50 Billion Little Pieces

Akismet passed another milestone: we caught our 50 billionth piece of spam yesterday. TechCrunch has the details:

In April, Akismet blocked 1.8 billion spam messages, or 60 million pieces of spam per day, 2.5 million per hour, or 700 per second.

Whoa, that’s a lot of spam.

Akismet, those with long memories will recall, was the first product Automattic ever launched, arriving on October 25th, 2005 – a month before WordPress.com. WordPress sites now attract over 600 million unique visitors each month, according to Quantcast, and WordPress powers 1 in 2 blogs today (including yours truly). 50,000 to 100,000 new blogs launch on WordPress daily, giving spammers a seemingly never-ending network to target.

Of course Akismet runs on many more platforms than just WordPress, and is the standard anti-spam tool used by many of the most popular forum and CMS applications. Those 700 spams per second include not just comments, but forum and blog posts, pingbacks, trackbacks, tweets and more. (Ironically it doesn’t include the FaceBook comments you’ll see on that TechCrunch post; Facebook has its own proprietary anti-spam system).

About 92% of all the items checked by Akismet are spam. That varies considerably depending on the content type: less than half of the forum posts we check are spam, but more than 99.5% of all trackbacks are spam.

Akismet WordPress plugin 2.5.6

Version 2.5.6 of the Akismet plugin for WordPress is now available. This is a maintenance release that includes several bugfixes and improvements to performance and robustness:

  • Prevent retry scheduling problems on sites where wp_cron is misbehaving
  • Preload mshot previews
  • Modernize the widget code
  • Fix a bug where comments were not held for moderation during an error condition
  • Improve the UX and display when comments are temporarily held due to an error
  • Make the Check For Spam button force a retry when comments are held due to an error
  • Handle errors caused by an invalid key
  • Don’t retry comments that are too old
  • Improve error messages when verifying an API key

To upgrade, visit the Plugins tab of your wp-admin dashboard and follow the instructions. This version of the Akismet plugin requires WordPress 3.0 or higher. If you haven’t already upgraded an old copy of WordPress, now is a good time: the new plugin release will provide significantly more accurate results than the legacy plugin available for WordPress 2.x.

If you haven’t yet activated Akismet, you can sign up for an API key here. Personal blogs and sites can choose how much to pay, starting at $0.

Akismet WordPress plugin 2.5.4

Version 2.5.4 of the Akismet plugin for WordPress has been released. This is a maintenance release with minor fixes and improvements:

* Less Javascript and CSS is loaded in wp-admin
* Added link previews and a link removal button to comment moderation pages
* The Akismet configuration and stats pages are now under the Jetpack menu when Jetpack is installed.
* Old Akismet comment metadata is removed to save space

Read the changelog for full details.

Like all 2.5+ releases, this plugin requires WordPress 3.0 or higher. To upgrade, visit the Plugins tab of your wp-admin dashboard and follow the instructions.

Partial API outages

There were two separate problems affecting availability of the Akismet API today.

The first was a network configuration problem that caused some servers to be unresponsive. Some users may have noticed problems during a 15 minute window starting around 12.30pm PST.

The second was caused by some spurious code that was inadvertently deployed to our production servers. The majority of API calls resulted in an invalid response for a 30 minute period starting around 11.00pm PST.

We apologize for the inconvenience. We’re investigating both incidents closely and putting new measures in place to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

Akismet Partner Program: Help Reduce Spam and Get Rewarded

Every month, over nine million websites use Akismet to stop spam.

The vast majority of those nine million sites are personal sites that get to use Akismet for free. But for the rest, we ask companies and people that make significant income from their sites to pay for Akismet. Many of these company sites and blogs are built by third-party developers or designers.

We want to help developers to encourage their customers to reduce spam. So we’re launching a Partner Program that rewards developers when their clients sign up for an Akismet subscription.

The Partner Program is currently by application only:  if you’re interested you’ll find more information and an application form at akismet.com/partners.

Vikings, Viagra, and Versace: A Brief History of Spam

The biggest gathering of WordPress users and developers takes place each year at WordCamp San Francisco. At this year’s three-day event, I gave a short presentation on the history of spam. Here’s the video:

Smile… :-)

Earlier this year we decided to add an option for individuals to be able to contribute to the running costs of Akismet. We believe that it’s really important that personal bloggers continue to have access to Akismet for free. But, for those that really value Akismet’s spam filtering, we wanted to provide a way to pay something.

So we added a ‘pay what you want’ option to free accounts on the signup page. While the overwhelming majority of people still choose a free account, we’ve seen a good number of people opt to pay, too.

We decided that the easiest way for users to pay something would be to use a slider. From day one this had a smiley face to the right of it. When you move the slider, the smiley changes based on how much you choose to pay. While we’ve tested a lot of things related to our pricing, we’d never tested the effect of the smiley face by itself, until now…

Of those users that chose to pay, here’s how the payments break down:

With smiley

$6 – 20%
$12 – 13%
$18 – 4%
$24 – 33%
$30 – 7%
$36 – 19%
$40 – 2%
$48 – 2%

Without smiley

$6 – 25%
$12 – 33%
$18 – 10%
$30 – 5%
$36 – 27%

Can you spot the huge difference between the two?

It turns out, the $24 mark is the last smiling face position before switching to a slight frown ($18).

Looks like a simple frowning face can get people to double their payment from $12 to $24. We found this data super interesting, what do you think?

Brief Downtime

On August 8th at 21:53 UTC our API was unavailable due to an incorrect code change for approximately 6 minutes. Our automated systems alerted us to the downtime, at which point we immediately fixed the issue.

Our apologies for the downtime, no one likes to see spam slip through, especially us. We are taking another look at our automated systems to see what can be done to tighten the loop, with some additional measures to specifically prevent this type of error.

This is a good time to mention that the latest version of the Akismet plugin for WordPress has a built in re-check mechanism. If for some reason your WordPress site is unable to reach akismet.com it will automatically schedule the comment to be checked a few minutes later. You can update using the built in plugin updater in WordPress, or download the Akismet WordPress plugin directly for the plugin repository.