site as much or more as using Jetpack. So it’s not “Jetpack bad. Other plugin good.”

Code quality does matter, but so does the number of things you’re loading when a visitor goes to your site. Themes, images, video, and other plugins you use in your site can slow it down as much or more than Jetpack or any other plugin.

All that said, there are some significant drawbacks to Jetpack that may be deal breakers for you. Let’s talk about those now.

What you need to know about Jetpack

1: Jetpack loads a lot of stuff you probably don’t need and won’t use

If you do nothing but install and activate Jetpack, by default more than 20 separate modules are activated.

Again, this isn’t necessarily worse than installing 20 similar plugins. But you probably don’t need all the features those modules offer. And if you do, some of them might be better handled by another plugin or service.

Take a look at this list of automatically-activated Jetpack modules, and decide for yourself what you need (I’ve added comments to help 😀 ):

  • Beautiful Math — You don’t have a math blog. Turn this module off.
  • Contact Form — If you have any other contact form plugin, turn this off.
  • Custom CSS — Unless you need to change your CSS and you’re afraid to edit your theme files (understandable), turn this off. Very slow.
  • Custom Content Types — Unless you need testimonials or have a portfolio, turn this off.
  • Enhanced Distribution — Do you want WordPress to let people reblog your stuff? Me neither. Turn this off.
  • Extra Sidebar Widgets — All of the extra widgets this module provides will drag your page speed down. Social icons linking to your profile are better for visitors and your site. Turn this off.
  • Gravatar Hovercards — Do you really need to make your Gravatar profile visible to blog visitors? Enough to load another script or two? Turn it off.
  • JSON API — If you know what this is and know you need it, OK. No? Turn it off.
  • Notifications — These might be useful if you didn’t have e-mail. You have e-mail. Turn it off.
  • Plugin Updates — You do not need a plugin to update plugins. You do need to go about plugin updates mindfully, though. But yeah – turn this one off.
  • Post by Email — An actually handy feature that allows you to compose and publish posts via e-mail. Shouldn’t have any impact for visitors. But you can turn it off if you don’t need it.
  • Proofreading — This module is helpful if you don’t have an alternative, but it’s not always right. Should not have an impact on your page load time.
  • Protect — If you don’t have Wordfence, do use this. But you need Wordfence. So get it and turn this off.
  • Publicize — Lets you share new posts on social media networks automatically when you publish, and create a custom message to accompany the link. Should not have any front end impact.
  • Sharing — If you have another sharing plugin, deactivate these sharing buttons.
  • Shortcode Embeds — This makes it easy to embed YouTube videos, Instagram pics, Twitter tweets and more. Slowdowns related to embed methods have been reported in some cases. It’s simple enough to copy and paste embed code, so this is one to turn off unless copy/paste terrifies you.
  • Site Stats — The limited data these site stats provide isn’t worth the hit on your page speed. Use Google Analytics, even if you ignore half of it, and turn this module off.
  • Site Verification — I get that this makes it easy to verify with Pinterest, Google, etc., so use it if you need to. If you have a theme that lets you add meta tags, do that instead and turn this module off.
  • Sitemaps — I hope you are using Yoast SEO. If not, get it and turn this off.
  • Subscriptions — Allows visitors to receive notifications of your latest posts or comments. Handy if you have no other option, but limited compared to having visitors subscribe to your e-mail list.
  • WP.me Shortlinks — Why would you need shortlinks with the wp.me domain? You don’t. Turn it off.
  • Widget Visibility — Set widgets to appear only on specific pages. Super handy, but if you don’t change your widgets based on page, ya – turn it off.

You’ll have to do a bit of digging to get to the page where you can manage Jetpack’s modules. Follow the instructions here, or just take your website URL and tack on /wp-admin/admin.php?page=jetpack_modules to the end.

AMS Euler sample math by Peter J. Acklam [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Beautiful Math? Do you have a math blog?

2: Jetpack’s Image CDN will not. let. go.

On the Settings page for the Jetpack plugin there’s a section labeled Speed up your site. Sounds awesome, right?

Friend, it is only awesome if you are fresh out of any other options.

There are two options in this Speed up your site section: Serve images from our servers and Lazy load images.

If you enable the Serve images from our servers, you need to know this:

  • There is no way to remove an image from the Jetpack Image CDN except to give Jetpack the URL and request that they remove it. You’d need to do this with every. single. image. URL. Even if you turn off this module or deinstall Jetpack, your content will remain on their servers to infinity. And beyond.
  • If you do not optimize your images before activating the Jetpack Image CDN, and you later optimize your images so you can speed up your site, the Image CDN will not sync the optimized images. As long as you use the Image CDN, you’ll be stuck with unoptimized and possibly bloated images.
  • If SEO is important to you, you may not want your images served from the Jetpack Image CDN. Although a canonical link to the original image is included, there’s still debate about whether this CDN helps or harms SEO.
  • Cloudflare performs better and serves all your content more quickly. Not just images. Forget about the Jetpack Image CDN and get your site on Cloudflare. Even the free plan is great.

3: Jetpack may conflict with things you use on your site

The list of conflicting plugins and services changes from time to time, so you’ll need to check it regularly to see if anything you use is listed.

W3 Total Cache, Cloudflare’s awesome Rocket Loader, WP Engine, Pinterest Pin It Button, Bad Behavior and Google Captcha are widely used and on Jetpack’s Known issues list.

We offer a speed optimization service and on top of going though your site and speeding things up, we can prune back Jetpack or help you get rid of it altogether.

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