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TypePad AntiSpam, A New Open Source Comment Spam Fighter

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Blogging infrastructure company Six Apart is launching a new free open source product this morning into beta called TypePad AntiSpam. While the product is new, the technology behind it has been used by Six Apart since May 2007 on millions of hosted TypePad blogs. Now they are offering it as a web service for other blogging platforms, too.

TypePad AntiSpam is clearly aimed at Akismet, a similar spam fighting tool offered by arch-rival Automattic. Like Akismet, TypePad AntiSpam takes a multi-headed heuristic approach to detecting and blocking comment spam on blogs. But TypePad’s product is free – Akismet charges $5/month for commercial blogs making more than $500/month in revenue, and has performance limitations on the free version.

TypePad AntiSpam is also open source, and anyone can download the source code and create their own spam tool based on it. Akismet isn’t open source, although they have an API that allows developers to, among other things, develop additional integration tools for blogging platforms.

We are long time users of Akismet on the TechCrunch blogs, and I’ve included it in my last two yearly lists of products I can’t live without (2007, 2008) along with WordPress, Automattic’s blogging software. Akismet blocks over 15,000 spam comments per day on TechCrunch.

But last week we switched to TypePad AntiSpam as a test, crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. After a week I’m pleased to say that as good as Akismet is, the TypePad product has performed as good or better for us.

The product classifies comments as “ham” (good), “spam” (bad) or unknown (moderation). So far I’ve seen no good comments hit the spam folder (false positives), something that happens regularly with Akismet. Only a handful of spam comments made it to the site (false negatives). It seems like the rate of false negatives is lower than Akismet, but the team reviews the site for these regularly and so it’s impossible to compare them statistically, I’m just making a guestimate.

Twice now a large group of spam comments hit the moderation queue, but Six Apart says it was their system thinking we were under a denial of service attack from the sheer flow of spam attempts and triggering everything to moderation. They’ve now adjusted for that, and we haven’t seen it again.

TypePad AntiSpam is available now via plugins for WordPress and Movable Type. Akismet has a much longer list of supported platforms – Six Apart says they will add more over time and, like Akismet, will rely on the developer community to pitch in as well.

If you are a blogger and don’t use a service to manage spam, you’ll want to use Akismet or TypePad AntiSpam. I recommend either. For now, we’ll stick with TypePad, and continue to report on how its doing.

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