Previously on the CogitActive Saga:
SiteGround installed a slightly customized version of WordPress. Thus, it comes with the Jetpack plugin. For the same reasons put forward for themes, you want to delete plugins that you are not using.
When you build a website (or a blog) with the self-hosted WordPress (i.e. WordPress.org), many functionalities are not “out of the box” – as opposed to the built-in features that comes with the WordPress.com hosted service. Indeed, WordPress (.org) relies on plugins to add functionality; thus keeping flexibility as its strength. That is where the Jetpack plugin comes in:
its purpose is to bring those handy features to your self-hosted WordPress blog1. For this reason, many hosting providers will automatically include this “Swiss Army Knife” plugin with their custom WordPress installation; SiteGround is no exception.
Thus, Jetpack came pre-installed with WordPress (when using SiteGround Setup Wizard; see Installing WordPress) and was even active by default. Yet, really activating it is a little more involved than just clicking on Activate (in a regular WordPress installation) or Network Activate (in a WordPress Multisite installation). As illustrated with the screenshot below, you still have to set it up – this extra step consisting in connecting your WordPress site to WordPress.com as explained later.
There is no denying that this plugin provides a wealth of benefits – in terms of available features. However, many of these functionalities are not essentials, and there are some potential pitfalls to watch out for (see below). In keeping with my WordPress housekeeping post, the question arises: is Jetpack a plugin worth making use of?
Jetpack by Automattic
Security, performance, and site management: the best way to WordPress is with Jetpack.Jetpack
As briefly alluded, while the self-hosted WordPress is the recommended solution for a website (see A website for your podcast), it lacks many of the “out of the box” features that WordPress.com users have. With Jetpack, you don’t have to install multiple plugins –
it packs most features of WordPress.com into one pick-and-mix, make-it-your-own bundle and brings it to your self-hosted site2. Thus, Jetpack makes it easy to take care of the many things you need for your website within a single plugin.
Need to power up your self-hosted WordPress site? The Jetpack plugin from Automattic gives you access to all the best features you miss from WordPress.com. From visitor engagement to site stats, from security features to display options, Jetpack has it all.Shahzad Saeed
At its core, Jetpack is a single package containing a ton of features, called modules, which allow you to enhance the capabilities of your website. It includes a huge variety of functionalities that can be grouped under the following categories: Performance, Writing, Sharing, Discussion, Traffic and Security. In fact, Jetpack (version 7.9 at the time of this writing) includes 45 modules (see Full List of Features). Of course, it is unlikely you will need every single one, but you can choose to activate only the modules you will actually use. Suitably, when you deactivate a module,
its code will no longer load or run on your site1.
Jetpack is designed to be an all-rounder plugin for people using WordPress, regardless of their expertise. Think of it as an all-in-one plugin, with features ranging from performance enhancements, security protocols, theme customization and many more.Sourav
Too many features?
This plugin is massive and
some critics accuse Jetpack of being a bloated plugin, full of code that no one really needs1. This argument is particularly relevant if you are using only a fraction of its modules. Besides, some modules could bring overlapping (or even conflicting) functionality with those provided by your theme or other plugins.
Given these issues, plugins like Module Control for Jetpack were developed to bring additional control over the Jetpack features and to
remove individual jetpack modules in particular3. However, as already stated, Jetpack allows you to activate only the features your wish –
you can choose to switch modules on or off to your liking2 – and will only load these activated modules.
Jetpack is designed so that you can only activate the modules you need, and that deactivated modules aren’t loaded onto your site, so they don’t have any impact on site performance.KeriLynn Engel
Now, it is important to understand that you have to create a WordPress.com account – and to connect your site to this account – to reap the full benefits of this plugin. You need that login information to
activate set up Jetpack because
Jetpack works by connecting you to your WordPress.com account, giving you access to features that were previously available to WordPress.com users exclusively4. Specifically,
Jetpack requires you to connect your site to your WordPress.com account4 in order to give you access to those features that use Automattic’s servers. There are some workarounds3, but only a handful of modules are available to unconnected Jetpack installations.
Equally important, beware that Jetpack operates on a freemium model. Thus, while most of the features are free of charge, some modules are only available under the paid plans. Site Backups and Security Scanning are some examples of such premium modules.
The Pros and the Cons
While there is no doubt that
Jetpack offers a convenient and easy way to get started in using, managing, and customizing a self-hosted site2, the question arises: is it worth the convenience? As for anything, there are the yea-sayers, the naysayers and the “it’s depend” kind of people. Let me summarize the main arguments of each party.
Having all features in one single package is without a doubt the strongest benefit of using Jetpack. First,
you don’t have to hunt for plugins2. Second, it is much easier to manage a single plugin (under one dashboard) rather than several ones – from configuration to updates, maintenance will be a breeze. Last, but not least, you can expect that Jetpack will never conflict with itself – a potential risk to consider when using several plugins from different authors.
Developed by the same people who run WordPress.com, Jetpack is of high quality, fully optimized, and will see all the updates it needs. In particular, frequent improvements and (security) patches keep it being one of WordPress’ most popular plugins. Moreover, given its origin, you can rest assured that it will not suddenly be abandoned, as it is the case with many plugins in the realms of WordPress.
Finally, Jetpack provides not only a wealth of
essential features, but also some top-notch functionalities such as – for example – a free, unlimited access to a content delivery network (CDN) called Site Accelerator (formerly Photon). Yep, you get all of the benefits of a CDN – images being delivered to your visitors with minimal latency while saving your server’s bandwidth resources – without paying for it.
The all-in-one approach of Jetpack is a double-edged sword. Putting asides the complaints that the plugin is bloated, many modules are quite basic. As pointed out by Shahzad Saeed,
Jetpack has a lot of different modules, but none of them are the best at what they do4. Moreover, if you opt for the free version, you will not benefit from the advanced functionalities of Jetpack. In fact,
if you need advanced features, you’ll be better off using a third-party plugin2.
If you choose a standalone, dedicated, plugin for your desired feature instead, you’re likely to find one that’s better-developed, faster, easier to use, and with more options than the Jetpack module equivalent.Shahzad Saeed
As already addressed, Jetpack is
jam-packed with tons of features4 – many of them being far from essentials – making people concern with its performance and
whether it can cause your site to slow down4. Quite interestingly, there is actually a heated debate about its performance issue.
Being a massive plugin, Jetpack comes with a large amount of code. Admittedly, additional code creates additional processing time; yet, as already explained,
deactivated modules aren’t loaded onto your site1. Besides, what matters is not the quantity of the plugins (or modules in the case of Jetpack), but their quality. For that respect,
Jetpack is very well coded2 and optimized. Accordingly,
it can even be better if you compare it to installing separate plugins to get the same features present in Jetpack2.
Contrary to a popular perception, Jetpack does not have any larger effect on performance than any other 3rd party plugin.David Attard
That being said, Jetpack can indeed affect your site’s performance; the impact depending on what kind of (and how many) module(s) you activate. Thus,
it’s in your best interest to only enable the features you really need4.
For some this will not be a concern, for others the required connection to WordPress.com will be a deal-breaker. Indeed, the idea of registering an account is one thing, but the fact that
Jetpack caches your site’s data to WordPress.com servers (which power all of Jetpack’s functionality) is another story. Unbelievably,
Jetpack syncs all the data required by all of its modules, whether they are activated or not, to Automattic’s servers and this begins immediately upon activation.
If you’re concerned about your privacy and don’t want to share your site information with any third parties, then Jetpack may not be the right solution for you.Shahzad Saeed
Although the aforementioned assets and liabilities should be considered in your decision to activate (or to uninstall) Jetpack, it is also necessary to determine which modules you would actually
need use. There is no doubt you will find some modules of interest while going through the list of available features. However, the important question is not whether you will need a specific feature, but rather if you should use the one provided by Jetpack. For instance, Jetpack makes it easy to create a simple contact form for your site. However, you will need a far more comprehensive plugin (than the Jetpack Contact Form module) to build more advanced forms. Similarly, having a backup solution is essential – no doubt about that – but is the Site Backups module worth upgrading to one of Jetpack paid plans?
If you only want to enable 1 or 2 modules of Jetpack, you’d better off using a feature-specific plugin for solving your needs.Shahzad Saeed
Going through the current modules (and some previously available ones) was a labor-intensive task even though I filtered out the premium features. Surprisingly, only few modules – from the supposedly
essential features4 – were of interest to me: Comment Like, Contact Form, Custom Content Types, Extra Sidebar Widgets, Likes, Proofreading, Protect, Site Stats, Sitemaps, and Widget Visibility. Admittedly, I was slightly reluctant about those modules using Automattic’s servers (e.g. Photon). Similarly, people were strongly advising against other features (e.g. Infinite Scroll). Moreover, many modules were overlapping with functionalities of WordPress core (e.g. Custom CSS) or plugins I was considering to install (e.g. Lazy Images). Add to that my commitment to offering you an ad-free experience (see footer) – and the consequent exclusion of other modules (e.g. Ads) – and you may have a better understanding of my short list.
The thing is that this list shrank even further when I realized that the Proofreading module (formerly “Spelling and Grammar”) was removed from Jetpack (with version 7.3.0). Among the twenty widgets added by the Extra Sidebar Widgets, I would only use the “Cookie & Consent Banner” one. The Comment Like was admittedly not an essential feature. The Likes module was too rudimentary compared to what I had in mind (i.e. the reaction buttons at the bottom of this post). Concerning the Custom Content Types, it was not so complicated – and probably a better approach – to create them manually by adding some code in my functions.php file (see Creating a child theme). Thus, only the following modules were remaining:
Contact Form, Protect, Site Stats, Sitemaps, and Widget Visibility
If you are one of those people who only need a few of Jetpack’s modules or want more control and customization options, or both, then Jetpack might not be for you. You’re better off with using plugins to replace the modules you need.David Attard
Time for decision
Not an easy one for sure! The fact of the matter is that privacy was about to be the one thing that would make or break the Jetpack plugin. As already alluded,
Jetpack requires you to connect your site to your WordPress.com account4 in order to give you access to those features that use Automattic’s servers. Of course, there is a direct benefit of this: many of the resource-intensive tasks are offloaded to their servers. However, the downside is that a lot of information about your site(s) and visitors is going to WordPress.com. Being concerned about privacy (yours and mine), I did not like this idea. You know that saying,
if you don’t pay you are the product.
Jetpack is not or may not be for people who love having complete control on every single aspect of their website, doesn’t need most of Jetpacks modules, don’t want to register to WordPress.com, loves maintaining their website down to the last details or who need more powerful features not present in Jetpack.David Attard
Check, check, check, check and re-check! Should I conclude that Jetpack is not for me then? I believe so, therefore my final decision was to network deactivate (see Network Admin Plugins) and uninstall Jetpack. Here begins my
hunt for plugins2…
1 KeriLynn Engel (2019) Is The WordPress Jetpack Plugin Worth The Convenience? WP Superstars. ^
2 David Attard (2019) Jetpack review – to use or not to use? We find out! (2019). CollectiveRay. ^
3 Among the other features offered by this plugin, it is worth mentioning that it can also
allow activation of Jetpack modules without a WordPress.com connection. ^
4 Shahzad Saeed (2019) Jetpack Review 2019 : Should You Use It? (Pros & Cons). isitwp. ^