What was the WordPress speed-up world waiting for and what did it finally receive?
- New optimization features
- New user interface
- QUIC.cloud integration
- And more importantly, the future of WordPress speed optimization.
Not on a LiteSpeed server? Don’t worry, you can still play it!
MAY 13, 2022: this post was originally written for version 3.0…but still holds true for all future versions.
My relationship with LiteSpeed & LiteSpeed Cache
For those who don’t know, I hold LiteSpeed very dear to my heart. When my first sites went mega-viral in 2010, it was LiteSpeed server that rescued my VPS. My poor little VPS previously buried by viral traffic was immediately recovered to a CPU load of 10% and ready to chew on the next traffic stampede.
6 years later (2016), LiteSpeed server released prioprietary cache plugins for several popular CMS (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, etc). I loved their LiteSpeed Cache (aka “LSC) but felt it lacked a few essential features for general consumer use.
And for years, I used the LiteSpeed Cache plugin everywhere I could and sung its praises from the top of the mountains but still refused to call it the number one plugin.
Here’s what the previous LiteSpeed Cache 2.x (and below) was missing:
- Doesn’t cache on non-LiteSpeed servers – you can use all other optimization features, though.
- No cache preload unless your server has LiteSpeed AND crawler enabled – this is a massive dealbreaker for smaller sites with low traffic.
- Still not as user-friendly (lots of developer language)
Yeaup, just those 3 things. In fact, had they included a cache preload function that didn’t rely on a server-activated crawler…I would have given considered them the #1 position by now.
But their development team disagreed and I fully respect their stance. In fact, I even agree with it even though I wished differently. The truth is, LiteSpeed is true a caching plugin and caching is originally a method of server optimization (for resource efficiency). It is not a bloat mitigation device for speeding up poorly-coded sites (at the cost of increase server load). In fact…there will NEVER be a developer or admin who believes in speeding up sites by using more resources. It doesn’t make sense from their point-of-view!
What’s new in LiteSpeed Cache 3.x?
I have salivated for this for so long and when it finally arrived…I was blown away by how much more I received. I thought I was waiting for a cache plugin and what I got was the future. I am so grateful to be a part of this and so overjoyed to see my feedback contributions come to fruition. See if you can find my name in the changelog. 😉
1. New UI
I love the new user interface. It’s not only organized in a methodical way that makes sense to not only admins and developers, but also regular users. And best of all…all settings have comprehensively detailed documentation just a click away. Do you (or your clients) not know what something does? You can now click a simple link to find out whether it helps you. No more blindly enabling things and breaking your site without knowing what caused it.
I’m an absolute UI-fanatic because I believe UI tells us how to engage the world around us. LiteSpeed’s UI neatly organizes things under sensible labels and in a manner that makes sense. You know where to find things without having to guess or remember your way around the settings panels.
The other best-UI cache plugin for a long time is WP Rocket. Great UI and great documentation. Only thing is…LSC does a hundred more things. LSC is like this generation’s W3TC and I mean it in a good way. It’s a super powerful developer-grade plugin that comes with tons of features most people won’t even use. The tough part is preventing the developer features from overwhelming newbie users and in that regard, I think LSC has done a good job.
2. Gravatar cache
I asked for it. I got it. I love this feature. Most sites won’t need it as most sites don’t have that many comments but I do on some of my other sites. And Gravatar can slow down a site once you start getting a few hundred comments on each post.
I love features like this because they’re catered to giant pro sites. I’ve long lamented the cache plugins that only cater to newbie features and things that newbies do to inadvertently wreck their page speeds. I’m not a newb, dammit. I suffer from different problems!
3. Low Quality Image Placeholder (LQIP) optimization
I don’t need it. I don’t use it. And many people don’t need it either. But you gotta admit it’s really cool and now a common trend among some large websites (like Medium).
What LQIP does is load a low quality blurry version of your image so that your site appears to be fully loaded and doesn’t look like a wasteland of empty spots when users scroll. Then when the higher-quality images come in, it’s not distracting or jarring at all. It feels like everything loads fast and you almost don’t even notice the transition from LQUIP to the high quality images.
Basically, it’s the best of both worlds. You get to have the speed benefits of lazy load effect WITHOUT the drawbacks of a slow visual load. Does this mean LQIP is recommended for everyone? No! But you can test and see if it looks nice on your site.
4. HTML cache at CDN
Thanks to the new integration with LiteSpeed’s QUIC.cloud service (which is their own multi-purpose CDN), you can now cache your page HTML at the CDN. This is ground-breaking for many reasons.
First…caching your page HTML at the CDN level increases performance because it means pretty much your entire site is served from the CDN servers. Traditionally, CDN’s only copy and serve your static assets from their mirror servers. That’s images, CSS, JS, fonts, and other static files. They’ve never been able to cache the actual page content HTML. Sure…some people have tried to implement page caching using Cloudflare page rule hacks but that usually causes many problems. The fact that QUIC.cloud now natively caches your page HTML at the CDN level makes them the first HTML-caching CDN (as far as I know). It’s incredible! Your entire website (HTML, CSS, JS, IMAGES, FONTS, etc) are all loaded from CDN. Nothing has to be pulled from your webserver.
Secondly, the way that LiteSpeed creates this cache is a game-changer. The cache is generated from the LiteSpeed’s CDN server. Why is this such a big deal? It’s because you can now benefit from LiteSpeed caching capability even if your server or webhost is not using LiteSpeed! That’s right…all the super slow servers out there can now benefit from LiteSpeed cache. No more crying about your laggy limited webhost server. LiteSpeed can save you no matter how crappy your webhost.
Now…does this mean every server should cache HTML from the CDN? For me, no. Because if you have a strong server and/or already have a LiteSpeed server (and I assume with a healthy amount of resources), it’s may still be better to let your own server serve the cache. Especially if your origin server is closer to your clients than the QC’s CDN mirror.
Those of you still wondering whether or not to enable this function, it’s simple…just test and see for yourself. If you have a high-traffic site, your site might feel faster! If you have a low-traffic site, your site might feel slower. But everyone’s server, website, and traffic is different. So please test and see!
5. QUIC.cloud integration
The most magical wonder of the LiteSpeed caching solution. An integration with a cloud service full of features:
- Dynamic HTML cache – full page caching at the CDN level (very unique!)
- Image optimization – compresses images, creates LQIP.
- QUIC & HTTP/3 protocol – faster HTTP transfer protocol (everyone else still on HTTP/2).
- CDN security – protects your site against brute-force attacks, also recaptcha security for repeat offenders.
- Critical CSS optimization – generates critical CSS.
- Static content – also has the traditional CDN function which is caching and serving static content like images, CSS, JS, fonts, and other static files.
What’s crazy is QUIC.cloud is totally free! Their CDN functionality is free. The LiteSpeed Cache plugin is totally free. Their image compression is totally free. Their CDN-level security protection is free. Generate critical CSS. Use the fastest HTTP/3. Play with LQIP…which nobody else offers! ALL FREE! It’s really weird….LiteSpeed is becoming the new Google of the caching world…where you get so many first-class services (that blow away the competition) and all for free!
Do I recommend QUIC.cloud over Cloudflare? It’s hard to tell because Cloudflare is mature and completely built for enterprise clients for at least a decade now. QUIC.cloud is relatively new to the game (like “yesterday” new) but here’s what I can see:
- Cloudflare has more servers around the world, built for faster DNS performance and intelligent DNS routing, powerful page rules, and advantage in the Cloudflare apps.
- QUIC.cloud is fewer servers but will grow rapidly, can cache dynamic page content natively (Cloudflare cannot), and has many great niche features specific for WordPress.
To put it simply. Cloudflare is built for all sites. Whereas QUIC.cloud caters perfectly to WordPress. I’m really excited for the future. You know what? Just to see what happens, I think I’m gonna tell the LiteSpeed team they’re still “second place”. But between you and I, we know what time is. 😉
6. Constant updates
I can’t think of any company that puts out updates faster than LiteSpeed Cache. New features, tweaks, and fixes every couple of days. It’s no surprise considering they manage high performance servers for massive websites all around the world. But it’s absolutely refreshing to see this level of development support in a cache plugin. With other WordPress plugins (not only caching), updates come rarely and you always wonder if they’re still active or not. With LiteSpeed, you feel like it’s a core priority and not a side-revenue stream.
7. LiteSpeed Cache is FREE!
Yes, the plugin is incredibly amazing and yet it’s FREE. Free as in it costs $0. That’s just crazy. I wonder who the heck got this idea passed in the boardroom. You usually don’t hear of large development companies giving away fully-functioning free products. In LiteSpeed’s case, sure they make money if you get LiteSpeed Enterprise but then they also have OpenLiteSpeed server which is totally free as well!
LiteSpeed and the future of caching
Where does that leave the other cache plugins?
Don’t get me wrong. I still love and use Swift Performance. I still like WP Rocket. I’m always in contact with developers from many companies and it’s emotionally difficult to crown favorites among your friends. But never to fear…these are the top 3 cache plugins and they’ll always get better with time. They still fit very specific use cases and no matter which one you pick, you’re never wrong with any of these 3.
LiteSpeed Cache is for true (enterprise-grade) caching
It truly is built for professional high traffic sites.
- Can it speed up a totally bloated crappy-code slow site? Absolutely!
- Can it do wonders for a slow server, yes! Is it reliable and full of functions? Yes!
But where it really excels IMO is for professionally-built sites with serious traffic. If your site is built professionally, with lean code and everything made by pros that know what they’re doing… if your server is top-class and high performance…and you have many pages and serious traffic? LiteSpeed is your first answer. You can’t top the combination of server caching performance and optimization features that it has. Nobody else comes close. It is the real deal. LiteSpeed was built for (high traffic) enterprise use from day one!
All other cache plugins are for (consumer-grade) “bloat mitigation”
- Can other php-level cache plugins like Swift Performance and WP Rocket handle millions and millions of traffic? Absolutely!
- But can they do it as efficiently as LiteSpeed? No.
- Do they have the server-level features of LiteSpeed? No.
- And that’s fine because they were built for people imprisoned by bloated sites and poor webhosting plans. Their tactics have to be difference.
LiteSpeed Cache was originally built for their high performance servers. And LiteSpeed was built to help servers handle high traffic (improving efficiency.) Therefore, it has many admin-friendly and developer-friendly features in mind.
Swift and Rocket are from a different era. They aren’t from the server era. They come from the recent WordPress era of bloated sites with crappy-coded themes and too many plugins. They don’t optimize or integrate the site with the server. What they do is to speed up sites by mitigating their crappy code. Bloated CSS or JS? Slow Font Awesome or external calls? Laggy images? Cache this, disable that. Lots of focus on disabling things.
Even worse, these consumer-grade cache plugins help you decrease the impact of a slow site by trying to use more server resources! They use features like cache-prebuild or other things that use more server resources. It’s ingenious by the way, but goes against the core principle of harmonious server management. To speed something up by using more resources is an oxymoron!
Plugins made for cheapo consumers on shared servers tend to use more resources (how else can they speed up a slow server? haha). Plugins made for higher-level clients with their own servers tend to use fewer resources (preserving the resources they have). The latter is the most professional and sensible option. And it’s refreshing that LiteSpeed has not forgotten their roots among all the professional sites and discerning developers.
LiteSpeed’s QUIC.cloud is paving the future
There always comes a time in technology when new solutions solve problems by not even addressing them. LiteSpeed and their QUIC.cloud service is that moment in time. And it’s funny that I’m even as impressed as I am right now.
- They were among the first(?) to create an Apache-compatible high performance web server over 15 years ago.
- The first to create a native server caching plugin for WordPress nearly 5 years ago. (Meanwhile NGINX, with all its notoriety and fanfare has yet to create one.)
- And now LiteSpeed is once again the first to fly above and beyond the problem of server speed issues by caching through the cloud.
Where giant companies with their limitless pocketbooks have failed, LiteSpeed has once again reigned supreme in solving problems for everyone…small and big businesses, expert developers or total newbies. If you want the very best performance for your site, try to get yourself in the LiteSpeed ecosystem any way that you can.
See for yourself (it’s FREE):
- LiteSpeed Cache plugin
- LiteSpeed web server
- My LiteSpeed Cache guide (if you want to see the features)
NOTE: you can still use other cache plugins on LiteSpeed server, and likewise QUIC.cloud on non-LiteSpeed servers.