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.
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?
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.
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.