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 version||Release Date||Folder size||Total files|
|2.7||December 10, 2008||5.38 MB||603 Files in 76 Folders|
|2.8||June 11, 2009||6.83 MB||726 Files in 81 Folders|
|2.9||December 18, 2009||7.29 MB||753 Files in 82 Folders|
|3.0||June 17, 2010||7.92 MB||756 Files in 79 Folders|
|3.1||February 23, 2011||8.23 MB||835 Files in 83 Folders|
|3.2||July 4, 2011||9.36 MB||947 Files in 97 Folders|
|3.3||December 12, 2011||9.96 MB||936 Files in 97 Folders|
|3.4||June 13, 2012||11.0 MB||981 Files in 96 Folders|
|3.5||December 11, 2012||11.8 MB||1,025 Files in 109 Folders|
|3.6||August 1, 2013||11.9 MB||1,057 Files in 111 Folders|
|3.7||October 24, 2013||13.0 MB||1,061 Files in 112 Folders|
|3.8||December 12, 2013||15.9 MB||1,162 Files in 130 Folders|
|3.9||April 16, 2014||16.1 MB||1,137 Files in 115 Folders|
|4.0||September 4, 2014||16.8 MB||1,156 Files in 119 Folders|
|4.1||December 18, 2014||17.4 MB||1,168 Files in 119 Folders|
|4.2||April 23, 2015||17.9 MB||1,195 Files in 120 Folders|
|4.3||August 18, 2015||18.7 MB||1,210 Files in 120 Folders|
|4.4||December 8, 2015||19.8 MB||1,299 Files in 123 Folders|
|4.5||April 12, 2016||20.8 MB||1,349 Files in 123 Folders|
|4.6||August 16, 2016||21.5 MB||1,432 Files in 131 Folders|
|4.7||December 6, 2016||22.2 MB||1,480 Files in 138 Folders|
|4.8||June 8, 2017||22.7 MB||1,487 Files in 138 Folders|
|4.9||November 16, 2017||26.8 MB||1,542 Files in 141 Folders|
|5.0||December 6, 2018||36.8 MB||1,709 Files in 173 Folders|
|5.1||February 21, 2019||38.0 MB||1,713 Files in 173 Folders|
|5.2||May 7, 2019||40.6 MB||1,835 Files in 193 Folders|
|5.3||November 12, 2019||42.5 MB||1,922 Files in 204 Folders|
|5.4||March 31, 2020||43.4 MB||1,903 Files in 206 Folders|
|5.5||August 11, 2020||45.5 MB||1,980 Files in 249 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 Plugin||Plugin Version||Folder size||Total files|
|Advanced Custom Fields||5.7.12||6.53 MB||230 Files in 23 Folders|
|Akismet Anti-Spam||4.1.1||222 KB||20 Files in 3 Folders|
|All In One SEO Pack||2.12||1.46 MB||114 Files in 16 Folders|
|Contact Form 7||5.1.1||515 KB||79 Files in 16 Folders|
|Elementor||2.5.14||7.73 MB||388 Files in 99 Folders|
|Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights||7.5.1||3.37 MB||166 Files in 32 Folders|
|Insert Headers and Footers||1.4.3||21.9 KB||6 Files in 2 Folders|
|Jetpack by WordPress.com||7.2.1||19.4 MB||1,467 Files in 281 Folders|
|Limit Login Attempts||1.7.1||331 KB||40 Files in 0 Folders|
|Loco Translate||2.2.2||1.19 MB||259 Files in 55 Folders|
|Mailchimp for WordPress||4.5.1||5.97 MB||257 Files in 39 Folders|
|Ninja Forms||3.4.10||18.9 MB||923 Files in 110 Folders|
|Page Builder by SiteOrigin||2.10.5||1.19 MB||147 Files in 47 Folders|
|Really Simple CAPTCHA||2.0.1||2.08 MB||16 Files in 2 Folders|
|Shortcodes Ultimate||5.3.0||4.16 MB||279 Files in 36 Folders|
|Smush Image Compression and Optimization||18.104.22.168||5.56 MB||213 Files in 41 Folders|
|TablePress||1.9.2||1.01 MB||145 Files in 14 Folders|
|The Events Calendar||4.9.0||58.2 MB||1,992 Files in 422 Folders|
|UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin||1.16.12||22.7 MB||1,365 Files in 208 Folders|
|W3 Total Cache||0.9.7.3||6.96 MB||943 Files in 78 Folders|
|Wordfence Security – Firewall & Malware Scan||7.2.5||11.1 MB||546 Files in 89 Folders|
|WP GDPR Compliance||1.5.0||816 KB||38 Files in 12 Folders|
|WP Maintenance Mode||2.2.3||6.24 MB||119 Files in 11 Folders|
|WP Super Cache||1.6.4||2.80 MB||60 Files in 3 Folders|
|WP-Optimize||2.3.3||2.20 MB||161 Files in 29 Folders|
|Contact Form by WPForms||22.214.171.124||5.65 MB||243 Files in 41 Folders|
|Yoast SEO||11.0||13.1 MB||975 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 Theme||Theme Version||Folder size||Total files|
|Ashe||1.8.2||5.41 MB||98 Files in 26 Folders|
|Astra||1.8.2||3.46 MB||359 Files in 93 Folders|
|Customizr||4.1.37||18.6 MB||594 Files in 113 Folders|
|Foodica||1.0.9||699 KB||52 Files in 14 Folders|
|GeneratePress||2.2.2||1.91 MB||98 Files in 11 Folders|
|Hestia||2.4.4||8.63 MB||357 Files in 104 Folders|
|Kale||2.4.2||4.42 MB||94 Files in 15 Folders|
|Mesmerize||1.6.81||6.92 MB||424 Files in 60 Folders|
|Neve||2.3.6||8.83 MB||447 Files in 110 Folders|
|OceanWP||1.6.7||9.55 MB||541 Files in 95 Folders|
|OnePress||2.2.4||4.46 MB||154 Files in 13 Folders|
|Primer||1.8.6||1.74 MB||137 Files in 18 Folders|
|Shop Isle||1.1.53||4.46 MB||205 Files in 46 Folders|
|Storefront||2.4.5||3.34 MB||159 Files in 31 Folders|
|Sydney||1.54||3.36 MB||115 Files in 20 Folders|
|Zerif Lite||126.96.36.199||5.40 MB||448 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.
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.
Elegant Themes Divi: About 26MB, 713 files
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.
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.
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 and charted it on Google Sheets.
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.
Wow Mike, that is really, really cool!
Thanks for posting this.