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The Best Commenting System for Your Website

I recently decided to do a fresh survey of the most popular commenting services out there so I could use it on my highest-volume blog. 

My “must haves” as far as commenting systems are concerned were:

  • Ability to do threaded comments (replying to comments)
  • Support for anonymous comments (not requiring sign-in)
  • Ability to easily subscribe to comments
  • Good spam filtering
  • Email notification to admin when someone comments
  • Comment form at the TOP of the comments rather than the bottom in order to make commenting easy without a lot of scrolling!
  • Free

For me, some “nice to haves” were:

  • Ability to upvote or like comments
  • Ability to embed photos
  • Truly anonymous commenting (no email required)
  • Third-party login (Facebook, etc.)

No one service had everything I was looking for, but many came close.  Here’s a rundown of the most popular commenting systems with my final pick at the end.

Disqus

Disqus is the most popular third-party commenting system.  You sign up on discuss.com, then add a snippet of code to your site and voila!  The comment form appears.  You can see an example of Disqus comments at by blog, DisableMyCable.com.

When I installed Disqus on my blog, it initially killed my comments!  I went from getting a few comments per day to none.  I discovered that by default, it was requiring login to comment, which is a sure-fire way to discourage commenting.  In the Disqus admin, I found a setting to allow anonymous commenting, and that solved the problem.

Pros

  • Familiar interface because it’s used on many sites
  • Nifty features like upvoting, downvoting, sign in with Facebook/Twitter/Google plus, threaded comments, sharing
  • Look is quite nice out of the box.
  • Comment form is at top of comments.
  • Ability to include photos in comments!
  • Ability to have “related article” thumbnails at the end of the comments to generate revenue (you have to be accepted into the program though).
  • Ability to easily import existing comments from, and sync with, WordPress.

Cons

  • Although you own the comments, the comments reside on Disqus’ servers, so you might have privacy issues.
  • For anonymous commenting, users have to check a box that says “I’d rather post as a guest”.  Email address is still required, so it’s not truly anonymous (this may be a “pro” or “con”).
  • Implemented with JavaScript, so users who don’t have JavaScript enabled (a small number) won’t see the comments. (However, if you use the WordPress plugin, the comments do render without JavaScript).
  • Loads after the rest of your site loads, so it can be slow to show up.

My Take

With all of these “cons” it might seem like I don’t like Disqus, but none are showstoppers.  Because it is the most popular third-party commenting system, I gave it a try and I now really like it! My commenting volume is up to what it was before, or even greater!

Spot.IM

There’s a new commenting service similar to Disqus called Spot.IM. The intent here is to add real-time features and more social engagement. You can see when someone comments in real time. You can also rate comments on a five-star scale. Interesting and worth a look.

Pros

  • Many of the same features of Disqus
  • Real-time updates
  • Comment ratings

My Take

I’m not using this on any of my sites yet, but that’s just because I started using Disqus first. This is worth a try if you are looking for a commenting solution.

IntenseDebate

IntenseDebate is owned by Auttomatic, the makers of WordPress, but you can implement IntenseDebate comments on any site, not just WordPress sites.  Check out this demo of IntenseDebate to see how it looks.

I have not tried IntenseDebate on any of my sites; I’ve just researched it.  It seems fine to me, with no showstopping problems, but the look is somewhat old-school.  It’s definitely not hip-looking as Disqus (in my personal opinion).

Pros

  • Can import your existing WordPress comments into it, for a seamless transition
  • Nice features such as upvoting, downvoting, threaded comments.
  • Simple interface.

Cons

  • Threaded comments are not shown by default.  You have to expand them (there might be a setting for this).
  • Subscribing is done through a pulldown (not as easy as a checkbox).
  • Can enable Facebook login, but requires a Facebook API key to set up. Might be too hard for beginners to set up.
  • Email address is required to comment.
  • Look is not that exciting.
  • Comment form is at bottom of comments.
  • Uses JavaScript to load, which can be slow.

My Take

This seems like a good service, but didn’t stand out enough for me to choose it.  It does offer import of existing WordPress comments, if that is important to you.

Facebook Comments

I experimented with Facebook comments on one of my blogs a few years ago and removed it after a few weeks.  The huge showstopper for me was that you couldn’t control the order that the comments were displayed in.  Facebook decided the order rather than displaying them chronologically, which was absolutely terrible.

Checking out the example on the Facebook comments plugin site, I see that Facebook has now fixed this.  Comments are in reverse chronological order.  However, I worry that they might revert back whenever they feel like, in true Facebook style. But for now, with this major problem fixed (after much screaming from web developers), Facebook comments might be worth considering.

Pros

  • No anonymous commenting.  This will reduce trolling and spamming, and you get to see exactly who is commenting (photo, name, and more)
  • Familiar user interface for those who use Facebook.

Cons

  • Only people with Facebook accounts can comment.  This will discourage or prevent many people from commenting!
  • Comments reside on Facebook servers.  It is questionable who “owns” the comments.  Facebook can mine your comments for data.

My Take

Now that they fixed the ordering, I am starting to see Facebook comments on more and more sites. But, the fact that only people on Facebook can comment is a huge disadvantage, with more and more people being concerned about Facebook due to privacy issues.

Also, I think it’s pretty safe to say that you will get fewer comments if you use Facebook comments compared to non-Facebook systems.  But, you’ll probably get fewer trolls and spammers too. Consider Facebook commenting if you really need tight integration with Facebook, if you really want to know more about who is commenting, or if you are having a big problem with trolls.

WordPress Native Comments

If you are running a WordPress site, you get a commenting system built in for free.  That’s what I use on this site.

Pros

  • Easy to set up (if you are running WordPress) because it’s built into WordPress
  • The comments are on your server, so there are no ownership or privacy issues of some other company seeing your comments.
  • Allows commenting with no sign-in
  • Allows sign-in with other services (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) if you use the Jetpack comment plugin
  • Allows commenters to subscribe to the comments and/or posts
  • Implemented with PHP instead of JavaScript, so it will work even with JavaScript disabled, and it loads immediately when the page loads.
  • Tons of plugins to add more features such as “likes”.

Cons

  • Only works on WordPress sites.
  • Commenting requires a full page-reload rather than using Ajax, resulting a slow user experience.

My Take

While not as fancy as some of the other commenting systems out there, WordPress comments are simple, easy to use, and offer almost any features you want through the use of plugins.  I use WordPress comments on all of my WordPress sites.

Epoch Native WordPress Comments

If you like the advantages of WordPress native comments but don’t like some of the cumbersome and klunky aspects of native WordPress comments, check out the Epoch plugin. It offers AJAX updates (no page re-load necessary when submitting comments), as well as front-end comment moderation.  The intent is to blur the line between commenting and chat with real-time updates.

Pros

  • Uses WordPress native comments (i.e., comments are in your WordPress database)
  • AJAX updates without full page load
  • Front-end moderation

Cons

  • Only works with WordPress sites

My Take 

If you have a WordPress site, this is worth trying out.

HTML Comment Box

This is an old-school, no-frills, commenting system that looks a bit home-brew.  But, I used it for years on my high-volume site with no problem, so I need to give it a shout-out.  I only recently switched to Disqus just to keep up with the times.  But only HTML Comment Box offers truly anonymous comments with no email address required, which can be really useful in some cases.

Pros

  • Simple and easy to use.
  • Loads quickly with page (does not use AJAX).
  • Allows truly anonymous commenting without even email address! (If you set it that way)
  • Comment form at top if you want.
  • Good spam protection (I never had a problem).
  • Can download your comments to spreadsheet at any time.

Cons

  • Has threaded comments, but they don’t appear threaded. The just show up chronologically so it’s hard to see who is responding to whom.  This is far behind the competition.
  • Old look and features.
  • No social media integration.
  • Commenting requires a page refresh, so it’s a bit slow in use.

My Take

If you need truly anonymous commenting, this is one of the few services that allows users to comment without entering an email address.  However, it’s kind of out of date in other respects.

Final Conclusions

For most of my WordPress sites, I use the native WordPress commenting system.  While it might not be the most cutting edge, it’s already there and it’s easy for my readers to use.  It offers the features I need and more with plugins, and integrates with the existing WordPress admin.  Finally, I own the comments and they are on my server.

For my higher-volume sites, my top choice is Disqus!  It has increased my commenting volume and I’ve qualified for their advertising service so I’m earning income from it as well.

What commenting system do you use on your website? (Note, this site uses native WordPress comments). – Brian

58 thoughts on “The Best Commenting System for Your Website

  1. Really great article Brian. Two questions for you: 1) Where does coding your own comments system sit in all this? 2. Do the Disqus ads make money for you or Disqus?

    1. Hi Bill,

      Coding your own is fine if there is some functionality that none of the existing commenting services offer. But, there are so many services that I think most people can find one that meets their needs.

      Disqus related stories can make money if you enable them. But, this is a feature that has to be also enabled by Disqus. Not everyone has it. Your site needs a lot of visitors for Disqus to enable it.

      The income you get from Disqus related stories is low. I get a few dollars a day on one of my blogs that has it, with around 6-10K page views per day.

      Thanks,
      Brian

  2. Awesome post. It is very informative and it is really interesting to increase our conversation rate.Many thanks.It will help a lot.Keep writing. Thank you once more
    Take Care

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