Cloudflare Launches Automatic Platform Optimization for WordPress

Just a day after launching its new privacy-first web analytics product last week, Cloudflare announced Automatic Platform Optimization (APO) for WordPress. The new service boasts staggering performance improvements for sites that might otherwise be slowed down by shared hosting, slow database lookups, or sluggish plugins:

Our testing… showed a 72% reduction in Time to First Byte (TTFB), 23% reduction to First Contentful Paint, and 13% reduction in Speed Index for desktop users at the 90th percentile, by serving nearly all of your website’s content from Cloudflare’s network. 

APO uses Cloudflare Workers to cache dynamic content and serve the website from its edge network. In most cases this eliminates origin requests and origin processing time. That means visitors requesting your website will get near instant load times. Cloudflare reports that its testing shows APO delivers consistent load times of under 400ms for HTML Time to First Byte (TTFB).

The effects of using APO are similar to hosting static files on a CDN, but without the need to manage a complicated tech stack. Content creators retain their ability to create dynamic websites without any changes to their workflow for the sake of performance.

Version 3.8 of Cloudflare’s official WordPress plugin was recently updated to include support for APO. It detects when users make changes to their content and purges the content stored on Cloudflare’s edge.

The new service is available to Cloudflare users with a single click of a button. APO is included at no cost for existing Cloudflare customers on the Professional, Business, and Enterprise plans. Users on the Free plan can add it to their sites for $5/month. The service is a flat fee and is not metered.

Cloudflare’s announcement has so far been well-received by WordPress professionals and hosting companies and many have already begun testing it.

WordPress lead developer Mark Jaquith called APO “incredible news for the WordPress world.”

“On sites I manage this is going to lower hosting complexity and easily save hundreds of dollars a month in hosting costs,” Jaquith said.

After running several speed tests from six different locations around the world, early testers at Kinsta got remarkable results using APO:

“By caching static HTML on Cloudflare’s edge network, we saw a 70-300% performance increase. As expected, the testing locations furthest away from Tokyo saw the biggest reduction in load time.

“If your WordPress site uses a traditional CDN that only caches CSS, JS, and images, upgrading to Cloudflare’s WordPress APO is a no-brainer and will help you stay competitive with modern Jamstack and static sites that live on the edge by default.”

George Liu, a “self-confessed page speed addict” and Cloudflare Community MVP, performed a series of detailed tests on the new APO product with his blog. After many comparisons, he found that Cloudoflare’s WordPress plugin with APO turned on delivers results similar to his heavily optimized WordPress blog that uses a custom Cloudflare Worker caching configuration.

“You’ll find that Cloudflare WordPress plugin’s one click Automatic Platform Optimization button does wonders for page speed for the average WordPress user not well versed in page speed optimizations,” Liu said.

“Cloudflare’s WordPress plugin Automatic Platform Optimization will in theory beat all other WordPress caching solutions other than you rolling out your own Cloudflare Worker based caching like I did. So you get a good bang for your buck at US$5/month for Cloudflare’s WordPress plugin APO.”

Liu also warned of some speed bumps with the initial rollout, as Cloudflare’s APO supports a limited set of WordPress cookies for bypassing the Cloudflare CDN cache, leaving certain use cases unsupported. APO does not seem to work on subdomains and users are also reporting that it’s not compatible with other caching plugins. It also disables real visitor IP address detection.

Cloudflare is aware of many of these issues, which have been raised in the comments of the announcement, and is in the process of adding more cookies to the list to bypass caching. Due to some plugin conflicts, APO may not be as plug-and-play as it sounds for some users right now, but the product is very promising and should improve over time with more feedback.

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22 responses to “Cloudflare Launches Automatic Platform Optimization for WordPress”

  1. The Real Visitor IP setting is now fixed with this (that rolled out yesterday) – so security plugins like Wordfence now work correctly again when using this product from Cloudflare.

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    • Superb update! When I first heard about Cloudflare years ago, I was like, “Why the heck do I need to use it? After using Cloudflare for over four years, I highly recommend you to use it. Setting up Cloudflare may sound a bit technical initially, but it’s fairly simple…
      Cheers!

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      • That is unless the site is “AMP-first” where AMP is used as the web framework, serving AMP pages to both desktop and mobile alike. In the AMP plugin for WordPress, this is called the “Standard” mode.

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    • That being said, it sounds like this is primarily about improving server-side performance, reducing hits to WordPress so that PHP doesn’t have to run to serve a page. If this is the case, then it will absolutely improve performance for AMP pages generated by the AMP plugin as well. We strongly encourage sites using the AMP plugin to have a page caching solution in place since there is added processing time to serve AMP pages.

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      • Many thanks for the helpful comments. To clarify, my WordPress websites use the “Standard” setting with all content types and templates served as AMP. I currently use W3TC for caching and Keycdn.

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  2. This is great news. I already use Cloudflare’s “cache everything” rule to cache html on the free plan (a bit hack-ish and some things don’t work properly). The only way to setup proper html caching previously was their $200/month Business plan. $5/month is way more enticing.

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  3. I won’t use it and for good reason.
    I’m based in Australia with 90% plus Australian traffic. Cloudflare redirects traffic for users on the 3 largest ISP’s to the USA, EU or Asia. This causes sites that would normally load in 2 seconds to take 30+ seconds to load. The only option Cloudflare offers is the business level plan, which is a ridiculous rip-off.
    Until they can come up with reasonable pricing solutions and keep traffic within the country, I won’t use it and will continue to recommend all of my clients avoid using it

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    • Have you spoken to Cloudflare about this? I have no idea why any requests would be routed outside of Aussie considering Cloudflare have edge locations in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

      I am in NZ and do sysadmin for around 100 country-specific sites, and we have zero issues with Cloudflare routing in any territory. I use Argo and APO for the higher value sites and it’s even faster than WP Rocket, Redis and Varnish.

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  4. Using page rules for cache everything, admin caused problems of not clearing cache when a page is updated. I was thinking to remove cloud flare, but using their free ssl

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    • The Cloudflare plugin and a few other plugins like ServeBolt provide automatic cache purge for either the whole site or single pages. The official CF plugin is a bit buggy.

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  5. Started out awesome but 2 days in, had to deacticate APO. Firstly, post cache wasnt clearing at all. Had to manually purge. Second, I run an ecommerce website and in those 2 days, customers received 403 Forbidden notices on PayPal and/or Stripe checkout – meaning no sales came through. I assume it has something to do with the caching mechanism. I use wp-rocket which had Cloudflare addon disabled. I’m guessing APO should run without any other caching plugin on site? Mmmh. Otherwise saw a significant change in TTFB.

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  6. I am a big fan of Cloudflare as it helps me to protect my site from hacking and malicious traffic. The optimization feature is just awesome. I am using it for my WordPress blog and the results are just amazing :)

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  7. I’m currently using Lightspeed (LS Cache) from Cyberpanel installs on Digital Ocean. The one-click WordPress installs are optimized for Lightspeed with Nginx/Redis, as opposed to the more traditional Apache install. It doesn’t sound like this plays well with other caching solutions. Has anyone tested APO on this type of setup?

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  8. There’s a lot of conflicting info about using APO with WP-Rocket right now. It seems to me that WP-Rocket has quite a few features that APO does not. Things like JS defer, lazy loading etc. Would be nice if they played nicely together, or if APO became a one-stop-shop solution.

    Is anyone successfully using WP-Rocket and APO?

    I run WP-Rocket on sites hosted by Kinsta, and this means the actual caching is already being handed off to Kinsta’s own cache plugin. So for me, WP-Rocket is used for all the other optimization features.

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    • Hi, I also use WP-Rocket. I’m no expert but from what I’ve read elsewhere and practiced on my own website you can use both BUT – disable the page cache, disable the Cloudflare addon within WP-Rocket and install the official Cloudflare plugin. Within the Cloudflare pugin setting, enable APO and also select purge everything on update. To disable WP-Rocket page caching, there is a small addon plugin you can get from the developers website (wp-rocket no cache).
      It’s working great on my site, for the past 10+ days (touch wood).

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  9. Cloudflare’s automatic optimization being “Incredible news for the WordPress community is at best an exaggeration, at worst it’s a blatant manipulation of the truth.

    In all fairness to Cloudflare, their new service technically “worked” for me, but I use the term worked loosely. It didn’t seem to speed up anything, and that was before the thing completely broke.

    I got no error message other than the script not found. Of course, this was after it had no errors for a week, and I made no changes. I was sitting there, and it crashed. Basically, the only way for my site to be unbroken was disabling automatic optimization.

    One expects something like that on a free service. I’m not paying 5 bucks for something that doesn’t “deliver.”

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