Jetpack’s Best Selling-Point: the Image CDN (formerly Photon)

And, What Does It Mean for Your Site’s Plugins Composition?

The images on your site can slow it down. When it comes to optimizing images – there is no match to Jetpack’s image CDN. Read to discover why.

Jetpack: benefits and drawbacks

Jetpack is like a Swiss Army knife – it has a tool for many needs. But its abundance of features can also form disadvantages. The more features your site supports – the more code it is consists of. And the more code your site consists of – the chances of performance, compatibility, and security issues grow. While performance and compatibility issues can be treated, at least partially, by optimizing Jetpack, security issues – less so.

The question then arises – should you use Jetpack? This is indeed an ongoing debate. On the one hand, there is the bloatedness of Jetpack. On the other hand, there are the advantages of minimizing the number of developers forming your site (and hence minimizing chances of issues such as compatibility) and of the quality of Jetpack – being developed by Automattic. Both sides have good arguments.

Seemingly, the debate can’t be conclusively decided. But, actually, in most cases, there is one point that seems to lead to a conclusive decision: Jetpack’s image CDN (formerly Photon).

Importance of image optimization

Images can affect your site’s loading time significantly. Not optimized, images can make a big part of your site’s resources. I couldn’t find statistics so I randomly checked The New York Times International website and found that images make 30% of the resources loaded by the page, and 69% of the data transferred over the network.

Images on The New York Times International website: 30% of the resources loaded by the page, and 69% of the data transferred over the network.

So, images are an aspect of your site you should really take care of efficiently.

Jetpack’s image CDN offer

That’s where Jetpack’s image CDN comes in help. It does the following:

  • Optimises your photos.
  • Generates and serves WebP format, when supported by the browser.
  • Automatically fetches a resized version of the image (according to the img HTML tag attributes width and height).
  • Serves the images from a CDN.
  • Although not doing so out-of-the-box – Jetpack actually allows you to save server storage (read more below).

And the best part: it does all of this with one easy toggle and for free – no quota limits whatsoever.

Alternatives comparison

There is just no other service that offers this magic combination (at least that I know of. Feel free to weigh-in). Just for comparison:

Service / FeatureJetpackSmush (by WPMU DEV)CloudinaryCloudflare
OptimizationOn Business plan: $200 / month
WebPPaidOn Business plan: $200 / month
Resizing on the flyOn Business plan: $200 / month
CDN
Free and limitlessFree plan, with limitsCDN Only
Easy to set-upMore then a toggleMore then a toggleYou should be using Cloudflare anyway
Jetpack image CDN, Smush, Cloudinary, and Cloudflare comparison.

An obvious winner

As you can see, there is really no competition to Jetpack’s offer. Not even a close competitor. In fact, Jetpack’s offer is so great one wonders how long can it last. Will Jetpack introduce limits in the future as Google Photos did?

Anyway, as long as it’s available, you should have a really good reason not to be using Jetpack image CDN. Like, a REALLY good one. And then, if you follow this advice, you have Jetpack installed on your site. Once you have Jetpack installed, you will need very good reasons not to take full advantage of it, and to opt for using dedicated plugins, or custom code, for things Jetpack already offers (again, for minimizing developers’ count behind your site, and for Jetpack’s quality). And there you have a pretty conclusive decision on the debate: ‘To Jetpack or not to Jetpack?’ – most definitely, to Jetpack.


Bonus: prevent the generation of image thumbnails to save server storage space, when using Jetpack image CDN.


Conclusion

You should really do your best to optimize the loading of your site’s images. For doing so without spending money – there is no better option than Jetpack’s image CDN. And, once you have Jetpack installed, you should probably choose to take full advantage of its features over using dedicated plugins or writing custom code.

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