That’s it. I’ve had it with the W3TC plugin. See why I won’t use it again and advise you don’t either.
Was Best in Class
No free caching plugin holds a candle to the configuration options in W3TC.
Those options helped high traffic sites tweak caching performance to perfection.
In fact, high traffic sites without those options actually incur more caching and server load and perform worse than if they had no caching plugin at all.
W3TC was even a top 3 winner in my head-to-head caching plugin test.
W3TC is Still in Beta
The plugin has been around for years and has over 1 million installs.
Yet the developer, Frederick Townes, has never seen fit to make it any more than a Beta release.
(Plugins below a 1.0 version are considered to still be in Beta.)
I guess keeping it free and in Beta is how he excuses updating it when he feels like it instead of when the plugin, and its users actually need it.
It’s Just Not Stable
Last year, W3TC experienced serious stability issues.
For a while, it seemed like every new release had bugs, and the releases to fix those created even more bugs.
It was so bad that many site owners were scared to update.
I recall posts in one of my advanced dev groups, in which Frederick is also a member, being up in arms about the debilitating nature of the plugin and how radically slow Frederick was in addressing it.
The Community Dives In To Help
The W3TC plugin is built on open source code, which means anyone can fork it and create their own version of it.
And that’s exactly what several members of the dev community did.
They basically made a fully supported clone of it that was stable.
In fact, I turned to that version on GitHub to bridge caching on my sites until Frederick got around to fixing the original.
Piled High With New Features
Not only did Frederick fix W3TC, he threw the kitchen sink at it with new features, including some sweet HTTPS settings.
But, according to best coding practices, that’s not what you’re supposed to do in a minor version release.
You know, like with WordPress. Going from version 4.6 to 4.7 is a major release. Going up to 4.7.1 is a minor release.
But, it’s the only choice Frederick has in his version numbering scheme to avoid going up to an official 1.0 version that is no longer considered Beta.
Diving Back In
But, the plugin did stabilize after that big update.
And the new features, including some great settings for HTTPS, were just too good to ignore.
So, I gave it another run.
I wasted a whole day going through all of the settings and writing new video tutorial scripts for the Webmaster Training courses.
Before I could even start recording them, there was an update to the plugin the next day that brought many sites to their knees.
Time To Call It Quits
That was the end of it for me.
As good as the plugin is for high traffic sites, it’s just not stable enough for me to use or recommend it any longer.
What I Recommend Now
I’ve updated my head-to-head caching plugin test post to reflect that folks can’t trust W3TC to remain stable.
But the other top two winners in that test are doing fine still.
For low to medium traffic sites, below 5,000 hits a day, I recommend WP Fastest Cache.
See a quick tutorial on the settings I recommend.
For high traffic sites, I recommend WP Rocket.
It’s a premium plugin with super duper support.
You’ll find recommended settings in Level 4 of the Webmaster Training courses.
Need Performance Help?
There are three types of caching that can help your site run super fast.
- Server-side caching
- Local caching plugin
- CDN, like CloudFlare
What works best for you depends on:
- Your traffic
- Hosting server type
- Content types
I help my site audit clients find and fix all the performance drags on their site.
That includes properly coordinating all of their caching options to perfection.