There is no doubt that you’ll have encountered the Jetpack plugin before whilst administering your WordPress website. Initially only being made available to WordPress.com users, Jetpack has been unleashed for all to use. Developed by the Automattic, Jetpack is currently installed on over 1-million active installations around the globe. This staggering achievement makes Jetpack a quite trusted and feature-rich plugin. However, it’s far from perfect, as many people are finding out.
Features of Jetpack
The feature list of Jetpack is staggering to say the least, providing a varied range of improvements to the default WordPress core. Using a series of modules, Jetpack can provide you with some awesome tools to aid you in administering your WordPress website. Let’s walk through the features that you can add to your installation with only a few clicks in your WordPress dashboard.
- Notifications: Use the admin toolbar and mobile devices to receive admin notifications.
- JSON API: Make your content available via the cloud-based REST API of WordPress.com.
- Site Stats: A comprehensive statistics module providing you with a variety of data about the traffic passing through your WordPress website.
- Sharing: Make it easy for visitors to share content to a wide-range of social media outlets.
- Publicize: Automate the social media sharing process with the Publicize module.
- Related Posts: Easily implement a related posts section to your posts allowing you to self-promote similar content items.
- Comments: Replace the default WordPress commenting system with improved, socially connected version to handle comments on your website.
- Likes: Learn what your website visitors enjoy by allowing them to Like your contents.
- Subscriptions: Allow visitors to receive email alerts by subscribing to posts and comments.
- Gravatar Hovercards: Enhance the default Gravatar support by implementing Hovercards.
- Sitemaps: Allow search engines to easily index your website content by adding a sitemap.
- Enhanced Distribution: Allow Jetpack to automatically add content to many search engines.
- Site Verification: Easily verify your WordPress site with a variety of 3rd party outlets, giving you improved access to a wide-range of statistical data.
- Tiled Galleries: Enhance the default WordPress gallery system by adding multiple mosaic-effect gallery styles.
- Photon: Another must-have module that automatically optimizes & caches your media library images, serving them to your visitors via a CDN for faster loading times.
- Carousel: Transform the default image gallery into a full-screen carousel that comes complete with commenting capabilities.
- Extra Sidebar Widgets: Add small variety of socially connected widgets for themes sidebars.
- Widget Visibility: Take control of your widgets’ visibility on a per-anything basis.
- Custom CSS: Easily make custom modifications to your themes’ CSS code without fear of it being overwritten by theme updates.
- Infinite Scroll: Generate more views by automatically pulling content into view when a user reaches the end of an archive page, replacing the default pagination system.
- Mobile Theme: Replace the active WordPress theme with a mobile-optimized theme from the Jetpack team. This module will override the responsive layout of your WordPress theme.
- Holiday Snow: Get into spirit of the festive period by adding a falling snow effect to your site.
- WP.me Shortlinks: Automatically generate WP.me shortlinks for all posts and pages.
- Shortcode Embeds: Easily embed videos from a variety of popular video-hosting platforms.
- VideoPress: A subscription-based video uploading and playback service.
- Contact Form: Enable the use of contact forms within your post and pages.
- Spelling and Grammar: Automatically check your posts and pages for spelling and grammatical errors.
- Markdown: Allow the use of markdown characters within your posts, pages and comments.
- Post by Email: Publish content to your WordPress website via email from any mobile device.
- Beautiful Math: Allow the use of LaTeX markup code within your posts and pages to create complex mathematical equations.
- Custom Content Types: Easily add Portfolio & Testimonials custom post types to your site.
- Protect: Guard your WordPress website against the threat of Brute Force Attacks.
- Monitor: Receive email notifications alerting you of any website downtime with using the Monitor module.
- Single Sign On: Allow your users to login using their authenticated WordPress.com account.
Pro-Version Security Modules
A handful of Pro security modules are also included with the Jetpack plugin, offering additional enhanced features for that extra step in securing your WordPress site. Pro membership is available in two variations, with prices starting from $9 per month.
- Security Scanning: Protect your WordPress website from attackers using WordPress’ state-of-the-art security scanner.
- Akismet: An enhanced version of the already incredible spam-protection service from Akismet.
- Site Backups: Backup your entire WordPress website to the cloud in real-time using this must-have module for Pro users.
The Pros of Jetpack
There are a variety of reasons why Jetpack has been so popular for a number of years now – like frequent updates, good compatibility as well as essential modules. Let’s have a look at some of these popular features Jetpack offers to its users, to bloggers and administrators of WordPress sites.
1 – Essential Modules
Within the Jetpack bundle are a few modules that provide, at least in my opinion, essential functionality to a WordPress site. Both the Sharing and Comments modules provide an essential service in allowing your visitors to socially connect with your WordPress website.
Not all WordPress admins have the experience or knowledge to locate, install and configure such social media features into a WordPress environment. For similar reasons, the Custom CSS module is another essential tool that has a fair shout of being bundled within WordPress as standard.
Having the ability to modify CSS code without fear of losing your modifications after each theme update is a must for all administrators, regardless of their experience. This also eliminates the need for creating and using a child theme if all you want to do is change a few styles here and there.
The Widget Visibility module adds a Visibility button to all widgets, allowing you to create a very simple true or false equation to determine a widgets visibility. This single module provides any WordPress administrator the ability to add a touch of variety within its widgetized sidebars.
Finally, the Spelling and Grammar module is quite honestly a no-brainer if you’re at least fractionally serious about the content on your WordPress website. Ensuring your textual content is spelled correctly and is grammatically correct should be of the highest priority to all WordPress publishers. The module isn’t perfect out-of-the-box, but after consistent use, you’ll quickly compile a comprehensive dictionary to work with.
2 – Perfect Compatibility
Combining such an extensive collection of modules together in one neatly packaged plugin would typically be nervously installed in the hope that everything play’s nicely together. A big pro in favour of Jetpack is that all modules have been developed by the same team that brings you WordPress. This ensures great compatibility between all 30+ modules with each other and also with the core of WordPress itself. Which brings me to the reason why Jetpack works so well, it’s updated often.
3 – Frequently Updated
Jetpack updates are not just frequently pushed out, but are also meaningful updates that contain improvements as well as the expected series of bug fixes. No fewer than five large updates have occurred in the previous 8 weeks giving all users peace of mind should you or your visitors encounter any issues. This reduces the amount of time you need to spend managing multiple plugin updates.
The Cons of Jetpack
Not everything is a rosy as it may seem when peering into the world of the Jetpack WordPress plugin. It’s not that difficult to find articles of discontent with Jetpack, and with good reason too.
1 – Forceful Intrusion
Upon installing Jetpack you’ll immediately notice its presence. Although this has been improved in recent updates, Jetpack is quite an intrusive piece of kit. A variety of alerts and notices, sometimes even warnings, can be found lurking behind every corner within your admin area. Several modules are automatically activated upon installation, leaving the unawares vulnerable to unexpected surprises. All roads lead to you socially connecting your WordPress installation, with no real alternative being offered.
2 – WordPress.com Requirement
The vast majority of Jetpack modules actually require a connection to a valid WordPress.com account. Using Jetpack without connecting to your WP.com account effectively renders Jetpack a nuisance. Only a handful of modules are available to unconnected Jetpack installations. This also applies to those that are in Development Mode using the Unplug Jetpack plugin. The Jetpack team have certainly made it difficult for you to ignore this outside connection requirement.
3 – Third Party Dependency
As so many Jetpack modules require a connection to WP.com, this means your website is at the mercy of the WordPress.com servers. I don’t dispute that they probably have a rock-solid server setup, but relying on outsiders can be fraught with danger.
4 – Unnecessary Bloatage
Another concern amongst a lot of Jetpack users is that they’re only using a fraction of the plugin. Complaints that the plugin is bloated have been downplayed by claims that the plugin only loads activated modules. This may be the case, but it doesn’t hide the fact that there is still a large amount of unused code being stored on thousands of websites unnecessarily.
5 – Slows Down Your Website
There is widespread evidence of Jetpack slowing down your WordPress installation. In some cases, the speed decrease is substantial enough to completely boycott the use of Jetpack completely. Heavy module usage has a heavy footprint on your server resources, forcing users to load more data.
6 – Plugin Incompatibilities
Although Jetpack and its array of modules work perfectly fine together, getting them to work with other 3rd party plugins can be a pain. Jetpack is currently known to be incompatible with a number of plugins. W3 Total Cache, Better WP Security, Comment Luv, plus several more must first be removed if you’re planning on using any of Jetpacks’ modules.
6 – Mobile Theme
It shouldn’t be necessary to offer a mobile-specific theme in todays responsive world. The theme offered by Jetpack is fine if you want a bog-standard, no-frills mobile-friendly offering. It offers no customization options and barely any variation with its solitary excerpt & image toggles.
7 – Falling snow, really?
Such a random inclusion is the Holiday Snow module. It sends home a reminder of the quirkiness WordPress can sometimes possess. Much like the irritating inclusion of the Hello Dolly plugin that comes bundled with every WordPress installation as standard. I personally would much rather see the back of such inclusions as they’re completely unnecessary.
Despite Jetpacks failings, the only reason I could foresee me not using Jetpack is if they added further forceful integrations with social media outlets such as Facebook, or Google in order to gain access to its modules. There are a variety of alternative solutions for many Jetpack modules, and not just in the form of plugins either. Enhanced commenting systems for your website are available on every street corner nowadays, with their simple integration and non-existent configuration steps.
Likewise with website traffic analysis and statistics, plus a range of other modules that aren’t only found in Jetpack. I’m a big a fan of Jetpack, it’s a fantastic addition to any WordPress installation. Providing you’re selective with module-usage, I would recommend Jetpack to all administrators of small-to-medium sized WordPress installations, but only if you really need its provided features.