Taking a stand against spam

Today we are making some changes to prevent Wikispaces from being used by spammers. In short, users who are not “verified” will not be allowed to make wikis publicly viewable. We are making it as simple as possible for users to be verified, so this won’t impact most legitimate users, but we are taking a hard line against spam.

Spam is an insidious problem. Spammers take advantage of services like wikis and web hosts to scam people. And they do so at massive scale. Wiki spam is a particular form of spam where wiki hosts are abused by spammers posting huge numbers of spam pages. These pages can be used to drive people to dangerous websites and entire economies have built up of scam artists convincing people that wiki spam is a way to get rich quick.

We have been fighting the spammers who have been taking advantage of Wikispaces for years and we have decided that we cannot in good conscience allow Wikispaces to continue to be used for these purposes. Fortunately there is a relatively straightforward solution. We will no longer allow content to be publicly viewable on Wikispaces unless the user making the content public is “verified.”

Verifying Accounts

So what does this mean for you?

  • If you are a Wikispaces Private Label customer, you won’t see any difference. These changes only affects wikis on Wikispaces.com.
  • If you don’t want or need any of your wikis to be publicly viewable, then you don’t need your account to be verified.
  • If you already have a publicly viewable wiki, or you plan to make one in the future, you may already be verified. Visit your publicly viewable wiki. If you do not see a warning at the top of the page your account is already verified.
  • If your account is not verified and you would like to have publicly viewable wikis, you’ll see a prompt when you try to make a wiki Public asking you to verify your account. This will require you to pay $1. The $1 is one-time only and covers your user account and all the wikis you create. It’s the easiest and most effective way for us to identify you as not being a spammer.

If you have any questions or concerns about that you can always contact us.

Existing Wikis

Right now, all publicly viewable wikis that were created by accounts that are not verified will display a banner to the organizers indicating that the creator’s account needs to be verified. At some point in the near future we will switch all of those wikis over to be Private.

Plan Changes

Basic Plan

Our Basic Plan now allows a wiki to be Private. But a Private Basic wiki can only have a maximum of 5 members or organizers. This does not affect education users, since they can upgrade to Plus for free. Other users who want a private wiki have a choice between a private Basic wiki with up to 5 members, or paying for a Plus wiki for $50 per year. And remember, to make a Basic wiki publicly viewable, your account needs to be verified.

Plus Plan

Our Plus Plan allows a wiki to be publicly viewable or private and has no limitations on the number of members it can have. We give away our Plus service for free for any wiki used exclusively for education, K-12 or Higher Ed. Non-education users can pay $50 a year for a Plus wiki.

Our pricing page is a good place to get an overview of these changes and our plans.

Doing all of this will stop spammers from using Wikispaces to hurt people. And that’s something we take very seriously. We appreciate your support as we make this change.

As always let us know if you have any questions or comments.

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34 Comments

  1. smcerm
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    So, the already verified users don’t need to take any special action?

  2. Posted July 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    @smcerm That’s correct. If you’re verified, you’re all set!

  3. smcerm
    Posted July 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    All right, thanks.

  4. Heath
    Posted July 11, 2012 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    What if our group has more than 5 members already? Will members be booted or what will happen?

  5. Posted July 12, 2012 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    Hi,
    So, as an education wiki user, do our wikis need verification? The “needs verification” banner is appearing on our wikis, however the message above seems to indicate we do not need verification.
    Thanks,
    Turtle

  6. viviana
    Posted July 12, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Hola! Estoy en Uruguay, tengo un wiki de uso educativo, pero por lo que entiendo debo verificarlo. Como hago el procedimiento oara pagar $1? En que moneda son los $? Muchas gracias.

  7. Shakelia Johnson
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I do agree that SPAM is an ongoing problem. I am happy to see that there a plans available to protect Wikis and create such privacy barriers.

  8. Debbie
    Posted July 15, 2012 at 3:58 am | Permalink

    Must I pay with Google Wallet? I would prefer not to set up yet another payment option account. Can I pay with Paypal or BPay or Payanyone Direct deposit?

  9. davidzo
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    This looked alot like scam to me. Very disturbing.
    To send 1 dollar to an unknown adress seems a little easy to me. What about people who don’t want to disclose their bank or paypal account?
    I wont do it and when they close down my wiki i will move it elsewhere.

    This is not how you should treat your faithful customers. When taking actions against people who break the rules, take care not to punish the honest ones too.
    This drove a lot of Software businesses in the wrong direction – and into decline of market share. Think about it.

  10. Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Debbie, at the moment we only support Google Wallet. Drop us an email at help@wikispaces.com and we’ll be happy to help further.

  11. Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Hi Turtle — send us a quick email to help@wikispaces.com and we’ll be happy to help.

  12. Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Heath — the five member limit only applies to private wikis. You’ll need to subscribe to Plus or Super to add more members.

  13. Posted July 16, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Hi David. The spam problem we’re attacking is large and complex — we’re stopping a massive volume of unethical and sometimes illegal content from getting on the web. We tried hard to find a solution that would have the smallest possible impact on the millions of users who use our free services. Google Payments was the best option we had for verification. We’d be happy to talk more about your concerns. Email us at help@wikispaces.com.

  14. Gabriela
    Posted July 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Hola: Las wikis las uso con fines educativos. Quiero saber dónde las puedo actualizar gratis.
    Gracias.

  15. mh
    Posted July 21, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    I agree. I have nearly 200,000 teacher visits my wiki every year. It is a public service that I do. I don’t make a dime off of it and give of my time freely. I can’t believe that you think we’re stupid enough to believe that this isn’t a money-making effort.
    I won’t set up a new google account and send money for this. There are plenty of other ways to verify accounts, everyone else does it. If you’re going to charge people, at least have the guts to admit it and don’t hide behind a fake story. If the payment was the only way to verify, then it wouldn’t matter whether the wiki was public or private. The “millions of users” each paying a small amount is the real reason you’re doing this.
    I’ll let my wiki die and spend more time with my family before I’ll go through all of the work to make this payment.

    mh

  16. Posted July 22, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    @mh – I’m sorry you feel this way. As a founder of Wikispaces and someone has spent nearly every day for the last seven years working to better this site and serve our users — paid or not — I can assure you we did not take this step lightly and absolutely did not take this step to make money. I understand you feel hurt by our choice. Please understand that it hurts me to be accused of being a liar or someone who would take advantage of the millions of educators and students we’ve supported largely for free over the years.

    A few notes:

    1. We will be introducing a free way to verify accounts for some users. It’s likely this will work for you.

    2. We pre-verified many tens of thousands of accounts. Unfortunately this didn’t catch your account. If we were out for profit, we would not have done this.

    3. The spammers we are targeting are waging outright war on Wikispaces. They create thousands or even tens of thousands of accounts *a day*. Some use automated services to do so. Some use low-cost human labor to do so. Many are just regular people who are caught up in a vicious scam that tries to convince people they can make a buck by creating pages on our service. In aggregate they make *millions of pages a month*. Some of this content is mundane web spam, some is clearly illegal, and some is the worst stuff you can imagine as a human being. We can not let it continue. We’ve tried everything to stop them. This is our last resort.

    4. A good portion of the one dollar goes away in transaction fees. It’s the minimum amount we thought we could sensibly charge.

    I understand your concern that this is about profit. It’s not. Email me at help@wikispaces.com and I’d be happy to send you my personal phone number. You can call me right now at my home on a Sunday and I will be happy to tell you in more detail why we had to do this.

  17. Posted July 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    since neither I or the wiki’s creator posses a “google wallet” we can only pay via paypal.
    does this means that our wiki will be shutdown , or will you make it possible to pay via paypal ?

  18. Miss.Andrea Borman
    Posted July 22, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I agree with mh. I will not be paying any money either and I have now closed my Wikispaces account in disgust over this.

  19. Steve
    Posted July 23, 2012 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    Give me a break mh – a freakin dollar for a great service? James has paid his dues – so what if he makes a buck off of those who value it? How long would you work for free taking crap from tightwads who want everything for nothing?

  20. MD
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 3:49 am | Permalink

    I, regrettably, have to agree with the sentiments raised by MH – xwiki or wikidot look like viable alternatives for the future. :-(

  21. Posted July 24, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    This is asking for verification. I am an plus educational member and the information indicates that as such I am automatically verified yet I have to Pay a dollar? I dont understand

  22. Posted July 24, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Hi Cindy — drop us an email at help@wikispaces.com.

  23. Posted July 24, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    @MD Sorry to hear that.

  24. Posted July 24, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    @bombarie1958: We don’t plan to support PayPal at this time. Send us a quick email to help@wikispaces.com and we’ll see what we can do.

  25. Jenny123
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    MD-but how to you know that XWiki or Wikidot won’t do the same thing as Wikispaces. Maybe we should just stick with Google Sites,at least that’s free.

  26. Posted July 24, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    We’ll have a free verification option for many users shortly. Keep an eye on our blog.

  27. Posted July 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Hi James,

    I believe my account is an educational account and thus does not need verification. However the educational wiki that I created for a group project is not viewable by the public. Can this be fixed? Thanks!

  28. Enrique
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Hello James: I agree the spam is a big problem, and I really understand you, but for me it´s a troubble how to pay 1 U$S, not for the money, but I don´t like to put my credit card number… is it there another way from Argentina? Thank you.

  29. Laurence Cuffe
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    Hi James, I appreciate the vast amount of effort which must be involved. I don’t currently have a Google wallet, and from what I can see don’t think I would qualify to get one. One dollar seems reasonable, and I could make such a payment via Paypal. I currently run five educational Wiki’s on your site, although I have only asked for one to be moved to the plus plan. I’m looking forward to you rolling out some form of verification which would work for me.

  30. Damián
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    Como hacemos para realizar el pago. Donde? Cuándo?

  31. VPatterson
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I have 4 wikis right now. One for new teachers in our district in the BTAP program, one for my school special ed team, one for the Mod/Severe Sped Teachers in our district, and one for the mentor team in our district. These are the greatest tools and I don’t understand how people can complain about something they have been using for free. One dollar. Really? I’d have paid more without a second thought. Thank you for this tool. I greatly appreciate it!

  32. kthulhu
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I personally think that a dollar is not much but from a business stand point if you do start charing for verification your “faithful” customers will leave for a website that does the same thing for less. My solution is to first off advertise the free verification as much as the dollar one giving people a chance to decide maybe even an choose able account you can choose to pay or you can choose not to giving the customer the Power of choice, the only time that you HAVE to pay is when you have to upgrade your account because you get so much more than what you would get other wise. In conclusion, my solutions are to have
    -Advertise the “free” payment option
    -An choose-able payment option
    -Advertise in an announcement style on ALL THE WIKISPACES just like the verification announcement, but also on your blog providing the option to ask questions.

    Thank you
    best wishes, a friend.

  33. Miss.Andrea Borman.
    Posted July 28, 2012 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    So now you tell us that you are going to have a free verification option to verify our accounts James?
    Well I closed my account last week because of the new system,that you have to verify by paying a donation. Now you tell us you have changed your mind about this? Why did you not do this before I and other users had got so upset we closed our accounts? Andrea Borman.

  34. Posted July 28, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    We’ll post on this blog when other verification options are available. They won’t work for everyone, but we’ll continue to make our best effort to make verification as easy and comprehensive as possible. This means we’ll be adding and changing verification options as time goes on, just as we’re constantly refining the rest of Wikispaces. Please direct any further questions or comments to help@wikispaces.com and we’ll be happy to help.

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