Using Toolbelt instead of Jetpack on WordPress

A screenshot of the Toolbelt plugin in the WordPress plugin directory

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped using the Jetpack plugin for WordPress, and switched to Toolbelt instead.

Jetpack is one of the most popular WordPress plugins and is developed by Automattic, so ditching it has been a big step. Here’s my thinking behind my decision.

What’s wrong with Jetpack?

Jetpack is a big plugin. This is because it does a lot of things, but it can add some big overheads to your WordPress install. Whilst more recently some features have been made available as individual plugins (such as Jetpack Security), many still use the large monolithic plugin.

It relies on services provided by, so there’s background web traffic going there. That can have an impact on your web site’s privacy policy, especially across international boundaries. And Automattic has been in talks with OpenAI and MidJourney about using content from and Tumblr to train AI models. Whilst there’s an opt-out, this really should have been opt-in. My content is licensed under Creative Commons, and I doubt these models respect licensing.

I’m also not keen on how Jetpack inserts adverts for its premium services into my WordPress install.

More disconcertingly, there’s been a recent incident of transphobia that involved a Tumblr user and Matt Mullenweg, Automattic’s CEO. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Twitter Joke Trial, where an amusing but poorly thought out post got the user into trouble, and Matt waded in. I’ve generally been a supporter of Matt but this incident made me decidedly uneasy. I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ community and try to be a good ally to my trans friends, and I don’t want to support a company which is hostile to trans people.

What is Toolbelt?

Toolbelt is essentially a replacement for Jetpack. Like Jetpack, it offers a wide range of features in a modular way. By default, they’re all switched off, so you just need to enable the ones you want. There’s some overlap with Jetpack, but Toolbelt offers some additional features that Jetpack doesn’t have.

Toolbelt is much more lightweight; since installing it, my WordPress installation feels faster. I haven’t been able to quantify improvements, but pages should load quicker. Hopefully, WordPress will use less server resources too now. It does mean that some things look a little different, as I’m using Toolbelt’s social sharing icons and related posts, rather than those from Jetpack.

For the time being, this means new posts won’t be automatically shared to my Mastodon profile (and occasionally LinkedIn) until I install a different plugin to enable this. And I am currently still using Akismet for spam protection, although Toolbelt offers a comment spam module.

The only major caveat to Toolbelt is that it’s not currently in active development, although it says it has been tested with current versions of WordPress (at time of writing). Maybe it’ll get renewed attention.

A WordPress plugin update fix

An AI generated image of a man holding a giant plug, looking at his watch

For a little while now, I’ve had some issues with installing and updating plugins in WordPress. Trying to do either of these tasks has resulted in the process hanging for a long time, and then eventually failing. As a side effect, the Site Health screen would never load – it was just sit there for minutes at a time, but never timing out. Which was frustrating, as I was hoping that Site Health would give me some clues as to why my site wasn’t, well, healthy.

Eventually, I dug into my wp-config.php file. I’ve edited mine a bit, to add some FTP credentials and define the home page and site URL. This offers a marginal performance improvement as it reduces the number of database calls your site needs to make. With my FTP credentials was this line:

define('FS_METHOD', 'ftpext');

It turns out that I probably shouldn’t have that line there. I commented it out, as below:

/* define('FS_METHOD', 'ftpext'); */

And suddenly everything worked again. Huzzah!

According to the documentation, you probably don’t need to have this in your wp-config.php file and removing it can solve problems. Having it there forces WordPress to use a particular method for interacting with your host’s file system, but by default WordPress should choose the correct method automatically.

I’m guessing it was in there after I copied and pasted some code from somewhere else, without knowing what it did. Which is a reminder that just copying someone else’s code without understanding it is not a good idea.

WordPress in the Fediverse

A screenshot of the settings page for the ActivityPub plugin for WordPress

If I’ve set up everything correctly, then you should be able to subscribe to this blog in your favourite Fediverse app, such as Mastodon, by following .

You’ll need to install the ActivityPub plugin, and then it should just work where your fediverse username is @your-wordpress-username@your-domain.tld. If you’ve used a plugin to disable author archives, such as Yoast’s SEO plugin, you’ll need to re-enable it for this to work.

I found this guide particularly useful, as it links to Webfinger to test that you’ve set it up correctly.

(Update: since this post was written almost 12 months ago, the ActivityPub plugin has been formally adopted by Automattic and so enjoys wider support)