Boost WordPress With Jetpack: The Best Features From WordPress.com

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Automattic, the company behind WordPress, has announced a new plugin called Jetpack. It adds many of the features offered by their WordPress.com hosted solution to self-installed WordPress instances, including updated states, grammar checking and more.

But Jetpack is more than just a great plugin. It actually represents a major change in the way many hosts install and support WordPress. At least a dozen hosts (including major players such as Network Solutions, Dreamhost, Media Temple, GoDaddy and Bluehost) have begun integrating Jetpack into their one-cilck WordPress installations. If you usually use one-click to set up a new WordPress install, you’ll enjoy a lot more power.

For anyone who already has a WordPress blog, Jetpack is a powerful, easy-to-use and officially-supported plugin that takes the place of over half a dozen older ones.

What is JetPack?

Jetpack provides features that were exclusive or semi-exclusive to WordPress.com up until now. It includes the following modules:

  • Gravatar Hovercards: Enhanced information about commenters via mouseover pop-ups.
  • WordPress.com Stats: Already available via a plugin, Jetpack brings WordPress stats up to par with the WordPress.com version, including HTML5 implementation.
  • Twitter Widget: A simple Twitter widget to display your latest tweets in a widgetized sidebar.
  • Shortcodes: Enables bloggers to easily add content like YouTube videos via shortcodes rather than troublesome, complex chunks of HTML.
  • Shortlinks: Creates short URLs for your posts and pages via Automattic’s wp.me URL shortener.
  • LaTeX: Allows users to take advantage of this popular markup language for mathematical equations.
  • Sharedaddy: Embeds Twitter, Facebook and other social news icons into your posts.
  • After the Deadline: Integrates Automattic’s popular and powerful grammar checker.

Many of these features were already available as WordPress plugins, such as WordPress Stats and After the Deadline. However, Jetpack updates these plugins and streamlines the installation of some of the most WordPress.com useful tools into one package.

Installing Jetpack

Jetpack is installed the same way as any other plugin. Download it from the website and upload it to your host via FTP, or install it directly from the admin panel. You then need to connect it with an existing WordPress.com account, but you don’t need to start a blog there: you just need a username and password. There’s no API key to remember, and the process seems to work pretty much flawlessly.

Best of all, the plugin is entirely free, and it includes access to WordPress Stats and After the Deadline.

Jetpack is a simple, powerful installation that will earn a lot of fans. It’s great to see Automattic taking the launch so seriously and viewing Jetpack as a critical piece of WordPress software for all users. The company says it expects to add more modules shortly, and this could well be where additional fees come in.

Hosting Partners

Even though Jetpack is a new plugin, it’s clearly one of the most robust in the repository. A clutch of major hosts have lined up as partners for the release, and they’re making Jetpack available to their customers as part of their one-click installation.

It’s rare for a new and relatively untested plugin to be included with one-click installs; hosts have a lot to lose if things go wrong. The hosts that have signed up to Jetpack obviously have a lot of trust in Automattic to get it right.

Some Minor Hiccups

Battle testing aside (it’s already a 1.1 release), Jetpack isn’t perfect. Some users report having trouble connecting their Jetpack installations to their WordPress.com accounts, although a reinstall seems to fix this. Others, including me, have had problems with some of the individual modules.

For example, on my main blog, Jetpack’s version of After the Deadline seems to be faulty. I receive PHP errors and the plugin can’t connect with the After the Deadline server. I had After the Deadline installed prior to setting up Jetpack, so that may be why.

Still, for a WordPress plugin that’s receiving such widespread use and attention, problems have been very few and far between.

Should You Install Jetpack?

Automattic is creating an even keel between users of WordPress.com and those who install WordPress on their servers. The company is trying to put to rest the never-ending questions about ‘when feature X will be available to self-hosted WordPress users’. Instead, it’s treating all members of the WordPress “family” as equals.

Jetpack is therefore a big step forward. Having so many hosting companies on board at launch just shows how greatly anticipated it is. If you want to benefit from all those additional features, it’s an easy way to do so. We’d recommend giving it a try.

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