The Jetpack Plugin from Automattic leaves no one cold. And it polarizes extremely. Either you love it or you hate it. There doesn’t seem to be a grey area in between, does there?
When Jetpack was first announced years ago, I was very excited and totally thrilled. After trying it out for the first time, I was sobered and not really convinced. Gradually the dislike grew. But somehow it didn’t let me go, then my phase of “hate love” began. Later on, I even developed a German language pack plugin for it and maintained it for several years – it was quite a success. In those years I was quite open-minded about Jetpack. And the Jetpack team also seemed to be trying to respond seriously to concerns and criticism from the community. So far, so good.
Sometime in the last few years, however, Automattic decided to turn the plugin around again and do what various observers of the scene had expected from the beginning: to monetize it completely. Thus Jetpack is still usable without payment, but the usefulness of the free basic version keeps itself meanwhile within „some“ limits. The really attractive functions today (in my opinion) are now hidden behind the corresponding annual subscription plans. Only those who pay really get something out of the plugin – as long as you can live with the problems and disadvantages of the plugin or “service”.
So that we understand each other right away: I have absolutely nothing against paying myself! A company – also the company Automattic, Inc. – MUST make a profit. It is the noblest, most basic and most important task of a company to earn money. Period.
My fundamental criticism of Jetpack is not at all about making money, but about other things, rather about the basic vision/ orientation and the entire implementation. Here are my reasons why I cannot recommend Jetpack to anyone, neither to private users nor to company users or owners of a WooCommerce based shop:
1) Connection to WordPress.com Necessary
This point beats all the others, i.e. nobody should use Jetpack just because of this point alone.
A standalone website simply doesn’t need a connection to a website building kit, blog and hosting system like WordPress.com. Why should a private blogger or company do it anyway? There are no real reasons. None, nothing, nada, zero. Period. Automattic can be as creative as it gets, and make arguments for this forced connection up its sleeve – it doesn’t make it any better, on the contrary. It then seems all the more constructed and even less authentic.
All the features which supposedly need WordPress.com are based on faster data processing on Automattic’s WordPress.com servers. This is complete nonsense. If you have a professional hosting and the corresponding function of Jetpack with good other plugins, you are faster and better equipped. And you are and remain completely independent.
The connection to WordPress.com creates a further dependency, especially for companies – technically, and above all legally. According to the GDPR, a data processing contract with the provider is required. The more modules you activate in Jetpack, the more must be included in the contract. The things Jetpack offers are not so important as to justify this bureaucratic effort. And those who now argument with the backup function “VaultPress“: this feature is not very feature rich compared to other plugins and cloud providers. A separate contract with a specialized backup provider makes much more sense, also in terms of data security and data economy. Because with Jetpack and WordPress.com it is unclear what exactly happens to the data and who processes it, and whether it is linked/ combined after all?
The obligation to connect and the resulting contractual obligation is absolutely nonsensical. Every website operator should avoid this from the outset and therefore never install Jetpack or, if already in use, remove it without leaving any residue.
None of my customers would ever agree to such a connection to WordPress.com, even without a data processing contract. I just can’t find a real argument or such a unique benefit that would justify this connection.
2) Privacy Issues
– Location of the data processing/ server location
– Retention and deletion periods
– Who has access to the data of connected websites?
– Right to be forgotten
Two examples: The server location is likely to be in the USA. However, this would cause many problems for website operators in Germany or the EU, precisely because of the lack of agreements between the USA and the EU or Germany. But since it is unclear which data will be transferred and processed where and for how long, one should not do the whole thing from my point of view.
The „Right to be forgotten“ also raises questions: Is Automattic really in a position to process information and deletion requests? And why in the world should my website data lie on their servers at all? – So that makes no sense at all, no matter how you turn it.
3) Too Few Features in the Individual Modules
Most Jetpack modules hardly go beyond basic functionality. For each function there are much better special purpose plugins that concentrate on one task and do it correctly. And then give the user the appropriate settings and customization options.
Jetpack offers two content types, Portfolio and Testimonials, but neither of them has any custom fields for capturing additional information. Why do you need the whole thing at all then?
Or the share function: far too few customization and design options. In addition, questions remain unanswered about data protection. – The alternative plugin “Shariff Wrapper” is much better and more sensible in this respect.
4) Nonsense and Illogical Admin Screens – Very Bad User Experience (UX)
Jetpack has never been a role model for other plugin developers. Jetpack has always been a foreign body within WordPress. For many years it looked childish and primitive or even “cheap”. This has improved a bit in the last few years. Nevertheless, the operation of the functions and the settings is in large parts an absolute cramp. The user experience deserves only one predicate: So frustrating that one would like to run away.
The upper categories in the settings are also unfavorably chosen or labeled and translated. You can hardly find your way around. The “MasterBar” is stuck under “Writing”. You don’t get it there. Fortunately, there is a search that at least finds the stuff.
Why don’t you just list every module with title and short description and a big checkbox next to it? Zack, zack, done. – The joke is: there is exactly that, but hidden in the shallows of the debugging page. If you get this module overview – which still works with the super robust PHP base – you finally find what you are looking for as a maltreated Jetpack user (and tester).
In addition there is the permanent address of the user with an undistanced informal „you” in the whole Jetpack copy and texts. If you want to be chatted on like Ikea level from early morning until evening, you are welcome to do so, take it as a gift. Only I find it exaggerated, unobtrusive and annoying – an absolute taboo, especially in business use. – None of my customers would do this to themselves for even a minute!
5) Installation Forced by Third Party Products
Automattic’s strategy with Jetpack is obvious: the Cashcow should become even more profitable. This is a noble goal, of course. But the approach is highly questionable.
Example: the new mobile apps for the shop plugin WooCommerce now require the forced installation of Jetpack, which in turn requires a forced connection to WordPress.com. All this is justified by the API interfaces Jetpack provides via WordPress.com.
This means that the data from my WordPress and WooCommerce website goes via Jetpack to Automattic’s servers and from there to my mobile app on iOS or Android devices.
That’s absolute nonsense. The Jetpack and WordPress.com compulsion must be stopped! Because this results in a technical AND legal dependency for shop operators.
I strongly assume that Automattic will expand this strategy. The question must be allowed how long WooCommerce can still be installed without Jetpack? The WooCommerce Setup Wizard is already suggesting the installation of Jetpack and has already ticked the box, i.e. prefilled. – This is ethically questionable. Here you make decisions for the user and seduce him. This practice should be stopped immediately.
6) In Reality Jetpack IS a Plugin Suite
Jetpack is not a single plugin, it is a plugin suite. Although this circumstance is more and more obscured, it is the truth. Many of the modules used to be single plugins, and as such also very popular. Examples:
– Share – Sharedaddy
– Stats – Stats
– Spell check – After the Deadline
– Backup – VaultPress
Nobody would like to get a general store with 20 or 30 different offers in his WordPress, if he needs perhaps only 2 or 3 of them. It’s just an ugly idea.
7) Jetpack Is An Example of the Unhealthy Combination of Automattic & WordPress.com with the Open Source Project WordPress
In my opinion, the distinction between the open source project WordPress and the products and services of Automattic/WordPress.com is not present in many places or has been softened. The WordPress community takes a critical view, but nothing is happening. This has been going on for years. It’s not just about Jetpack, it’s also about “Akismet” (Automattic’s paid antispam service, whose plugin is automatically included in every WordPress installation ZIP package).
Jetpack is prominently recommended on WordPress.org in the plugin directory. Sure, it has a huge installation base. But how did it get it? Namely, by constantly being featured prominently. Also in the plugin installer of every WordPress installation it appears immediately if you want to install a new plugin. You first have to start a search yourself, so that Jetpack finally disappears from the view.
Is that “bad”? Probably not. It’s much more ridiculous. And it shows more the fear that Automattic apparently has to rely on such kind of features than on natural advertising and marketing. All other plugin vendors are not offered these prominent locations for their plugins. Personally, I find that unequal treatment. This is not good, this is not ethical. Just remember, Jetpack is a huge suite, there are paid features and services behind it. Such kind of plugins are generally allowed in the WordPress.org plugin directory, but Jetpack often takes the best places. That’s what it’s all about. And no, I don’t think that would be a “trifle”. It is essentially an injustice.
Now you have experienced my point of view. If you see this differently and still use Jetpack for your own good reasons: congratulations! Nevertheless, I invite every Jetpack user and interested party to consider the installation, activation and use of the plugin carefully.
It’s also a tool for Automattic to spy which plugins you have on your site
Absolutely right. Another good reason against it. Wasn’t just obvious to me since I am not using it (beyond a local test install which I need for testing compats and integration with other plugins etc.)
Privacy bug reported October 2018 – still not GDPR reviewed until now:
Thank you, Torsten, for this important addition. Yes, there are still issues with this topic. It is sad, given the big company behind and the huge install base. Sad but true.
I’ve long defended Jetpack against it’s many detractors, but the way they are continuing to stretch the rules of the plugin directory and flood the admin with upsells has made me realise that it’s time to say goodbye
I agree with your points, however, I think they’re serving a major gap with theor related post functionality. While there are other plugins out there that can provide this, many are extremely memory intensive and slow down your site. Would love to hear any recommendations you’ve got to replace this functionality.
Very nice information
Thank you for your article and video. I have used JetPack on a few websites, and honestly never thought about the issues you brought up. However, I have to agree with you… there is absolutely no reason to have my website sharing data with wordpress.com or anywhere else, unless I choose to share it. Very good article and timely information! I have just removed Jetpack from the website I was working on, and now I will find alternative plugins. Thank you.