Jetpack screen shot

Alternatives to the Jetpack Plugin for WordPress

Jetpack is Automattic’s widely used mega plugin for standalone WordPress installations. Amongst others it brings features from wordpress.com to wordpress.org installations. Currently it comprises 36(!) modules that can individually be activated or deactivated.

You can see Jetpack either as an ample extension of WordPress, or simply as an example of pure bloat. 

Bloat, in the IT context, is usually defined as something that carries lots of stuff, which is either superfluous or undesired. Common side effects of bloat are performance degradation and compatibility problems or interferences with other software.

If it’s bloat depends on your usage: if you are making good use of, let’s say, 80% of its modules, then it’s probably a good plugin for you. You can’t expect great performance increases if you replace 30 Jetpack modules with 30 standalone plugins. Rather the contrary.

However if you are using just a handful of its modules, then it probably makes sense to get rid of it, and to look for alternative plugins.

Another point of course is the quality/flexibility of a module: for many Jetpack components you will find standalone plugins that are simply better or more configurable. Some modules though are really good and it can be hard to find an equivalent alternative.

In my case, I was regularly using about 15 to 18 Jetpack modules, currently I’m down to 12 8 3. I consider this moderate usage, but installing 15 alternative, standalone plugins is still a very high number.

That means that another important aspect of the replace-Jetpack undertaking is to seriously think about which functionalities are really needed and thus must be replaced by standalone plugins, and which ones are just dispensable.

As you’ve seen by my personal module-usage numbers above, this undertaking is still work in progress… so, make sure to revisit this post from time to time 😉

[Last update: 15 Feb 2016 @ 2 h]

The Jetpack Modules

For module descriptions go here or just click a module in your Jetpack dashboard to see the description.

It may happen that my understanding or my estimation of a module is inadequate or plain wrong. Feel free to post a comment if you spot any errors, or if you know a better alternative plugin!

Beautiful Math
For rather specific use-cases. I never used this one.
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Carousel
Until now I never used Carousel, but I was considering it for a future photo page.
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Comments
This one just brings social media login options to the comment form. No need for that. In addition, since it replaces the original comment form it is likely to produce compatibility problems with other – useful – comment plugins.
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Contact Form
A simple, little contact form. The downside is that it gets its anti-spam protection through Akismet (from the same developers, and connection to Akismet service / wordpress.com required). That is, you are almost urged to install the whole Aksimet thingy, even if you already have other security/spam protection in place.
Alternatives: If you’re looking for something similarly simple: Go with Very Simple Contact Form. Very leightweight and comes with a simple captcha and honey pots. Multilanguage-compatible. If you want something more sophisticated, you can choose from literally hundreds of plugins on wordpress.org/plugins.1
Custom CSS
Unless I’ missing something, this is completely superfluous. For my custom CSS I have my style.css in the child theme folder.
Alternatives: Child theme with style.css.
Custom Content Types
This one just adds two custom post types for rather specific use-cases. I never had the need for this.
Alternatives: lots of (more flexible) custom post type plugins are available.
Enhanced Distribution
This one links your site to something called WordPress.com Firehose. I still have this one activated, but since it is not very clear if it has any measurable effect, I’ll have no problem deactivating it tomorrow.
Alternatives: probably none.
Extra Sidebar Widgets
Although I’m using it only to display an image and the site’s RSS links in the sidebar, I think it’s a useful module and to replace it you’ll probably need more than a single plugin.
Alternatives: If you’re looking for something similar for displaying images in the sidebar try Really Simple Image Widget. Otherwise just use the sidebar text widget to display images. Also the site’s RSS links and similar stuff you can simply put into the ordinary text widget (For a nice appearance add Genericons).2
Gravatar Hovercards
Sorry, no need for this.
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Infinite Scroll
Isn’t supported by my theme (Twenty Fifteen), so I never looked into this.
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
JSON API
Until now I hadn’t any need for this, though some people say it can be very useful.
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Likes
This is the rating system from wordpress.com. I still have it activated, just for fun, but since I only received 1 like in a whole year, I guess I can easily live without it 😉
Alternatives: there are quite some rating plugins out there that provide more features.
Manage
Who does really need this?
Alternatives: probably none.
Markdown
This is a very good Markdown implementation. If I don’t remember wrong it formerly was a standalone plugin. I deactivated it because I use to write and edit my posts in an external html/Markdown editor (BBEdit), which is way more comfortable than any WordPress solution. The only downside is that I loose the Markdown feature for comments, but the number of people who write comments in Markdown seems to be negligible anyway.
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Mobile Theme
Use a proper responsive theme and you won’t need this.
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Monitor
Basically this one is OK. A no-fuzz uptime monitor that sends you emails when your site is down. However, to get an uptime monitor service there’s no need to add a single line of code to your WordPress installation. So I disabled this one today.
Alternatives: I recommend the free service from UptimeRobot, which fulfills the same purpose, and in addition has some very neat extra features (monitoring of multiple sites, monitoring of email servers, statistics for the last two months, notifications via mail, twitter, push services, RSS, SMS, etc.).
Notifications
It gives you notifications about comments in the menu bar of the admin console – which seems largely redundant to me – and also provides you with notifications via the WordPress iPhone app. The latter is nice, but I already receive notifications via mail, so no pain to disable this.
Alternatives: Probably none.
Omnisearch
In theory nice, but i never missed it since I disabled it.
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Photon
This is a “lite” CDN for images and as such certainly a good idea. I played around with it a couple of times but eventually disabled it. For me it has a usability problem: if you modify an existing image you have to rename it. Otherwise Photon will continue to distribute the old image.3
Alternatives: Fully-fledged CDNs like CloudFlare or MaxCDN. Not always free.
Post by Email
Really? Maybe useful if you’re constantly on the road. But even then I would still prefer to post through the admin console or the WordPress iPhone app.
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Protect
If you really don’t want to spend money for a good firewall and security plugin (bad idea) this may be worth considering. Otherwise it will be redundant.
Alternatives: NinjaFirewall is definitely the best security and firewall plugin. Wordfence seems to be OK, too. Be careful: some of the widely used security plugins on wordpress.org/plugins/ are plain garbage behind a nice GUI (for example ‘All In One WP Security & Firewall’) or real resource hogs (for example ‘Simple Security Firewall’).
Publicize
[todo]
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Related Posts
Not so bad. I eventually disabled it because it didn’t play nice with my multilingual content and because of some dislay glitches with post thumbnails. And because I found a better plugin.
Alternatives: Currently my best recommendation is Related Posts by Taxonomy. Very lightweight and highly customizable. Another possible alternative is Contextual Related Posts.
Sharing
Easy Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Mail, etc. sharing buttons for your posts.
Alternatives: As I can’t stand Facebook and Google I only used the buttons for Twitter and Mail. ATM I simply disabled the module without any replacement. This saves a bunch of icons and javascript, and it won’t be too hard for any visitor to paste the page address into Twitter or whatever.
Shortcode Embeds
[todo]
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Single Sign On
[todo]
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Site Stats
A very well integrated, lite analytics solution. It doesn’t provide the details you get from ‘serious’ analytics software, but if you wan’t to avoid the hassle and are not overly interested in your stats this is OK.
Alternatives: Piwik is the real thing. An open-source solution that works either cloud-hosted or self-hosted. I’m using the self-hosted solution, which by the way also works fine on shared hosting. There’s also a dedicated WordPress plugin available. Very detailed stats and good GUI. Google-free.
Site Verification
Superfluous. This just gives you three entry fields for your verifaction meta tags from Google, Bing and Pinterest which then are placed into the site’s header. Many other ways to verify your site:
Alternatives: If you are already using the excellent Add Meta Tags plugin (you really should!) then you just paste the verification tags into the ‘Site-wide META tags’ field. You can also manually add the tags to your (child) theme’s header file, no need for any plugin at all. Alternatively you can also just upload a verification html file to your site directory.
In case you are wondering: You get the necessary verification data from your Google Webmaster Console, where you need to have an account anyway, with or without the Jetpack module. Additional instructions are here. The verification process for Bing and Yandex is similar.
Sitemaps
Without any doubt, this is a useful module. But no problems either to find an alternative plugin that does the job (better).
Alternatives: Google XML Sitemaps is a widely used plugin. And it’s really good. Despite it’s name it serves also sitemaps for Bing.
Spelling and Grammar
[todo]
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
Subscriptions
Lets users subscribe to an email notification of new posts. Basically it connects your site to the wordpress.com system which handles the subscriptions and notifications. As such it can not be replaced by any plugin. It also includes comment notifications (if the commenter ticks the checkbox), which is nice.
Alternatives: This is not an easy one since it includes two things: 1) New post notifications and 2) New comments notifications.
For the automated new post notifications I’m using Email Subscribers now. This is a very leightweigth plugin, somewhat basic, but it still has much more flexibility than the Jetpack solution. It even lets you set up custom newsletters. Unlike Jetpack it doesn’t rely on third-party mailing solutions (all mails are sent from your server).4 Needs some basic setup.
For the comments notifications I decided for Subscribe To Comments Reloaded. Also very leightweight, but offers way more features than the Jetpack solution: Most notably it lets the commenter decide if he wants notifications for all new comments on that post (that’s what Jetpack offers as the only option), or just notifications for replies to his comment (that’s what most commenters prefer). All notifications are managed and sent without any third-party mailing service.5
Tiled Galleries
[todo]
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
VideoPress
[todo]
Alternatives: [not yet researched]
WP.me Shortlinks
I have no clue why I would need a shortlink for each post.
Alternatives: The usual shortlink services like bit.ly, is.gd, tinyurl.com, etc. My personal long-time favorite is tiny.cc, because with them you can change the destination URL at any time after you’ve created the short URL.
Widget Visibility
Lets you set conditions for the visibility of any widget. Can sometimes be handy.
Alternatives: There is a Widget Visibility plugin available on wordpress.org/plugins/ which seems to do the same. I didn’t test it because for displaying posts in the sidebar I’m using the excellent Posts in Sidebar plugin, which already includes some similar options.
Data Backups
This is the connection to a backup service named VaultPress (paid subscription). I never used this one.
Alternatives: For quick backups of your site and database I recommend Duplicator. Also check the backup possibilities already included in the contract with your hosting provider.

Résumé

Now (15 February) I’ve got rid of Jetpack entirely. The modules I used I replaced with comparable and mostly better plugins from the plugin market, as described above. Some modules I never used I’ll replace in the moment when I find out that I need them 😉

Without Jetpack the site’s resource usage according to various P3 tests has gone down significantly. It’s hard to (resourcewise) compare each Jetpack module with its “replacement”, because Jetpack module and replacement are seldom equal in terms of what they deliver.

But let’s note this: With a total of ~30 activated plugins the Jetpack framework only (without any module enabled) accounts for 10% of all plugin resource consumption! That is, the Jetpack framework only on average weighs as much as three other plugins. But wait, since one of my other plugins is a heavy-weight plugin (Polylang with about 60%), we can easily say that the Jetpack framework counts as much as 5 to 6 normal, smaller plugins. By the way, with ~15 modules enabled Jetpacks resource usage was up to 70%!

So, for me, Jetpack’s problem is indeed the bloat. Loading a framework overhead that I don’t (fully) need is something I dislike personally. Some modules are really nice if you don’t feel the need for something more advanced, especially the wordpress.com plugins like Subscriptions, Site Stats, Photon, etc.

IMO they really should split the Jetpack behemoth into at least subcollections like “wordpress.com-related”, “photo-related”, “editing-related” and “miscellaneous”, according to the framework requirements.


Footnotes

  1. A super-lite alternative to any contact form is simply to post your contact mail address on your site. WordPress has a built-in spam protection function for this: antispambot(). Go here for some easy how-to instructions.
  2. The RSS links are also displayed in the Meta widget.
  3. This is real pain in the ass when you make batch optimizations of your images since you have to rename all the links as well.
  4. This is an advantage if you don’t have much subscribers, but may be a no-go if you have lots of subcribers.
  5. It should be noted that in a P3 test the two recommended plugins together are consuming way less resources than Jetpack with only the Subscriptions module enabled.

4 thoughts on “Alternatives to the Jetpack Plugin for WordPress”

  1. I’m a search marketer and (self-hosted) wordpress is my platform of choice for non-ecom sites so I have some suggestions (free unless denoted with *):

    Contact form – Ninja Forms (good spam protection options, lots of plugins and support redirects to a thanks/conversion page [which is critical to measuring success]).

    Enhanced distribution – I recommend manually pinging your new/updated content (Pingomatic, Feedshark) and/or using Feedburner.

    Manage – Main WP

    Photon – Sounds like a good idea, right? I no longer use it. If you are still using shared hosting (even in a VPS), your site is too small to see a benefit much from it (it might even hurt performance) and it is more important that your images come from your domain to ensure you reap as much traffic as possible…after all images on a CDN aren’t really from your site/domain. Making sure images are relevant, compressed, use descriptive filenames and have useful (but slightly different from filename) alt text will serve you better with fewer bugs.

    Publicize – Lots of options, google ‘social network auto sharing plugins wordpress.’ It’s not crucial but I now use a premium plugin (50 to 100 bucks, I think) for this purpose called Social Link Machine.

    Spelling & Grammar – browser extensions, text editor extensions, etc. JetPack uses ‘After the Deadline’ which is open source and can be set up on your own.

    Widget visibility – google it (multiple)

    I also use W3 Total Cache, iThemes Security & Yoast for SEO.

    I also always use Google Analytics via Google Tag Manager (implement via the GTM4WP plugin) due to it’s robust features (AdWords integration, demographic reporting) and the plethora of online tutorials…yes, there are privacy concerns, so I also love and use Piwik and I’m not diminishing it in anyway.

    Note to author: I generally use the TGMPA plugin installer script on WP sites I work on to automagically install all these plugins and that code is available in my public github repos. Also, it’d be great if this comment could become actual content, not just a comment (I’d be happy to expand on this in a ‘reply’ on my website/blog). Let me know if either interests you.

    Great blog, BTW.

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