Jetpack – New must-have WordPress Plugin

UPDATE: As of around 3pm Thursday the WordPress.com Stats plugin seems to be back up and running although it is producing some very strange stats that don’t correspond with what the stats in Jetpack produces. Weird stuff, and as far as I can tell still no explanation from the powers that be.

Last night (March 16th) Twitter and WordPress forums exploded with people receiving error messages when trying to access their WordPress stats through the WordPress.com stats plugin. This happened to me too: When trying to access my stats I got this nice uninformative error message:

Your WordPress.com account, xxxxx is not authorized to view the stats of this blog.

I did a little digging and found out that the WordPress.com Stats plugin has been replaced by the Jetpack plugin (or rather, the WordPress.com Stats functionality has been baked into the Jetpack plugin) and a simple way of getting the stats up and running again was to simply install the plugin, activate it and link it up to my WordPress.com account.

WordPress.com goodies come to self-hosted WordPress.org sites

Before I start ranting let me just say that the new Jetpack plugin is what I would consider a must-have for self-hosted WordPress sites. Not only does it have the WordPress.com Stats built in but it also comes with a whole menagerie of other features that come standard with WordPress.com sites but previously had to be installed separately in self-hosted sites. These are:

  • WordPress.com Stats
  • Twitter Widget
  • Gravatar Hovercards
  • WP.me Shortlinks
  • Sharedaddy
  • LaTeX
  • After the Deadline
  • Shortcode Embeds

Some of these features including Stats and Sharedaddy are plugins I’ve already recommended, and the others are pretty useful too (especially After the Deadline which is an integrated spell- and grammar check tool). To learn more about the features and what they do go to Jetpack.me and check them out.

The great thing about the Jetpack plugin is that it consolidates a bunch of features that previously required separate plugins and installs to work. And judging by the open “Coming Soon” boxes at the bottom of the plugin page I’m guessing more stuff will be added shortly. The Jetpack plugin runs off cloud services which means some of the functionality lives in the cloud and not on your computer, in other words the plugin can be updated externally to add more functionality to your site without you having to run the manual update. Which is great. Well, sort of at least.

Cloud computing is what we are moving towards, and for integrated services like WordPress.com Stats it makes a lot of sense. The question here is what the underlying reasoning is and where this will take us. That’s where my rant comes in.

How about a little warning, eh?

There are two things that irk me about this whole situation: First off, no warning or information was issued about the disabling of WordPress.com Stats which lead to (and is still leading to) a lot of panicked posts and confused people. This could easily habe been remedied with a simple post or warning saying “Oh, btw we are disabling WordPress.com Stats and supplanting it for the Jetpack plugin so if you want your stats you have to install it” and they have done this, at least in part, by adding a “We’re working on it” message to the error displayed in the old Stats window. But it still leaves me wondering what actually happened here. Well, not actually wondering. More like speculating.

You see, I think this is actually part of a larger plan (WARNING: The following is pure speculation on my part and may very well be complete rubbish):

Logging into your WordPress.com account right now you’ll notice your API key doesn’t exist any more. The only API key available is the one you can purchase from Akismet. Yes, I said purchase. If you’ve been running Akismet on your WordPress site for a long time you may not know this but as of some time early last year Akismet went from being a free service to being a paid service. However, for those who had activated the plugin before the switch using the general WordPress.com API key Akismet still worked for free. And and even after the change you could circumvent the payment option by using your WordPress.com Stats API key as your Akismet API key and still get the same services for free. I think you see where I’m going with this.

From what I can tell the WordPress.com Stats plugin stopped working because the WordPress.com API key was disabled. I’m venturing a guess that this was done to force people to finally buy a proper Akismet key. Unfortunately WordPress.com Stats was an unexpected victim, which is why we haven’t heard any official word on what’s going on here yet.

Like I said before, this is all speculation on my part and I hope we hear some official explanation sooner rather than later, but at least it makes all the pieces fit. I have no problem with WordPress.com Stats being replaced with Jetpack nor do I have a problem with Akismet being a paid service (though I think it’s way too expensive), but the way this has unfolded is not very open nor transparent and needs some polishing. You can’t just kille a hugely popular plugin without telling people first.

My second issue with the move is that not everyone wants everything in the Jetpack. A lot of people like to keep everything separated and firewalled. I’m guessing that Automattic wants to move towards more integrated solutions like Jetpack to serve up lots of functionality in small packages. Which is great as long as it doesn’t push away the individual pieces. Right now, unless something is changed and WordPress.com Stats goes live again, you have to install Jetpack to get your stats, and that means you’ll now have multiple pluings running the same function if you have any of the other things like Sharedaddy installed. It’s a hassle because you’ll have to disable these doubles. Granted Jetpack picks up the settings from the old plugin, but it’s still not as clean as it should be.

Let us in on what’s going on!

The bottom line here is pretty clear: To Automattic, let us know what’s going on. If you want us to ditch WordPress.com Stats for Jetpack, just tell us. If WordPress.com Stats is coming back online, tell us that. And please explain what happened in the interim. Also, if you are disabling WordPress.com stats (and other plugins?) to be replaced by Jetpack, put a nice big warning in the plugin pages for those plugins so people know what’s going on and don’t start posting panicked messages in the forum. Transparency is key.

6 thoughts on “Jetpack – New must-have WordPress Plugin

  1. Thanks for the write-up. I was wondering if you knew how to disable certain features within Jetpack (I personally do not want to use ShareDaddy since I have a better alternative). Do you know if this is possible, or is it a must to use all of their features?

  2. Thanks for writing this so I don’t have to. I disabled everything except stats by removing everything (backing up first) *except* “stats.php” from the ‘jetpack/modules’ directory. The Jetpack settings page doesn’t look right, but the stats dashboard and Site Stats page work fine for me.

    Interesting to note though, if you look at the code, there is a way to disable individual modules, but there is no interface to do so right now. The module names need only to be removed from the “jetpack_active_modules” array.

  3. After running into the problem you have described with “WordPress.com Stats”, I tried to install Jetpack, but I am unable to complete the installation. The message says: “Your Jetpack is almost ready โ€” Connect to WordPress.com to enable all features.” I get a big green button that says “Connect to WordPress.com.” When I click on the button, I get redirected to the home page of my Blog.

    I might have been happy to pay $5 a month to help contribute to what I previously thought was a great enterprise. With no obvious response from Automattic that I can find on the web I am losing trust!

    For now, I am installing Clicky and I think I will be happy to move to their paid premium service soon. At least they clearly spell out what is free and what is not free.

  4. Yeah, mate, you pretty got it right.
    Automatic wanted to get all their customers to switch to paid Akismet. So they made changes in wodpress.com stats plugin to make everyone switch to jetpack. Everything smells fishy here.

  5. When you create a WordPress.com account, an API key is sent to you in the email that confirms that your account was activated.

    It’s true that you cannot see the key in the admin interface, but normally every WordPress.com account has an API key. Check your emails and find that initial email. You should be golden. It should look like this:

    Your WordPress.com API key allows you to use services like Akismet @ http://akismet.com/ API Key: ***********

  6. I just wanted to pop in here and say that it is actually still possible to get a Akismet API key for free. They just have it hidden a little better than they used to. To get a free Akismet API key you have to go to the website and click the get started button. Now, this is where they try to fool you, you have to choose the Personal option, the one that says $0-$120/yr in its price. Once you click on the Personal one, just move the yearly contribution slider down to $0. You’re only allowed to use this for personal blogs, but at least you can still get it for free. ๐Ÿ™‚

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