“Jetpack adds powerful features previously only available to WordPress.com users including customization, traffic, mobile, content, and performance tools.”
—Plugin description from wordpress.org/plugins/jetpack/
Developers, designers, end users, and even the founder of WordPress himself, rave about the importance of Jetpack, and want everyone to think that using Jetpack is necessary not only to get the most out of WordPress, but necessary if WordPress is to continue its dominance in the field of website design.
According to these people, Jetpack is the fix-all, the be-all, and the essential plugin that brings in important features missing in the naked WordPress installation. In other words, if we don’t use Jetpack we’re putting the entire WordPress universe in jeopardy.
We disagree. We think they’re wrong. We think Jetpack is bloated, and slows things down. We think you will get more speed and more value by taking a “naked” theme, and adding the “just right” individual plugins as needed – without Jetpack. We call those open-source discreet plugins. They are purpose-built for usually one function and have no or few settings. Jetpack is a multifunction plugin. Multifunction plugins are usually bloated with code overkill.
We’ve done some research and some testing, and here’s what we’ve found out:
Size of WordPress decompressed: 28.MB
Size of Jetpack decompressed: 14.8MB
Jetpack file size is 50 percent the size of WordPress.
Jetpack has a retention rate of 6.5 percent. That’s terrible. For comparison, good is around 30 percent retention and bad is 10 percent.
People like to say that WordPress is bloated, and maybe it is. But look at this comparison: Jetpack, which is just a plugin, an add-on to WordPress, has a file size 50 percent the size of WordPress itself. Talk about bloat!
Does this bloat make a difference? You bet it does. For more information, read our discussions about weight here.
Speed test with Jetpack activated but no modules activated
We wanted to test page speed on a simple WordPress site two different ways: Naked (no plugins) vs. Jetpack installed and activated with no modules activated. Here’s what we found:
Naked (No Jetpack)
First-visit speed (empty cache) 802 milliseconds
Subsequent-visit speed (primed cache) 608 milliseconds
Loaded (Jetpack installed and activated)
First-visit speed (empty cache) 3.13 seconds
Subsequent-visit speed (primed cache) 995 milliseconds
What a difference. Initial page load with JetPack installed was totally non-jet-like – a full 3 seconds – while the naked theme loaded up in under 1 second. That’s a huge difference.
Do you think your site visitors would prefer a page that loads in less than 1 second, or would they rather sit there drumming their fingers on their desk while waiting a full 3 seconds for the page to load?
More Speed Results
We further benchmarked Jetpack page speed on a simple, Gzip-enabled, WordPress site:
Setup 1: Five Jetpack modules activated.
Setup 2: Three “equivalent” third-party plugins activated plus favicon.ico image file FTP upload.
Modules used: Contact Form (Akismet Anti-Spam plugin required), Widgeted Tiled Gallery, Carousel, Site Icon, Extra Sidebar Widgets.
First-visit speed (empty cache) 1.633 seconds, 19 components, 309k weight.
Subsequent-visit speed (primed cache) 1.1 seconds, 5 components, 169k weight.
Lookalike third-party plugins
Plugins used: Simple Basic Contact Form, Image Widget, Tiled Gallery Carousel without Jetpack, Favicon.ico upload via FTP
First-visit speed (empty cache) 1.45 seconds, 17 components, 152k weight.
Subsequent-visit speed (primed cache) 673 milliseconds, 1 components, 5k weight.
About Extra Sidebar Widgets module – I searched across the web and did not find a WordPress plugin that provided a similar group of widgets. To mimic the functionality of this module, you’ll need to install anywhere between 3 – 4 separate plugins with widgets.
–Jeff Chandler, contributing writer for WPTavern blog 2013.
As Jeff Chandler said, you can’t mimic the Extra Sidebar Widgets module even with many plugins – yet. With it, we could place our carousel in the sidebar. That was the only thing that impressed us about Jetpack. On the benchmark, we placed the carousel in the body. The image weights were the same for both tests.
The speed difference on the first load isn’t that impressive: 183 milliseconds. But on the second load or cached load, the difference was significant: 427 milliseconds – almost half the page speed.
Another alternative: Unplug Jetpack plugin
Calling cloud-based web functions slow down page load time. In theory, the more HTTP requests the slower your site runs. Do you want a feature from Jetpack but don’t want to connect to WordPress.com’s cloud? Just use “Unplug Jetpack” plugin combined with the regular Jetpack plugin. It allows only the modules that don’t make offsite calls accessible.
Asterisked below * are the 17 features the tiny “Unplug Jetpack” plugin leaves activated. Ghosted, control-panel modules show the auto-disabled cloud features.
So what wonderful features do you get with JetPack?
Jetpack lists 36 features. Are they useful? Perhaps for bloggers but not website creators. How many of Jetpack’s modules will you actually use? Read below for our further assessment of each feature:
- Custom CSS*
Customize the look of your site, without modifying your theme.
— Essentially create a child theme. One-button child theme plugin is a weightless alternative – among others.
- Single Sign On
Let users log in through WordPress.com with one click.
— Big deal.
- WordPress.com Stats
Simple, concise site stats with no additional load on your server.
— An alternative to Google Analytics. But many small sites could care less about stats.
- Site Icon*
Add a site icon to your site.
— Favicon. There are various ways to solve loading a favicon. Many themes allow upload via the WordPress administration panel. The way the “Site Icon” feature does it guarantees a heavier favicon – around 2k. Most of our favicons weigh around 300B or less. This isn’t a big issue. All modern browsers know how to recognize and handle lazy loading of a favicon simply by placing the image in your website root folder. You don’t need any page coding any more. So this feature is odd. For novices, it may be a godsend.
- Site Verification*
Verify your site or domain with Google Webmaster Tools, Pinterest, and others.
— Say what? Who cares!?
- Related Posts
Display links to your related content under posts and pages.
— There are plugins that do this. We don’t know their impact on speed. We would never use one because it’s a blogging feature.
Write posts or pages in plain-text Markdown syntax.
— Oh, boy. You can code. Yuck.
— Uh. We suppose some would like this but we don’t care.
- Jetpack Single Sign On
Allow your users to log in using their WordPress.com accounts.
— Again, we wouldn’t use this.
Upload and embed videos right on your site. (Subscription required.)
— Say what? Paid feature!?
- Widget Visibility*
Specify which widgets appear on which pages of your site.
— There are free plugins for this such as Dynamic Widgets plugin.
Search your entire database from a single field in your Dashboard.
— We’d never use it. Not on a small website.
Give visitors an easy way to show their appreciation for your content.
— Do we really need our ego stroked that bad?
- Tiled Galleries*
Display your image galleries in a variety of sleek, graphic arrangements.
— Plugins exist for tiled or masonry style image presentation. But, we found this feature had potential not advertised. For more comparisons of discrete free plugins versus using comparable Jetpack features, Go to this page >
Share new posts on social media networks automatically.
— We wouldn’t use this because we don’t believe social links help B2B websites. Social links slow a site way down.
- Post by Email
Publish posts by email, using any device and email client.
— Not for us.
Accelerate your site by loading images from the WordPress.com CDN.
— They offer a CDN for images. CloudFlare offers free services for every file with security and a WordPress CloudFlare plugin helper for free, too.
- Infinite Scroll*
Add support for infinite scroll to your theme.
— Other free plugins can do this.
Receive notification of site activity via the admin toolbar and your Mobile devices.
— Like we’re going to sit and watch for this? There are plugins that do this.
- JSON API
Allow applications to securely access your content through the cloud.
- Mobile Theme*
Optimize your site with a mobile-friendly theme for smartphones.
— Responsive themes are free. This feature implies the module converts your theme to responsive design. What they are really doing is offering apps to make themes work on specific devices and operating systems. It’s unclear if these are paid or not. To us, it appears to be a band-aid.
Transform standard image galleries into full-screen slideshows.
— Many plugins available for this stuff. But even better –don’t use a slider or carousel.
- Jetpack Comments
Let readers comment with WordPress.com, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts.
— No thanks.
- Contact Form*
Insert a contact form anywhere on your site.
–There are perfectly good plugins for this that are lightweight.
- Extra Sidebar Widgets*
Add images, Twitter streams, your site’s RSS links, and more to your sidebar.
— Again, these can be solved with discreet plugins.
- Enhanced Distribution
Share your public posts and comments to search engines and other services.<
— No thanks. We’re not bloggers.
Allow users to subscribe to your posts and comments and receive notifications via email.
— Already have plugins with this feature.
Protect your site with automatic backups and security scans. (Subscription required.)
— PAID!? Free alternative plugins exist that don’t cause any page load.
- WordPress.com Stats
Monitor your stats with clear, concise reports and no additional load on your server.
— Reiteration of the Google Analytics alternative.
- Shortcode Embeds*
Embed content from YouTube, Vimeo, SlideShare, and more, no coding necessary.
— Again if you want these features plugins exist already.
- Spelling and Grammar
Check your spelling, style, and grammar with the After the Deadline proofreading service.
— This can be added as an addon or extension to your favorite browser and not load down WordPress.
Allow visitors to share your content on Facebook, Twitter, and more with a click.
— No social for us.
- WP.me Shortlinks
Enable WP.me-powered shortlinks for all posts and pages.
— Nice. But again plugins already exist for this.
- Gravatar Hovercards*
Enable pop-up business cards over commenter’s’ Gravatars.
— No thank you. No comments allowed on our sites.
- Beautiful Math*
Use LaTeX markup language in posts and pages for complex equations and other geekery.
— Nice if you have a scientific client. But other solutions probably exist.
Asterisked above * are the 17 features the tiny “Unplug Jetpack” plugin leaves activated.
While we don’t agree with everything on this offsite blog post, it’s a good overview of Jetpack. It’s biased in favor of Jetpack and it’s bloat.