Akismet – Automattic Kismet
First off, the plugin has been renamed to Automattic Kismet, or Akismet for short.
Second, it now requires a WordPress.com API key, which you can find on your WordPress.com Profile page. (Click My Dashboard, then Profile.) If you don’t have a WordPress.com account, you won’t be able to use Akismet at this time, until you somehow finagle yourself an account. The fastest way is probably to use Flock. You don’t actually have to blog at WordPress.com to use Akismet, you just need the account to get the API key. You can use the API key at more than one blog, too.
Matt plans to have Akismet free for personal use, and charge “pro” bloggers $5 per month for the service. He’s defined pro bloggers as anyone making over $500 per month from their blogs. He also has a program set up for large enterprise installations, though I only know of one customer for that right now. However, anyone who participated in testing Akismet prior to today will be grandfathered in and have a free enterprise account forever.
Akismet is surprisingly effective at stopping spam. After having built a sufficiently large corpus of spam to draw from, it’s killing about 99.9% of incoming spam, and has a false positive rate less than 0.1%. However, when the central service goes down, all comments go into the moderation queue. The service has had some downtime, and on the sites where I’ve been testing Akismet, I’ve had to watch the moderation queue fairly closely. Matt says he’s working on new more reliable hosting for the service.
So where does Akismet fit into the overall spam prevention picture?
Akismet has a great advantage over most anti-spam solutions: by seeing incoming spam from all over the Internet, it can identify new spam very quickly, perhaps as soon as seconds after a spam run begins, once it’s in wider usage. It also is better in spam management, having to sort through hundreds of spams to find a legitimate one that might have been blocked by mistake. It presents spam in a compact format that makes it pretty easy to scan through and spot legitimate comments.
However, Akismet has a couple of drawbacks which are common to most anti-spam solutions for WordPress, and a couple of unique drawbacks of its own. The obvious ones are that it’s a for-pay solution for many people who might want to use it. It uses a central server which is subject to downtime. Though Matt hasn’t said much about the secret sauce, it definitely analyzes the content of incoming posts. And finally, it does nothing to keep the spammers from using up your bandwidth and database space.
For most people running a personal WordPress blog, Akismet is the ideal second line of defense. It will entirely replace plugins such as wp-hashcash, Spam Karma 2, AuthImage, etc. In fact, it makes most other anti-spam plugins entirely redundant.
The one anti-spam plugin which Akismet will not make redundant is Bad Behavior. There are several reasons for this. Bad Behavior is a first line of defense, stopping spammers before they can read your site at all, waste your bandwidth, or drop junk in your database. This is especially important for self-hosted sites, or sites hosted on dedicated or virtual dedicated servers, where CPU time and bandwidth are precious. Like most other anti-spam plugins, Akismet does not and cannot conserve its users’ bandwidth, CPU and disk usage from a spam attack. Bad Behavior does, meaning it will continue to be an integral part of most people’s anti-spam arsenals.
You may not think this is important, especially if you have never received a large amount of spam at once. But the day is coming when you will, and having that first line of defense can mean the difference between your site staying up, and your Web host shutting off your site. Spammers can easily hit you so hard as to create denial-of-service conditions, and Bad Behavior has been proven to mitigate this effect. In fact, it’s even stood up to the Slashdot effect without blinking.
I should disclaim at this point. I am involved in the development of Akismet, having rewritten a significant amount of the code from the time it was known as ASS, and integrating CJD’s Spam Nuker into the plugin. I continue to remain involved with Akismet as long as there’s work to do on it (and there are a couple of bugs I need to fix).
As I said yesterday, however, I remain committed to the development of Bad Behavior. It is still sorely needed as a first line of defense for WordPress, not to mention all of the other platforms on which it now runs.
What the future holds? Nobody can say for sure, but I predict that for WordPress users wanting to remain spam-free, the combination of Akismet with Bad Behavior will prove to be a double whammy to blog spammers. For everyone else, Bad Behavior remains the first line of defense, and Matt has said that Akismet could be ported to other platforms as well. Someone else, I think, will have to take up that challenge. My hands are full already.
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