I never had problem with paying for services or products (after all, I run commercial plugins and themes business myself), and I planned to upgrade my Akismet license since they introduced the strict payment plan. But, than I discovered that I don’t really need Akismet at all.

Akismet

I have used Akismet for all my WordPress websites for almost 4 years now, and I am very satisfied with the way it handles comments spam. Also, it was a very convenient plugin to use, since it was always bundled with WordPress, it used same access API key across multiple websites and it was free. Well, there was a paid license for a log time targeted at companies that have very large volume of comments to check. But personal website owners and small businesses didn’t had to worry about that. Akismet was free to use. And that is no longer the case, you have to pay to use it.

How Akismet works?

Considering how many users Akismet has, to my surprise most of them are unaware about the Akismet inner works. Each comment Akismet has to check is sent to the Akismet servers to check if the message is spam or not. But, Akismet sends much more than just the comment. Each Akismet request weights about 3Kb (or more, if the comment is long) and contains: comment, comment user IP, user agent, referrer, post permalink, blog URL, blog name, blog language, user role and the contents of the $_SERVER system array. This last one is very interesting considering that it can contain all sorts of information about your server, but I can’t see in Akismet terms of use or privacy policy why that data is needed in the first place. There is a vague mention of this, but I fail to see why they need that information in the first place to check the comment?

If you run personal (non commercial) website, you can use Akismet for free, or even than you can pay if you want. Also, it is not very clear, but other people think that if you have ads on your website and you get money from them, you are not running personal website and in that case you also need to pay. In my case, I had to pay only for Dev4Press website, and $60/year is not much for any business. But, in the end, money is not the only thing to consider.

Privacy concerns

I have explained how Akismet works to some clients, I always got the question about the legality of the operation. After all, each comment is sent to a third-party server, and it includes information about the comment author (email, website, IP). Do you need to update terms of conditions of your websites to include this: we will send all comments to a third-party company that will or will not keep it for undisclosed period of time and can do anything they want with it? Because that is really the case: data is sent to Akismet servers and you have no control over it anymore. In this day and age where privacy of users is of great concern, this kind of thing can be considered very, very dangerous.

If not Akismet, what?

But, what to do about spam if you don’t use Akismet? I decided to try to find if there is any worthy alternative that is not using third-party servers and is effective in fighting spam. There are many solutions available for WordPress to fight comments spam, and some of them can even work with Akismet to improve detection, but the goal was to not use Akismet at all.

So, I tested many plugins and services, and one of them, that I ended up using is Antispam Bee. It’s not using third-party server (it can use Project Honey Pot and IPInfoDB, but it is not required), and it relies on HTML/CSS to make the process work! It has few methods to detect spam, and it is very, very effective, much more than I hoped it would be. I dare to say that in my case is even more effective than Akismet! On average I have 600-700 spam comments each day. And every few days I got one or two spam comments sneak past the Akismet as valid. And Antispam Bee, still detects and eliminated same number of spam comments each day, but as of yet, I have to see a spam comment mistaken for valid.

No Akismet, first impressions

Each day, Akismet made about 800-1000 calls to Akismet servers to check comments, that is about one call every 4 seconds. And this is not much, and I hardly can notice something like that. But, it is good to know that by disabling Akismet, my server gained a bit of processing power and bandwidth back. And I don’t need to worry about sending data to third-party servers I can’t control.

I am still new to using Antispam Bee, and I plan to write a detailed report on its performance and review it in about 3 months based on 5 websites I own with different level of number of spam. So far, I don’t miss Akismet. It might happen that I revert back to Akismet at one point, but it is good to know that there is an alternative that is as effective as Akismet and uses much less of the server resources while keeping the whole process very transparent and clean.

Should you do the same?

I can only recommend that you try out the alternatives and decide for yourself what is best solution for you. I think that different anti spam solutions will have different results depending on the website, so it might not be the same as it is for me. Akismet is really great service that helped WordPress to become what it is today, and aggregated spam data it uses is beyond any other solution available. But, other solutions have emerged to compete with Akismet and based on the individual needs, they can be better, considering that you might need to pay for Akismet now.

In the last year, there were many discussions on different websites about Akismet, and I would like to point to one of them here, because there are some great comments included:

Is Akismet Still Free on WPTavern.com

Tell me what you think about Akismet and its alternatives, and if the switching to current payment system was a good move by Automattic or not.


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17 Responses to “Do you really need Akismet?”

  1. Alison Griffiths | November 16, 2011 at 21:08

    I started using Akismet when I first converted to WordPress but realised there were alternatives and changed to AntiSpamBee. I manage 70+ sites (not all WP) and need a system in place that is not labour intensive. I have found AntiSpamBee very accurate, more so than Akismet. Having Akismet bundled with WP does give the impression that it is the ‘official’ plugin. I think the commercial pricing model is flawed (from the users point of view) but if you think in terms of the traffic on their servers I guess it makes sense. Thanks for the heads up on the privacy issues – that was a surprise!

    • MillaN | November 17, 2011 at 00:43

      Thanks for the comment. Antispam Bee is excellent solution, and I hope to write full reviews and test results before the end of this year to gather as much data as I can.

  2. Steven Gliebe | November 21, 2011 at 16:28

    Thanks for this. I tried AntiSpam Bee for two weeks on a low traffic commercial site and found it to be sufficient. Just canceled my Akismet subscription. No point in paying for what is not needed.

    • MillaN | November 21, 2011 at 16:31

      I am using Bee for almost a month now, and I don’t miss Akismet at all. I started switching all my websites to Antispam Bee.

  3. Happy Hotelier | November 24, 2011 at 16:48

    Ah this is thinking out of the box.

    Recently started using bad behaviour, hoping it would weed out some spam…but that it doesn’t seem to do.

    For me I’m still curious how WordPress can allow usually computer generated spam at all. Apart from the unwise use of chaptas there must be a clever thingy to prevent automated spam comment generating scripts at all….

    Or is this wishful thinking?

    • MillaN | November 24, 2011 at 16:58

      Thank you for the comment. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I don’t like invasive methods like captcha, but silent system like Anitspam Bee is a big step forward. I would prefer it bundled with WP more than Akismet.

  4. Michael Atkins | November 25, 2011 at 17:31

    I’ve deactivated akismet on my own site. I have been trying out antispam bee for about a month so far and it seems to be doing its job flawlessly. I’ll probably use it as part of my standard plugin bundle for new sites.

    • MillaN | November 26, 2011 at 01:11

      Thanks for the comment. I can’t notice any difference in spam detection after removing Akismet, so far Antispam Bee is great.

  5. Jonathan Haley | December 6, 2011 at 16:56

    I’m also going to give Antispam Bee a try based on your review here.

    Two questions: First, are you also using bbPress Atispam which is describe as “bbPress Antispam for bbPress 2.0 is inspired on Antispam Bee and working similar.” Second, Do you have any thoughts on “AntiVirus for WordPress” by the same developer?

    • MillaN | December 6, 2011 at 17:05

      I am testing locally bbPress Antispam plugin for now. If all goes OK (and it is for now) I will start using it on Dev4Press soon. As for the AntiVirus, I find that my GD Press Tools Pro with its many Security features is protection enough for the website. But, with any sort of exploit, it is good to have some extra options to protect website.

  6. Invest It Wisely | December 21, 2011 at 17:22

    I have had a lot of problems with Akismet, including being blacklisted for unknown reasons even though I can still comment on a bunch of sites that were kind enough to unspam me.

    I recommend alternatives such as GASP, which uses a checkbox to do filtering. It’s surprisingly effective!

  7. marie, the EpicureanPiranha | February 1, 2012 at 23:39

    Thanks for the detailed information on Askimet and for telling us about Antispam Bee, N. I agree with Alison Griffiths, it’s useful to be aware of the privacy issues when using Askimet.

    Best,

    marie

  8. name | February 4, 2012 at 07:05

    I’m totally new to WP web development and am having tones of fun with my first page. Thanks for posting on a good alternative to fee based Akismet.

  9. Mike | February 12, 2012 at 14:25

    I was using Akismet because it was pre-installed on my first website i projected with WP, never thought of how it works. Due to your aticle, i deactived Akismet to try AntiSpamBee. It needs just about 0.36 MByte of Ram. (can see the amount of needed ram using the “WP-Memory-Usage” Plugin from Alex Rabe). Going through the configuration of Antispam Bee i saw the option that you can put countries to a blacklist.
    And this opened my eyes to a problem i had in these days. Due to living most time in the americas i am now in southamerica and my comment in another blog has been rejected as spam…now i know why…so i have the option to install a free proxy that resides e.g. in the U.S. And i said to me: if i could do this, the spammer also has this option…

  10. Spam Protection | February 19, 2012 at 13:34

    In addition to I use Akismet anti-spam Bee WordPress Plugin, a really good Plugi to fend off spam can be successful.

  11. MoT | February 20, 2012 at 20:34

    Anything that keeps my information MINE is appreciated. Whenever you’re outsourcing things of this nature it’s amazing how arcane or simply non-existent the terms of use are. Not much different than getting a loan from your local bank. I recently purchased a house and suddenly, “shazam….” in no time at all I was receiving physical mail to my address from countless companies offering me services. One can only wonder who let the cat out of the bag. Did I appreciate it? Hell no! So now I have to go the extra mile and contact my lender and get them to take me off their “send” list. Such is the world we live in. And I have little desire to let Automatic get a peek inside my affairs no matter how benign they think they’re being.

  12. Bet Crooks | September 12, 2012 at 15:28

    Thank you for suggesting a viable alternative to Akismet. I’m just starting to set up a blog within my website, and I was trying to decide how to protect it from content spam. Given that it costs quite a bit to legally use Akismet for a site with no visitors (!), I was checking out whether there is something more affordable. Finding out there are also privacy issues (you said above: “contents of the $_SERVER system array” etc.) makes me even more nervous. I’m having enough trouble writing a disclaimer about privacy without figuring out how to word all that.

    I’ll check back to see if you review AntiSpam Bee again later. Many thanks!

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