Commercial Akismet

Blog Herald asks about WP plugging a commercial project, namely Akismet. One of the lessons I learned from Ping-O-Matic is that web services like this can grow far beyond what you anticipated, need a lot of attention, and can be expensive to maintain. (Akismet has to be really fast otherwise it bugs people and delays commenting.) You also have a social contract with all of your users to continue to provide a service they’ve all come to rely on. When Akismet first got started, I wasn’t at all worried about the technology — I was using it myself and it worked great. I spent most of my brain cycles planning out how the service could be economically independent and self-sustaining in the future, so it could thrive and provide a great service to the public without relying on charity. I had to balance this with my desire to just give everything away (as I usually do).

I’m happy with where it eventually ended up. The Pro-Blogger limit was set very high and the vast majority (over 99.9%) of people use Akismet at no cost whatsoever. I’m able to justify devoting my time to the service while still putting bread on the table and the larger blogger community can stop dealing with disgusting spam on their blogs. The technology has scaled incredibly well and even before the Yahoo deal Akismet had a bright future. Also the API and the plugin itself is completely open so people could clone the API or modify the plugin if they wanted. The service just hit its first major milestone, has been embraced by the development community, and I’m confident now that it will continue as a public service. I think it’s also providing something pretty valuable, as evidenced by the people who have been buying Pro-blogger licenses just to support it, not because they fall under the commercial terms.

16 thoughts on “Commercial Akismet

  1. I think there’s no problem with you charging for commercial licences Matt.

    A service like Akismet needs to keep ticking over somehow.

    Planning any trips to Australia soon?

  2. Hats off to Matt for the fast reaction time, and clarifying what has happened and why. Many a blogger – nay – many a company should take a close look and learn how to deal with “issues” before they even grow to be a real issue.
    And last but not least, thanks for the info.

  3. Hat tip to ya for Akismet. Will definitely have to try it on my non-commercial WP-based sites soon here.

    … and yeah, I wouldn’t feel bad at all about it having a commercial component. Without that, it would very easily fall victim to the tragedy of the Internet/blog commons.

    One question: we have a network of 24+ “commercial” WP blogs at NinerNiner.com. Taken as a whole, they are definitely considered commercial (more than $500 / mo. revenue, but not profit). Individually, each blog probably makes much less than your average medium-traffic blogger who would qualify for free Akismet.

    Any suggestions?

  4. does Akismet has anything against non-english comments? because as it happens, all comments on my wordpress.com blog are tagged as spam by akismet & I’ve to unmark them everytime. I’ve read from people using Akismet that they’ve almost 100% success rate, so the only reason I can think of is that the language of my blog & comments is not english, its Hindi, so maybe that’s why Akismet is marking all comments as spam, even of those whose earlier comments have been approved!! Is that so Matt?

  5. David, I have no control over how other companies choose to conduct themselves under the laws of other countries, nor am I in the position to influence any of that. You can make arguments like that against almost every major company to some extent.

  6. No problem – provided you can live with yourself working with a company that helps oppress journalists in China.

    I’d say this much that the law of the land must be followed when you are living/working in there. Whether its right or wrong in some other country, it doesn’t matter!!

  7. I appreciate that neither you, Matt, nor Akismet as a whole, can make Yahoo change its practises, but it could have refused to have anything to do with such a company. The same principle gives the reason why I will not use Akismet any more – Akismet is now giving special privileges to Yahoo (a whole-site deal instead of the $5/blog non-Yahoo bloggers can expect) therefore this encourages Yahoo to continue its current abuses. Since I won’t have anything to do with Yahoo, by extension I won’t have anything to do with Akismet which gives special favours to Yahoo. And as for ‘the law of the land must be followed when you are living/working there’, this in my opinion makes it WORSE because Yahoo is choosing to put profit over basic human rights. And ‘the law of the land’ is overruled by international human rights law anyway (just ask Saddam Hussein).

  8. Should I also block people with @yahoo.com address from signing up for WP.com or WP.org? Should I block downloads from Yahoo addresses?

    I recall MSN doing something similar, should I block everyone using a Microsoft operating system, even knowing those actions would be just as futile as you and I agree anything I do with Yahoo would be?

    I don’t see where your line of reasoning stops.

    At the end of the day, there’s nothing I could do to affect Yahoo (or Microsoft) and any knee-jerk and futile reactions I make in retalition would hurt thousands of people who had nothing to do with what happened.

  9. MSN censored an online blog. That might not be particularly ethical but at least they’re not helping the Chinese regime to put people in jail. My problem isn’t that WordPress is working with Yahoo either – even if you didn’t want them to they could use WordPress anyway under the terms of the GPL. My problem is that Akismet is giving Yahoo users special treatment (free access to the commercial-grade Akismet instead of the $5/month the rest of us are expected to pay) which is little more than an endorsement of Yahoo’s human rights abuses.

  10. >And ‘the law of the land’ is overruled by international human rights law anyway (just ask Saddam Hussein).>
    yeah, just like the way some states in the US have death penalty despite the international human rights organisations opposing it, right? :roll:

  11. It isn’t about international human rights organisations, it is about international human rights LAW. I do not recall anything in international human rights LAW specifically forbidding the death penalty, whereas there are numerous provisions explicitly guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression.

  12. Actually, if you want to get into that:

    The execution of those with mental illness or “the insane” is clearly prohibited by international law – The US still does that regularly and recently (schizophrenia, delusional, and other conditions).

    Equally the death penalty is against the International Human Rights Standards, but not the law. If you are going to get up in arms about it, then you may as well put the case properly.

  13. OK, I know that the European Convention on Human Rights does not apply outside Europe (hence the name) but it is the most readily available online so I’ll quote from it.

    ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers’ (art. 10 European Convention on Human Rights) [Yahoo is violating human rights law]

    ‘Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.’
    (art. 2 European Convention on Human Rights) [the death penalty does not violate human rights law]

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