Is Akismet Still Free?

The short answer is yes, it’s still free for personal use. However, over the past few weeks, it seems as though many people believe that the free use of Akismet has disappeared and it’s now only a paid service. So in order to understand where this line of thought is coming from, I decided to erase my Akismet key and start the process over as if it were just installed. When my API key was cleared, I clicked on the Get Your Key link from within the Akismet configuration editor. This redirects to http://akismet.com/wordpress/ where on that page, I can read information concerning how cool it will be to use Akismet. One of the first things that are pointed out is that it’s free for personal use while being a bargain for businesses with the following quote afterward:

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

This is where things get dicey. On the Akismet key signup page, I get to see three specific plans for the service. One for $5.00 a month, $50.00 a month and $100 per month. Below the three plans is the personal site option.

personal site license for akismet

After clicking the personal site option, you’ll need to fill in your details such as a First name, last name, etc. What’s interesting is on this page, there is a slider that asks, What Is Akismet Worth To You? By default, it’s set to $3.00 per month equaling $36.00 per year. The slider can be set to $0.00 as well but then you’ll have to contend with the fact that you made the emoticon show a sad face. By the way, this is a nice touch as I can see some people willing to create a custom price point to match how they feel about Akismet on their site.

akismet is sad

After going through the checkout process, the API key was sent to me via email and I was able to use Akismet for free thanks to the personal plan.

Akismet Personal Plan

Conclusion:

I’m happy to report that Akismet can still be used for free but it’s meant for personal sites. One of the biggest changes from a few years ago is that to get access to Akismet, you needed to sign up to WordPress.com, obtain an API key from them, place that API key within Akismet and enjoy the benefits of the service. Now, you must go through a checkout process while choosing a specific plan before you get access to an API key. While Akismet has always been Software as a Service while charging large sites money for anti spam protection, the recent changes have transformed the site and the service into more of a revenue stream for Automattic by opening up lower price points for individuals.

It’s not as if the free or personal option is hidden away on some unknown page within the sitemap which has me confused on why so many people are convinced that you must pay $5.00 to use the service. If anyone else can suggest to me why this line of thought has taken place, I’m interested in reading it in the comments.

32 Comments


  1. @Ipstenu – Well, that kind of makes sense. If you have ads on your site and you click that plan, it’s 5 bucks with no way around that. So perhaps all the people that are saying Akismet is a paid service only are the ones with ads on their site that can’t run it for free. (They can run it for free but maybe that would be morally wrong)

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  2. People tend to scan rather than read so they think they see something that isn’t there.

    I wonder why they didn’t set up the opportunity for a one-time donation as well? I also wonder if the future will bring “annual renewals” for Akismet and everyone will have to go through the whats-it-worth hoop?

    It’s a great plugin, and worth something to me, but I don’t want to do make monthly payments. Makes me feel like a slave to the corporate overlords. :)

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  3. This seems very reasonable to me, its a great service and we should support them to keep it operational.

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  4. @Craig – Yeah, I have to say … ‘makes me money through ads’ seems a weird choice of words.

    Makes a PROFIT and makes MONEY are hugely different. I’ll let’cha know when I break even ;)

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  5. @Ipstenu – I’d agree with that sentiment. I have ads on my site, and I get money from them, but I’d hesitate to say that my site “makes money”. I do earn a little more than my hosting costs, but not by any significant margin.

    That said, I don’t have any problems with them tweaking the signup process to encourage more people to thinking about what the service is worth to them. I’m sure that the Akismet service uses more resources than most people realize.

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  6. Great breakdown of the new Akismet sign up process. In my experience Akismet has been a lifesaver and made managing comments on your blog a million tines easier than it would be if you had to sift through all the comments Akismet so adeptly weeds out. Totally worth a couple bucks a month if you can afford it. If not, just continue to enjoy it for free.

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  7. Personally, I think it’s crap.

    It’s overly aggressive, and clearly intended to lead users away from the legitimate, free option:

    1) The BIG, BLUE SIGN-UP BUTTONS for the paid options, contrasted with the tiny, normal-text sign-up link for the free option.
    2) Defaulting the ostensibly free option to a “donation” amount
    3) The guilt-trip associated with a frown emoticon presented if the user – who has every right to do so – moves the slider to a $0 donation.

    No other non-Automattic Plugin developer would be allowed to host a Plugin in the Repository if it did anything remotely like this. Akismet is bundled with core – an egregious issue that should be rectified by the release of WordPress 3.2.

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  8. I think this increases the threshold for people to use Akismet (even if it’s still free for personal sites) and Akismet plays such an important role in helping to keep the entire WordPress ecosystem healthy, I’d rather see Automattic monitise other products/services. If this leads to less installations of Akismet it’s probably not to the benefit of WordPress or Automattic.
    Not to mention the double standard apparent in the plugin repository policy. Like Chris said, there’s no way other plugins could get away with a similar protocol.

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  9. I absolutely agree with Chip on this!
    I also struggled to figure out how to get the free option at first, and had to actually read the text (heaven forbid)
    Seeing that it is part of the core of a FREE piece of software, it should be totally free and enabled by default. The first time it launches it should get a free akismet key from their server. No setting up required!
    If they want to go this route, then it should be removed from core IMMEDIATELY!

    just my opinion, but I am now actively looking for good alternatives for future clients.

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  10. You didn’t get the facts right. You can use akismet for free, as long as your site doesn’t produce more than 10.000 pageviews a month and you use no ad- or affiliate-program on your page.

    Everbody else has to pay, so it’s not a matter of “Do you make money with your blog”. As soon as you site get’s popular (You can get 10000 pageviews quit easily), you have to pay.

    Beside the costs, Akismet has major privacy issues. Comments are sent together with the IP and mail adress to a outbound us-based service, which analyses and stores the transmited data. In Germany you could be sued because of these privacy violations.

    With AntispamBee or NoSpamFX there are WordPress plugins which stopp spam comments without the need to pay and without a privacy concers. My blog get’s about 120.000 pageviews a month, i would have to pay $100 a MONTH! I would be happy if the site would make me a hundred bugs a month out of ads…

    On my blog http://linuxundich.de there is no comment moderation, valid comments get posted to the blog as soon the writer hits send. To get rid of comment spam I use AntispamBee. During the last months I had to delete only one or two spam comments which where able to circumvent AntispamBee (Some people post spam to forums and blogs as their day job…). About 1000 spam comments get blocked each month.

    I think that I’ve got even less work with AntispamBee, than with Akismet. Akismet marked Ham as Spam quite often, so that I was not able to purge spam comments automatically. Each day I had to check 50-100 possible spam comments for false positives. With AntispamBee i don’t have to do this anymore.

    To put it short: Akismet violates the privacy of your commenters, could cost you a lot of money and is not the best technical solution. Get rid of it and use AntispamBee or NoSpamNX!

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  11. @Craig – I’m making money but it’s nothing to get excited about. It helps pay for hosting and such and as of yet, I’m not going to be paying monthly for Akismet despite how great of a service it is.

    @James Poling – I’ll have to continue to enjoy it for free until pressured to do otherwise :)

    @Chip Bennett – I get what your saying with your first point but if you’re trying to monetize a service, is this not the route you would go? Out of the gate, you know people will want to use the free version over all others and that option is still there, along with the other plans, it’s just not as big and important as the first three plans. I’d be pretty upset though if the free plan was hidden or off on some other page.

    Agreed with point 2. The amount should have been 0 for default.

    As for point three, I understand where you’re coming from and I bet the guilt trip has convinced at least one person to up the anty just to see a smilier face. Personally, I think it would have been cool to see the donation slider as a separate plan where people could select their price point, minus the smily face. I have reason to believe and perhaps I’m wrong but Akismet saves so much time for so many people and does such a good job at thwarting spam that I bet many people would take advantage of that plan. It might even be the most popular one. Even if it were 3 dollars per month, from a business perspective, that would be better than Free.

    @Peter Knight – I think the only time you’ll see a decline in Akismet installations is when the plugin is not bundled with the core of WordPress or the service has a meltdown and the algorithm gets screwed up.

    @Brad Vincent – There is definitely an argument to be made that if first time users have to go through such a process that perhaps not bundling it with core is a good idea. Alas, I think Akismet will be unbundled either in 3.2 or sometime in the future, perhaps after it may be added to the Jetpack plugin bundle.

    @Christoph – Well, this site gets 50-60 thousand pageviews a month and I’m not paying a dime. As for privacy concerns, I’m out of the loop but as far as I know, no jurisdiction from Germany has taken Automattic to court over it and the service has been around for a few years now. In fact, I’ve never heard of an individual blogger being taken to court because of their use of Akismet on their site. I’d think someone out there would have sued already if it was really that big of a problem.

    I won’t argue that there are other anti spam measures available to everyone to use but Akismet has been rock solid for me and in fact, since 2009 when this site was launched, Akismet has a %99.35 accuracy rating. Over the course of two years, only 28 false positives leaving me with more time to get things done instead of moderating.

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  12. @Jeffro, you CAN use Akismet for free, I don’t argue with that. Even with a “big” site, but should you? The price tag akismet puts on it’s service is pretty clear, you’ve got to pay. They don’t charge you if you add ads to your site or produce more pageviews… yet… Let’s create a “what if” scenario!

    What if Akismet comes to you tomorrow or in a couple of weeks and says, “Hello, we’re checking our accounts and we see that you’re using the service since x months and it looks that your blog doesn’t fall in the free category”. You produce more 25k pageviews, you use ads… This makes x times $50 bucks. Will you pay ~1200 dollars, or whatever amount you settle? I don’t want to take this risk and I think it’s naive to hope that Automattic will never ever get the idea to check if all the free accounts are entitled to use the service for free.

    About the privacy concerns: In Germany we a nice legal tool called Abmahnung (There’s no English word for this, even the English wikipedia calls it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abmahnung) In short: A contender may send you a letter via his attorney to stop violating the law. If you comply and cease the violation, you have to pay his attorney costs, if you don’t, you can end up at court. Many people pay… This “abmahn-business” is so successful, that some attorneys make a living out of it.

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  13. You can use akismet for free, as long as your site doesn’t produce more than 10.000 pageviews a month and you use no ad- or affiliate-program on your page.

    @Christoph – I’ve been using Akismet since I started using WordPress. When I started, I maybe averaged 50 pageviews a month. Obviously I was far under the radar. Now I’m averaging about 2,000, but still not in the clear by any means. I also recently added Google Adwords to my site … and I’ve made an average of $0.005 per month in ad revenue.

    Does having Google Adwords mean I must start paying $5/month for the service? It’s confusing to me, since it is a personal site with relatively low traffic. If I were actually making money, real money, from my advertising I’d have no problem paying for the service. But when you start adding the costs of premium themes to web hosting to domain name registration to this new-ish charge for Akismet, it becomes a bit ridiculous.

    I also have to wonder about WordPress multi-site. I am in the process of splitting my one blog into several topical blogs on a single network. Does having multiple sites where I used to have one magically bump me into the “professional” category? It’s the same content, just divided over subdomains rather than category pages … but if you click the “I need Akismet for multiple sites” option, it suddenly becomes a paid service.

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  14. @Eric – Heh, if you go multi-site, you better get some better performing ads.

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  15. @Eric, when you look at the price list, you have to pay as soon as you add ads or affiliate links to your page, no matter how few visitors you get. As far as I know the costs are also not new. On a blog (don’t remember where) I found a comment by an automattic employee that they didn’t change the fee since the beginning of akismet. The only difference is the new account assistant which makes it pretty clear that you might have to pay for the service when you register your account.

    My advise, there is really no need for Akismet. If your not if you have to pay, or you’r afraid you might have to pay for Akismet in the future, don’t use the plugin. I and many other bloggers dumped Akismet, without getting flooded by spam. Try AntispamBee or NoSpamNX. Out of my own experience I can recommend both. Right now I’m using AntispamBee. It’s under active development by a german wordpress dev, it’s free for everybody, doesn’t transmit personal data and blocks malicious behaviour so that most spam bots can’t deliver their payload in the first place.

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  16. This has been some great information here. I had been considering what I was going to do about akisment since I had been seeing a fair bit of talk lately about whether or not it is still free. Seems to me it was once very easy to get I got mine originally a couple years back from my WordPress.com account and don’t recall ever being asked all those questions.

    Nonetheless I do think I will be switching over to Antispambee especially after seeing some of its great features like the honypot api and the ability to block country iso’s looks like it will be great going to run it for a while and see what happens.

    @Jeffro thanks for the great post.

    John Overall
    http://www.JohnOverall.com

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  17. I have to jump in the ‘this is a load of crap’ camp. My site has Google Ads and I’ve made about $20 in like five years and now I’m supposed to pay $60 a year for Akismet? I’ll be dumping it to try the Bee thing people seem to like in the comments.

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  18. I can’t understand why this has suddenly become an issue. Akismet has always been a commercial service, they’ve just adjusted the point at which you need to start paying, that’s all.

    The simple solution would be to just remove it from core. It’s still an excellent plugin. The only problem I see is that it’s pimping a commercial service in the core software, which has always felt a little odd, but that’s not a recent change, it’s been like that ever since it was integrated into core many years ago.

    I noticed the TOS has been adjusted a while ago, and have slowly been taking Akismet off my sites one by one. I’ve actually seen a reduction in span since doing that, as the new tools I implemented were more effective at blocking spam than Akismet ever was.

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  19. the new tools I implemented were more effective at blocking spam than Akismet ever was

    Please share.

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  20. @Ryan – Because of the visual changes that have occurred and the process of actually getting a key to get Akismet to work people are beginning to think that Akismet is a paid service only and has ditched the free option. That’s why I decided to write this post to figure out if the service was still free, which it is, for a select few.

    As mentioned by someone else, I think they are selecting the option that states that you have a few ads on the site and are making money meaning you have to pay $5.00 a month to Akismet. This amount is the one I see mentioned all the time when referencing that Akismet is no longer free.

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  21. No other non-Automattic Plugin developer would be allowed to host a Plugin in the Repository if it did anything remotely like this.

    This.

    Obviously Automattic have a duty to their investors to maximise their revenue streams, and making the free/donationware option hard to find is fairly standard practice, but the non-free nature of Akismet severely weakens the case for not allowing other commercial plugins (or themes, for that matter) to be hosted on wordpress.org.

    Also, since Automattic consider $30 adequate compensation for losing a year’s ad income on an average wordpress.com blog, asking for twice that amount to use Akismet on an average ad-hosting wordpress.org blog seems… disproportionate, shall we say?

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  22. I have used Askimet since its inception, and frankly it is not holding up to par. I have had some of my pro blogger colleagues convince me on the Growmap GASP plugin that Andy Bailey helped put together (same creator of CommentLuv) and they have had next to nil on spam.

    Do not get me wrong, Askimet can be a lifesaver at times (as it has blocked over 200,000 spam on my own old site), but I think if Askimet is going to set a price… set it- do not let it be up to the user and perhaps have a moderation queue for people applying for the free account. It might be work, but it would certainly allow them to inform people whether they need to pay or not. As some of the people above have mentioned, it is important that Askimet draw out the guidelines on what constitutes as free.

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  23. I like many others have used Akismet since converting to WordPress many years ago. I’ve been extraordinarily underwhelmed lately by the number of false positives it’s turning up. Because of that, on some of my more trafficked sites I’ve needed to add extra layers of protection to cut down the levels of spam. Right now for the first time I’ve had to look at getting a new Akismet API when I discovered it’s now a paid plugin. Thanks to all the comments here (particularly Christoph – thanks!) I’m going to start moving away from Akismet to Antispam Bee. I’m so glad I found this post.

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  24. I think it’s really not about paying for the services we need. It’s more about how long it’s going to take to actually get something up and running. Can one use the product for personal and then change and pay, once you start getting it going? One would have to have a good and organized action plan to follow and make the changes, once things got published….

    I still don’t know how long its going to be until I get published, so…. just wondering. At this moment I feel over whelmed and its not the first time! I do know I’m a lot closer…
    Thanks

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  25. I’ve been trying other options to Akismet for a few months. I haven’t found one which I really like yet, including Akismet itself.

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  26. Since Akismet’s spam database is an aggregate of information created, and ongoingly contributed to, by the WordPress community, I see a problem with Akismet becoming a pay service. As Akismet works best when all WordPress sites use it, as sites quit using it Akismet will potentially become less valuable and reliable.

    It is interesting to me that the new description of how Akismet works no longer mentions the reputation based nature of Akismet’s spam ID functionality and the WP community input. I wish Matt and Automattic would rethink their effort to Akismet a pay service.

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  27. Sorry I don’t get what all the whining is about. If Akismet is of real value to you, $5/month is nothing. If you can’t pay, the free version is still available. You need to find what works best for you, if Akismet is not it and you prefer an alternative then go for it.

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