Automattic Launches Jetpack Boost: A New Performance Plugin

The Jetpack team has been quietly testing a new plugin called Jetpack Boost, which addresses website owners’ performance and SEO concerns. Version 1.0 was released today, one month after the final pre-release came out in March.

Boost is a separate plugin under the Jetpack brand and it does not require Jetpack core to work. The first iteration bundles three performance modules:

  1. Local Critical CSS generates optimized styles for the homepage, posts, and pages to display content faster, especially for visitors on mobile devices.
  2. Defer Non-Essential Javascript moves some tasks to after the page loads, so visible items load faster.
  3. Lazy Image Loading loads images as the visitor scrolls them into view.

Once the plugin is installed, users can toggle the modules on or off. Optimizing the site’s CSS can be a lengthy process but it shows a progress bar and alerts you if are trying to navigate away from the page before it’s finished. Jetpack Boost displays an initial score when it’s first installed and will update after optimizations are put in place.

Here’s an example score from a relatively unoptimized simple blog with 20 active plugins:

After installing Jetpack Boost, there was a significant improvement on scores in the dashboard. It’s not a magic wand but it’s a fairly user-friendly way to tackle some basic performance issues that may translate into a better visitor experience.

Checking the before and after scores on web.dev demonstrates a noticeable improvement on the Core Web Vitals assessment. For some websites this could mean the difference between passing or not (meaning 75% of pages on the domain pass).

Before installing Jetpack Boost
After installing Jetpack Boost

Automattic engineer Nauris Pūķis, who worked on the project, said one reason the plugin was created was to help users “get their Web Vitals up and make the web a better place.”

Google Search will be adding Page Experience to ranking signals in May 2021, and WordPress sites need all the help they can get. Page Experience is measured by a website’s Core Web Vitals metrics, but these scores are not easy to improve without some technical knowledge and troubleshooting.

Despite Jetpack already including so many different, varied features, Automattic opted to put the Boost modules in a separate plugin.

We want Jetpack Boost to have a life of its own – focused on performance and make it available to everyone, including people who don’t want to use the main Jetpack plugin,” Pūķis said.

The plugin was built with the same modular structure as Jetpack core, so users can easily deactivate modules they don’t want to use. This is helpful for ensuring compatibility with other performance or caching plugins that website owners may already be using.

“You’ve probably noticed that both Jetpack and Boost have lazy loading images – it’s the exact same module,” Pūķis said. “If the user happens to have both Jetpack and Jetpack Boost active – it’ll just use the most recent version of Lazy Loading Images.”

The features in version 1.0 are just the beginning of Automattic’s plans for Jetpack Boost. The project appears to be on track to become a full-blown performance plugin that may even migrate some of Jetpack core’s performance-related functionality.

“Version 1.0.0 is being released the “one-point-oh” way,” Pūķis said. “We’re releasing as early as we can call it stable – but there’s so much that we want to do. Starting with simple modules that package up other typical optimization techniques (like concatenation, minification, maybe even photon?) – all the way to more advanced ideas like performance tracking, intelligent performance suggestions, etc.”

Pūķis said none of these ideas are set in stone and the team is open to exploring and building modules that will have the highest performance impact after getting more feedback.

20 responses to “Automattic Launches Jetpack Boost: A New Performance Plugin”

  1. Looks promising, looking forward to more modules like concatenation, minification, and photon they will bring a critical speed boost.

    • You would be surprised at how some of the optimizations you mentioned can hurt performance on the modern web. http2 means that concatenation and cross-domain cdn can slow things down.

  2. I’m Dan, one of the engineers at Automattic who worked on Boost. One aspect this article doesn’t mention is how much XWP.co and WordPress VIP were involved in product development. We relied heavily on their expertise with high-end sites to distill the most effective, bulletproof optimizations for free for regular folks. It’s very hard to make performance optimization simple, but I really think we got the formula right. And much more to come!

  3. I’m just confused why lazy loading is included in the plugin, Isn’t lazy loading now built into WordPress core?

    • Hey!
      Lazy loading is included in Core, and eventually it’s going to become a widely adopted standard. For now – Native Lazy Loading support isn’t that great: https://caniuse.com/loading-lazy-attr

      The Lazy Loading module bridges that gap – enabling lazy loading support for browsers that don’t currently support lazy loading.

    • I imagine this is a js based lazy load, whereas the wp core lazy load simply adds the new, somewhat experimental loading=”lazy” attribute to images (and iframes too now iirc)

      Honestly, I kinda prefer the the html attributes since it doesn’t rely on an external script, I wonder if the reasoning for the js method is because it has wider support? My opinion is, that something like this falls under the umbrella of progressive enhancement.

      • Yes, it’s JavaScript based. And because it’s a module with a toggle switch – you can just not turn it on if you prefer it that way 🙂

  4. Hi, I have few questions. My site is hosted on WordPress.com business plan and I noticed this plugin existed (before it was renamed jetpack boost), is it the same plugin?

    Do I still need to activate this plugin on WordPress.com since the hosting has already good configuration and performance?

    Is this plugin compatible with wp rocket?

    Thank you.

  5. Just my opinion, the one and real solution to make faster WordPress is frontity.

    The question is, how to make it frontity easy to use for non developer/no techie person.

  6. I’d love to know why Jetpack Boost – if it is indeed a separate product – needs to sync the same plethora of data that its big brother Jetpack does if all it’s doing is boosting performance. From the opening screen after activation:

    By clicking the button above, you agree to our Terms of Service and to share details with WordPress.com.

    “share details” is linked to Jetpack’s data sharing doc here: https://jetpack.com/support/what-data-does-jetpack-sync

    • Jetpack Boost doesn’t actually sync all the data that Jetpack does, in fact I believe it syncs almost nothing. We just kept the same ToS for simplicity.

  7. Not sure if stating that this plugin is standalone is correct. I installed to test, with no other JetPack plugins installed and when I click Get Started it throws a HTTP 500 error received while communicating with the server?

  8. Um, Houston, we have a problem. Looking at the 4th and 5th images above:
    The “BEFORE INSTALLING JETPACK BOOST” scores:

    LCP – 7.2s
    TTI – 8.6s
    CLS – 0.003

    The “AFTER INSTALLING JETPACK BOOST” scores:

    LCP – 2.6s
    TTI – 12.2s
    CLS – 0.159

    For now, hard pass on this.

  9. I tried Jetpack Boost today on my self hosted website which uses Colinear theme by automatic, and the plugin messed up everything from CSS to images. It didn’t even forgive JS code. The website’s WP-follow button stopped loading immediately. I have decided to remove it for now.

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