Dear WordPress community, have we lost our collective sanity?

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One thing that I have noticed in the last few years is that my hosting packages have started approaching their Disk Space and Inode limits. Even packages that contain just a few small WordPress websites, for some reason these keep on growing in resource usage, even if there’s no new content and very low traffic.

Back in September 2018 I thought I found my culprit, something that I wrote about in my clickbait-ey article WordPress Image Sizes: a Ticking Time BOMB?.

WordPress got big and continues getting bigger

Have you ever wondered by how much WordPress has actually changed in the last 10 years? What’s the difference between WordPress 3.0 and WordPress 5.0? That’s exactly what I decided to look at.

Package Size of Major WordPress Versions

In the last 10 years, WordPress has grown from 5.38 MB and 603 files to 38.0 MB and 1,713 files. It has grown in size by over 600% and has tripled the number of bundled files.

WordPress versionRelease DateFolder sizeTotal files
2.7December 10, 20085.38 MB603 Files in 76 Folders
2.8June 11, 20096.83 MB726 Files in 81 Folders
2.9December 18, 20097.29 MB753 Files in 82 Folders
3.0June 17, 20107.92 MB756 Files in 79 Folders
3.1February 23, 20118.23 MB835 Files in 83 Folders
3.2July 4, 20119.36 MB947 Files in 97 Folders
3.3December 12, 20119.96 MB936 Files in 97 Folders
3.4June 13, 201211.0 MB981 Files in 96 Folders
3.5December 11, 201211.8 MB1,025 Files in 109 Folders
3.6August 1, 201311.9 MB1,057 Files in 111 Folders
3.7October 24, 201313.0 MB1,061 Files in 112 Folders
3.8December 12, 201315.9 MB1,162 Files in 130 Folders
3.9April 16, 201416.1 MB1,137 Files in 115 Folders
4.0September 4, 201416.8 MB1,156 Files in 119 Folders
4.1December 18, 201417.4 MB1,168 Files in 119 Folders
4.2April 23, 201517.9 MB1,195 Files in 120 Folders
4.3August 18, 201518.7 MB1,210 Files in 120 Folders
4.4December 8, 201519.8 MB1,299 Files in 123 Folders
4.5April 12, 201620.8 MB1,349 Files in 123 Folders
4.6August 16, 201621.5 MB1,432 Files in 131 Folders
4.7December 6, 201622.2 MB1,480 Files in 138 Folders
4.8June 8, 201722.7 MB1,487 Files in 138 Folders
4.9November 16, 201726.8 MB1,542 Files in 141 Folders
5.0December 6, 201836.8 MB1,709 Files in 173 Folders
5.1February 21, 201938.0 MB1,713 Files in 173 Folders

Package Size of Popular WordPress Plugins

The WordPress dashboard does not show a lot of data about the plugins that we can so easily install. It will only show the current version and the developer of a plugin. But have you looked at the amount of files that we so easily put on our web servers?

Here’s a mockup of what it could look like, which would maybe convince users to really think about the dozens of plugins that they casually install on their websites.

Jetpack alone is close to 20 MB in size and has almost as many files as WordPress itself – 1,467 files.

The very popular The Events Calendar plugin is even more ridiculous – 58.2 MB in 1,992 files. Imagine – something bigger than WordPress itself is there just to add a page with upcoming events. It is installed on more than 700,000 websites and uses more than 40 TERABYTES of data in 1.3 BILLION files (1,394,400,000). All this data is stored and is constantly powered across tens of thousands of servers.

WordPress PluginPlugin VersionFolder sizeTotal files
Advanced Custom Fields5.7.126.53 MB230 Files in 23 Folders
Akismet Anti-Spam4.1.1222 KB20 Files in 3 Folders
All In One SEO Pack2.121.46 MB114 Files in 16 Folders
Contact Form 75.1.1515 KB79 Files in 16 Folders
Elementor2.5.147.73 MB388 Files in 99 Folders
Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights7.5.13.37 MB166 Files in 32 Folders
Insert Headers and Footers1.4.321.9 KB6 Files in 2 Folders
Jetpack by WordPress.com7.2.119.4 MB1,467 Files in 281 Folders
Limit Login Attempts1.7.1331 KB40 Files in 0 Folders
Loco Translate2.2.21.19 MB259 Files in 55 Folders
Mailchimp for WordPress4.5.15.97 MB257 Files in 39 Folders
Ninja Forms3.4.1018.9 MB923 Files in 110 Folders
Page Builder by SiteOrigin2.10.51.19 MB147 Files in 47 Folders
Really Simple CAPTCHA2.0.12.08 MB16 Files in 2 Folders
Shortcodes Ultimate5.3.04.16 MB279 Files in 36 Folders
Smush Image Compression and Optimization3.2.0.15.56 MB213 Files in 41 Folders
TablePress1.9.21.01 MB145 Files in 14 Folders
The Events Calendar4.9.058.2 MB1,992 Files in 422 Folders
UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin1.16.1222.7 MB1,365 Files in 208 Folders
W3 Total Cache0.9.7.36.96 MB943 Files in 78 Folders
Wordfence Security – Firewall & Malware Scan7.2.511.1 MB546 Files in 89 Folders
WP GDPR Compliance1.5.0816 KB38 Files in 12 Folders
WP Maintenance Mode2.2.36.24 MB119 Files in 11 Folders
WP Super Cache1.6.42.80 MB60 Files in 3 Folders
WP-Optimize2.3.32.20 MB161 Files in 29 Folders
Contact Form by WPForms1.5.2.25.65 MB243 Files in 41 Folders
Yoast SEO11.013.1 MB975 Files in 143 Folders

Package Size of Popular WordPress Themes

I have looked only at some of the most popular free WordPress themes in the official WordPress.org theme repository. Even here some themes have a worrying size.

What’s the situation with premium themes like Avada and Divi? Can anyone share the data in the comments section below?

WordPress ThemeTheme VersionFolder sizeTotal files
Ashe1.8.25.41 MB98 Files in 26 Folders
Astra1.8.23.46 MB359 Files in 93 Folders
Customizr4.1.3718.6 MB594 Files in 113 Folders
Foodica1.0.9699 KB52 Files in 14 Folders
GeneratePress2.2.21.91 MB98 Files in 11 Folders
Hestia2.4.48.63 MB357 Files in 104 Folders
Kale2.4.24.42 MB94 Files in 15 Folders
Mesmerize1.6.816.92 MB424 Files in 60 Folders
Neve2.3.68.83 MB447 Files in 110 Folders
OceanWP1.6.79.55 MB541 Files in 95 Folders
OnePress2.2.44.46 MB154 Files in 13 Folders
Primer1.8.61.74 MB137 Files in 18 Folders
Shop Isle1.1.534.46 MB205 Files in 46 Folders
Storefront2.4.53.34 MB159 Files in 31 Folders
Sydney1.543.36 MB115 Files in 20 Folders
Zerif Lite1.8.5.485.40 MB448 Files in 69 Folders

The Size of a Simple WordPress Website

If a regular WordPress user installs just a few of the most popular plugins (Advanced Custom Fields, Akismet, Contact Form 7, Cookie Notice, Jetpack Really Simple Captcha, Wordfence, Yoast SEO and WP Super Cache), then that’s a total of 55.9MB in 3,393 files and 568 folders. This is of course without all the data that is stored in the database.

If you add that to a clean installation of WordPress 5.1, a popular free theme like Hestia, then just your website’s files without the database will reach ~102 megabytes, 5,463 files and 845 folders.

Currently WordPress powers over 60 million websites, that is an estimated ~33% of the Internet. Some of these websites are large websites with tens of thousands of content pages. But a vast majority of WordPress websites are run by regular people and small businesses, many of them with probably less than 20 pages of content.

Now imagine that these millions of WordPress websites rely on thousands upon thousands of files, hundreds of megabytes worth of scripts and libraries, just to output a few hundred of cached kilobytes of “Hello World” content.

WordPress Websites and the Environment

In a 2012 paper by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy it was presented that 5.12 kWh of electricity is spent per gigabyte of data:

Our major finding is that the Internet uses an average of about 5 kWh to support the utilization of every GB of data, which equates to about $0.51 of energy costs. Only 38% of those costs are borne by the end-user, while the remaining costs are thinly spread over the global Internet through which the data travels; in switches, routers, signal repeaters, servers, and data centers. This creates a societal “tragedy of the commons”, where end users have little incentive to consider the other 62% of costs and associated resources.

If we were to transform these values into CO2 emissions, then according to CarbonFund.org, on average, electricity sources emit 1.222 lbs (0.55 kg) CO2 per kWh. The same amount of CO2 emissions come from burning of 0.773 lbs (0.35 kg) of coal, by charging 90 smartphones or by driving 1.7 miles (2.73 km) an average passenger vehicle.

Having said that, do you think that WordPress websites are good for the environment? Is it worth keeping 100+ MB worth of CMS files just to output a few content pages, pages that we end up transforming into cached, static files?

But what is there to do?

Please understand that I’m not criticizing WordPress as a whole. I simply want to point out that WordPress has grown so big in all these years, that it is no longer a sane choice for building simple landing websites, one-page websites and other types of small-scale websites.

You don’t buy a car just to cross the street every day. You don’t use a blowtorch to light a match. There are appropriate tools for all tasks, and WordPress is no longer suitable for the most basic of websites.

It doesn’t matter if you believe in climate change and man-made global warming, this is not just about that. I’m talking about professional efficiency, pride and laziness.

Or maybe we simply went insane.

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6 Replies to “Dear WordPress community, have we lost our collective sanity?”

  1. Sam

    While I agree that it is best to be mindful of the size of a database, calling the direction the WordPress platform has gone insane is kind of baseless. It is the not insane to want to expand a rich ecosystem that allows users to easily create flexible and robust websites. The sizes of installs is not much of an issue for an end user, the vast majority of the time a site that is in over 1 GB can still load fast. That is doing the same thing and getting the same result

    What is insane is how green energy can’t be widely adopted. It has proven to be effective and would solve a litany of issues and do so much good for the planet as whole. The greed and the cognitive dissonance for those tasked with getting this done is insane. This shows doing the same thing and expecting a different result, the definition of insanity.

  2. David Alexander

    This is a fascinating piece! Thank you for putting it together. I definitely agree it’s more bloated than ever before but maybe that’s a price worth paying for the ease of use it brings most users? That said I’m definitely going to be more mindful of how much I allow clients to have installed based on its potential impact on the enviroment.

  3. Jonathan Brinley

    How much of that bloat is in language packs? E.g., more than a third of The Events Calendar comes from translations.

    Another large chunk comes from the unminified JS and the source maps. They could, perhaps, be stripped out, but they’re there for the convenience of developers building with and extending the plugin.

    Software developers have to make a lot of tradeoffs. Features, accessibility, usability, extensibility, internationalization, convenience… these and more will often win out over concerns about size on disk.

  4. Mike Schinkel

    I found your premise curious, so I wanted to see how the size of WordPress has related to the cost per GB of storage over the same period.

    I found a reference for costs at Backblaze.com[1] and charted it on Google Sheets[2].

    What I found is the line graph of increase in code size is almost a mirror image of the line graph of the decline in price per Gb.

    Interpret these findings how you will.

    [1] https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hard-drive-cost-per-gigabyte/
    [2] https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1bYKTULLxjZqU0EhXnCtPzslx03uxfl0CSHz-WtQrI6g/edit#gid=773046413

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