Last week, Cloudflare unveiled its privacy-first web analytics product and has now launched Automatic Platform Optimization (APO) for WordPress. The new service boasts stunning performance enhancements for sites. That might otherwise be slowed down by shared hosting, poor online databases, or sluggish plugins:

Our testing… showed a 72% reduction in Time to First Byte (TTFB), 23% reduction to First Contentful Paint, and 13% reduction in Speed Index for desktop users at the 90th percentile, by serving nearly all of your website’s content from Cloudflare’s network.

To cache dynamic content and support the website from its edge network, APO uses Cloudflare Workers. This reduces origin requests and origin processing time in most instances. This ensures that visitors requesting your website would have load times near instantaneous. Cloudflare notes that its testing shows that for HTML Time to First Byte (TTFB), APO provides consistent load times of less than 400ms.

The results of using APO are similar to hosting static files on a CDN, but without a complex tech stack having to be handled. For the sake of success, content creators retain their capacity to create interactive websites without any improvements to their workflow.

Version 3.8 of the official WordPress plugin from Cloudflare was recently modified to provide APO support. It detects when users make adjustments to their content and purges the content stored on the edge of Cloudflare.

With a single click of a button, the new service is available to Cloudflare users. For existing Cloudflare customers, APO is included in the Professional, Business, and Enterprise plans at no cost. For $5 / month, users on the Free plan can add it to their sites. The cost is a flat fee and is not measured.

The announcement of Cloudflare has been well received by WordPress professionals and hosting businesses so far, and many have already begun testing it.

“Mark Jaquith, WordPress lead developer, called APO” incredible news for the world of WordPress.

“This will decrease hosting complexity on sites I manage and easily save hundreds of dollars a month in hosting costs,” Jaquith said.

Early testers at Kinsta got remarkable results using APO after running several speed tests from six different locations around the globe:

“By caching static HTML on Cloudflare’s edge network, we saw a 70-300% performance increase. As expected, the testing locations furthest away from Tokyo saw the biggest reduction in load time.

“If your WordPress site uses a traditional CDN that only caches CSS, JS, and images, upgrading to Cloudflare’s WordPress APO is a no-brainer. And will help you stay competitive with modern Jamstack and static sites that live on the edge by default.”

In his blog, George Liu, a “self-confessed page speed addict” and Cloudflare Community MVP, conducted a series of thorough tests on the new APO product. After many comparisons, he found that the WordPress plugin with APO turned on by Cloudoflare delivers results similar to his heavily optimised WordPress blog that uses a custom caching configuration for Cloudflare Worker.

“You will find that the one-click Automatic Platform Optimization button of the Cloudflare WordPress plugin does wonders for page speed for the average WordPress user who is not well versed in page speed optimizations,” Liu said.

In theory, Cloudflare’s Automatic Platform Optimization WordPress plugin will beat all other WordPress caching solutions other than you rolling out your own caching based on Cloudflare Worker like I did. So for Cloudflare’s WordPress plugin APO, you get a good bang for your buck at US$ 5 / month.

Liu also warned of some speed bumps with the initial rollout. As a limited set of WordPress cookies to bypass the Cloudflare CDN cache is supported by Cloudflare’s APO. Leaving certain use cases unsupported. On subdomains, APO does not seem to work. And users also report that it is not compatible with other plugins for caching. It also disables real IP address detection for visitors.

Cloudflare is aware of many of these issues raised in the announcement’s comments and is in the process of adding more cookies to the caching bypass list. APO may not be as plug-and-play as it sounds for some users right now. Due to some plugin conflicts, but the product is very promising and should improve with more feedback over time.

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