For many years Akismet has been the built-in anti-spam solution for WordPress. The plugin is — besides Matt Mullenweg’s Hello Dolly — the only one bundled together with every WordPress install. But is it really the best solution to fight against spam? Let me introduce you to Antispam Bee, a powerful alternative to Akismet.
Ever since the invention of email there have been spam messages. It’s estimated that around 99% of all emails nowadays are spam. And ever since the invention of blog comments there has been comment spam. To prevent these types of comments, Matt Mullenweg and his team at Automattic launched Akismet (“Automattic Kismet”) in 2005.
The Most Successful Plugin Ever
The service filters link spam from blog comments by combining information about spam captured on all participating blogs, and then using those spam rules to block future spam.
To date, Akismet has kept 200 billion pieces of spam off the web, that’s an average of about 7.5 million per hour.
Because Akismet comes pre-installed with WordPress and the service is free for personal blogs, there is a huge user base behind the service. No wonder the plugin has been downloaded over 25 million times. And with every new blog they get better at what they’re doing.
I wouldn’t be writing this post if there weren’t some bad things about Akismet as well.
First and foremost, there’s almost an obligation to use Akismet. Being bundled with WordPress means that new users don’t even look for another anti-spam solution. Perhaps most don’t even know that there are alternatives out there. Also, the tight integration with Jetpack forces you into Automattic’s huge ecosystem.
Second, there are many privacy concerns about Akismet. Each comment that is written on your blog gets sent to some third-party servers to check against spam. You have no control about what data is being sent and you can’t disable that because the service obviously wouldn’t work without it.
In Germany it is even forbidden by law to send the commenter’s data (including his IP address) over sea without letting them know.
Here Comes The Bee
Antispam Bee is one of the biggest Akismet competitors in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory, with almost 1 million downloads so far. In my opinion it’s also the most powerful alternative as the freely available plugin uses many different techniques to identify spam messages. For example:
- Marking BB Code as spam
- Usage of local and external spam databases
- Block comments written in other languages
- Ignore trackbacks/pingbacks
- Block visitors from specific countries
- Logging spammers for usage with Fail2Ban
- Mixing some comment form input fields to trick out bots
The plugin author, Sergej Müller, is German, and because of the strict privacy laws he knows how important this topic is. That’s why the plugin doesn’t store anything on other servers and calling external spam databases can be disabled in the options.
One drawback of Antispam Bee — and the reason why it hasn’t even more downloads — is that its documentation is available in German only and support is limited. This may sound crazy, but if Müller would translate it he wouldn’t have time to handle all support requests. After all it’s a free plugin maintained by a single person. Don’t worry though, the plugin option descriptions are properly written in English. And if you like the plugin, you should consider donating a cup of coffee to the author.
While Akismet is a really powerful plugin that detects around 99.9% of spam comments, there are multiple reasons against using it at all.
If you want to use a solution that doesn’t save your visitor’s data on some foreign servers, Antispam Bee is your plugin of choice. It is free, robust and very reliable.