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Akismet

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.