On Friday 26 August, Gilo Varghese, founder of Flying Proxy, a CDN, tweeted the following allegation about WP Optimize: https://twitter.com/GijoVarghese_/status/1563097754322501632 . We were not contacted directly but learned of it a few days later when we were asked by a WordPress news site to comment.
In short, the allegation is that WP-Optimize are deliberately deceiving its users by appearing to use page speed tools like GTMetrix to be faster than sites actually are, and are doing this secretly for the purpose of making WP-Optimize look better.
Varghese then proceeded to respond to users who responded to his Tweet to ‘plug’ his company, Flying Press, which is a competitor to WP-Optimize, with a competing plugin product:
The tweet was widely circulated, and resulted in a WP Tavern article yesterday on the allegations. This was a UK public holiday, when many of our team were away and we didn’t have time to fully investigate the allegations. We were given a few hours before publication to respond, but at that time our main WP Optimize developer was already, in his time zone, asleep.
The team at UpdraftPlus (owners of WP-Optimize) investigated today and found the allegations to be completely false. The truth is actually the reverse – it is the allegations which have been presented deceptively, missing out obvious and key facts.
The most fundamental is that feature used to construct the claim clearly says in the user interface “…if you would like to exclude scripts from page speed tests”. The allegation by contrast implies this is hidden only in the code.
Secondly, the advanced setting used in the allegation is a valid feature, useful to find out whether the essential JS/CSS files are actually slowing down the web page or not. i.e. It has a proper use. This feature is by default, turned ‘off’ and only enabled by advanced users who know what they’re doing.
Joe Miles, a manager at UpdraftPlus said “the claim is the plugin is being deceptive, but it’s actually an explained setting in advanced settings which a site owner would have to decide to use, which have been used to falsely claim that WP-Optimize is manipulating things. The setting is a valid tool for testing. So UpdraftPlus will not be removing it and we’ve asked for the false accusations to be deleted.”
Peter Wilkinson from Divi Engine who developed Divi Nitro, (a speed performance plugin which is not affiliated with WP-Optimize, but actually a competitor), investigated the claims and said “Initially I was shocked at the news and as a competitor, thought it was bad practice to be deceiving customers.”
“To “cheat” the tools, you need to manually add the JS files you want to asynchronous load to a setting that clearly has the label “Use this if you have a completely independent script or would like to exclude scripts from page speed tests (PageSpeed Insights, GTMetrix…)”
Wilkinson made this very clear video to show how the untrue allegations have been unfairly presented in a way that misleads people:
“It just goes to show that you should not believe everything you read or hear. Test everything to make sure it is the truth.” Wilkinson added.
“In my view, Gijo Varghese has used deception to promote Flying Pages and Flying Press.”
Adam Lowe, President of PeakPerformanceDigital.com who was initially quoted in WP-Tavern as asking UpdraftPlus “how are we supposed to continue trusting your company with my clients’ backups when you use these deceptive and fraudulent practices?” replied today in support of WP-Optimize. He said:
Meanwhile, Andrew Palmer of WP Plugins Plus, tweeted that he believed the original claims to be false:
Summary: Gijo achieved the result that he did by using a clearly labelled expert feature with explained possible use cases to do something else. He then presented this as the normal but dishonestly hidden result of using WP-Optimize. This should never have been made a news story. We do not encourage anyone to try to “game” PageSpeed scores, and Gijo’s allegations that this is our secret intention that people would do so is unworthy, and we hope he will do the honourable thing and retract it. If any other users are puzzled by anything else in WP-Optimize, we hope that instead of stirring outrage on Twitter, they will ask us about it in a support channel.