WP-Optimize Plugin Accused of Cheating PageSpeed and Other Performance Testing Tools

Gijo Varghese, a developer who calls himself a “web performance enthusiast,” shocked WordPress users around the world over the weekend when he tweeted a screenshot of how WP-Optimize is explicitly preventing select JavaScript files from loading when users test their sites through popular performance testing tools.

By Sarah Gooding – You can find this entire article HERE on WPTavern’s Website

“When a site is loaded, the JavaScript files are loaded only when the user-agent/browser is not Lighthouse/GTmetrix/Headless Chrome/Pingdom,” Varghese said. “No JS = high scores. But for real users, these JS files are loaded!”

Varghese confirmed that he was testing the free version of WP-Optimize, which is used on more than a million WordPress sites. UpdraftPlus acquired WP-Optimize in 2016 and claims that the tool “has everything you need to keep your website fast and thoroughly optimized.” A commercial version is also promoted through the free plugin that is hosted on WordPress.org.“Tell me, UpdraftPlus, how I’m supposed to continue trusting your company with my clients’ backups when you use these deceptive and fraudulent practices?” one customer Adam Lowe said in response to Varghese’s discovery of the plugin not loading JS for performance tools.

“Wow, all I can say is what an utter disappointment,” WordPress agency owner and developer Brian Jackson said.

This type of deception is eerily similar to a scam reported by someone who contracted a performance freelancer on Upwork who artificially manipulated Google Pagespeed results. Others participating in the discussion on Twitter compared it to the Volkswagon emissions scandal where the carmaker was found to activate its emissions controls only during laboratory testing in order to meet the EPA’s requirements after a violation. The vehicles on the road emitted up to 40 times more nitrogen oxides while driving, as compared to how they performed in the rigged laboratory tests.

Varghese and several other participants in the conversation concluded that this is why site owners should focus on what real world users are experiencing, instead of performance tool test scores.

Even when focusing on real user experiences, site owners often rely on the tests to diagnose issues and see how a site’s performance can be improved. They don’t expect that a plugin will be hiding JS files from performance tools. Tricking the tests has eroded WP-Optimize’s credibility.

“Wow. If true, this is as short sighted as it is inexcusable,” UpdraftPlus customer Johnathon William said. “And it makes me wonder if I can…

Read more…article continues HERE on WPTavern’s website.

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