To Fight Spam With Akismet Or With An Alternative?

Akismet is one of the most popular anti-spam measures for WordPress in particular and many other CMSes/platforms in general. The Akismet plugin is bundled with the official WordPress install by default, and it is one of the most reliable solutions when it comes to fighting spam.

A Bit of History

Akismet, or Automattic Kismet, fights spam from blog comments, trackbacks and pingbacks. It works by framing algorithms on the basis of captured spam from different blogs and websites. Launched by Automattic on October 25, 2005, Akismet currently powers millions of websites and blogs in different languages and running across multiple platforms, apart from WordPress itself. Basically, Akismet is a hosted service, and you gain access to it via plugins and/or API keys. In simplest terms, once you have activated the Akismet API key and/or the plugin on your website, it cross-checks all user-submitted comments, trackbacks and pings with its servers and then decides whether or not a comment is spam.

Why Should You Use Akismet? 

The benefits of using Akismet are many, starting with the simplest one: it stops spam! No one likes spam, and spammers are now coming up with unique methods every now and then. Not only does spam degrade the quality of your website and lower its page rank in search engines, it also ruins your efforts by driving readers away from your website. Seriously, would you bother bookmarking a website that links to a spam blog?

Akismet is one of the most well-known and efficient ways to combat spam. You just install and activate it, and then concentrate on your blog, not spam. Akismet takes care of everything else. Since it is used on a number of blogs and websites worldwide, Akismet’s servers have a plethora of data and methods that help in curbing spam comments. You do not need to keep moderating comments – you can use that time to do more important things!

Apart from blocking spam, Akismet’s filtering mechanism can also keep a check on comments that bare little or no resemblance to the actual post – a feature that has, so far, been mastered only by Akismet (few other anti-spam software come with this option, but its ‘intelligent’ implementation has been really accomplished only by Akismet). Lastly, Akismet blocks over 50,000,000 (and counting) spam comments per day.

Why Shouldn’t You?

Over the past few months, there have been speculations as to whether Akismet is free anymore or not. Akismet has indeed revised its payment plans, and this has led to speculations regarding its ‘free’ usage. As far as the new payment policy is concerned, here is what Akismet says on this page:

“We’re not trying to make a killing, but we still need to pay our bills.”

Seems logical enough to me, everyone needs to make a living after all! However, this does not mean that Akismet in itself is no longer free. On the Akismet Signup Page, there are three specific plans: $5 a month, $50 a month and $100 a month. If you look right below the above three plans, you’ll find the ‘Personal Site’ option – which is basically a ‘pay what you want’ option. During a checkout process, there is a slider asking you: What is Akismet worth to you? If you set it down to $0, you will complete the checkout for free and the API key will be mailed to you. Of course, you can’t use the API key on unlimited websites.

The 'Donations' Slider on Akismet Signup Page

The 'Donations' Slider on Akismet Signup Page

Free, really?

Therefore, as we can see, Akismet is still free for personal usage. So, what’s the noise about? Well, for a start, the ‘free’ option has been disguised as a ‘donation’ option, wherein if you opt for zero payments, you’ll have to look at an unhappy emoticon. Secondly, since Akismet is itself bundled with the WP core software, it should, ideally, be free and without an API key requirement. No other plugin will make it to the official WP repository if it forces its users to sign-up for an API and/or drag a slider for payments. Also, while this hasn’t yet been proven, chances are that you can’t opt for the free option if your site gets over 10,000 views and/or you “make money” from it. So if you have a website that gets a decent amount of traffic and some money via occasional advertisements, you cannot get Akismet for free.

Mode of Operation – Privacy Issues

Before going any further, let us take a look at how Akismet works. Akismet sends each comment to its servers in order to check whether or not it is spam. In general, each request weighs roughly 3Kb (or more, depending on the size of the comment) and contains data such as the comment itself, the commenter’s IP, user agent, post/page permalink, referrer, blog URL/name/language and data contained in $_SERVER System Array. The last one contains different sort of data about your server.

Now, what this means is that it sends such data to a third-party server (Akismet’s own) to check for spam. From your users’ privacy’s point of view, you can imagine the rest of the picture yourself!

In such a case, before you purchase a license, you might consider asking yourself: do you really need Akismet?

Alternatives to Akismet

If not Akismet, then what? Well, to be honest, there aren’t many well-known solutions that employ third-party servers to combat spam, and this is the prime reason why Akismet is so popular. There are several solutions that can be used along with Akismet, though.


One of the most popular alternatives to Akismet is Mollom — an anti-spam tool favored by the likes of Warner Bros. Records and Adobe! Mollom fights spam as well as fake users and is available for multiple platforms, including Joomla!, Drupal and of course, WordPress. Just like Akismet, Mollom too offers both paid and free versions.




But if you are looking for a worthy alternative to Akismet, you should consider AntiSpamBee. By default, it relies on HTML/CSS to work, and though it can be configured to use Project Honey Pot and IPInfoDB, it is not required. In my experience, AntiSpamBee proved to be very effective in fighting spam. While using Akismet, there used to be one or two spam messages that were being passed as valid. AntiSpamBee managed to block them all.

AntiSpamBee for WordPress

AntiSpamBee for WordPress


Along similar lines, you may also consider using WPAntiVirus.

AntiVirus for WordPress

AntiVirus for WordPress


Another plugin worth a look is Defensio, which is similar to Akismet in its functionality (including Privacy Concerns, by the way). It is free with a limit of 25,000 monthly calls to their servers.

Defensio for WordPress

Defensio for WordPress

To Sum It Up

Whether or not to use Akismet depends on what your needs and requirements are. Akismet is a wonderful service that has established itself as the ‘de-facto’ standard when it comes to fighting spam. However, if your budget does not permit using it, feel free to consider the alternatives. And if you use any of the alternative solutions, do let us know in the comments!

Sufyan bin Uzayr

Sufyan bin Uzayr writes for various magazine and blogs, and is the author of several books. He blogs about technology, Linux and open source, mobile, web design and development, typography, and Content Management Systems at Code Carbon. You can learn more about him, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.

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  1. Davin Gall says

    I have 2 blogs and suffered from loads of spam comments, I have never used Akismet and hate Captchas. I was reading a random blog and came across ‘WP Captcha Free’. I’m not sure how this plugin works but u simply install it and tick a box.. job done. Since installing it I haven’t have any problems with spam comments so far and I love the fact its so easy to set up and use.

  2. David Y says

    I stopped using Askiment awhile back due to a odd increase in the number of spam that was coming through in my comments. I’ve found G.A.S.P in combination with a simple button that users click to verify that they are human to be quite an effective solution so far.

  3. Roy says

    The lines between personal and commercial blogs may be blurred but imho if you have any ads or affiliate links that makes it a commercial blog and you should stop using Akismet for free… Antispam Bee is an excellent (genuinely free) alternative and many people report it does at least as good a job as Akismet, if not better.
    I would second the use of GASP to block spambots up front rather than filter them later – seems 100% effective on automated spam and simple to install/use. Personally I would also disable pingbacks/trackbacks unless you really need them – the vast majority nowadays seem to be spam.

  4. Rod says

    Well personally I’m still using Akismet since it’s free. As soon as it stops being free, I’ll stop using it.
    You wrote that we can’t use same API key for multiple sites? Well currently I’m using one for like 6-7 sites, and works perfectly so far.

  5. Clad says

    All of my comments are spam only. Akismet is doing well but how to get rid of spam comments with out installing any plugin because my website performance is too low so i want to reduce my plugins. Please advice me…

  6. Larry James says

    I love Akismet, but I do not use it because it is not free. Like most of your readers I am a web designer, so my blog is not a personal blog, so Akismet is not free for web designer. Instead I use a free anti spam plugin called “Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin” it is a free plugin by Andy Bailey which forces the user to tick a box stating they are a human. This works because automated commenting software such cannot do this.

  7. Mike says

    I have many blogs and all have akismet installed to avoid spam but if they will start to charge money I will have to just close comments for many of my sites where 99.9% of comments ar spam and are detected by akismet, so there are almost no legit comments.

    But I have to agree that everyone needs to making living of their business but thing I don’t like is that it was free for so many years and it doesn’t feel fair to start charging money.