A while ago, I had to do a 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!
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.)
Only ONE commenting platform met all of my requirements! Here’s a rundown of the most popular commenting systems with my top pick first!
WordPress-Only Commenting Plugins
If you are running a WordPress site, you get a commenting system built-in for free. That’s what I use on this site. Frankly, as time has gone on, I’ve returned to native WP commenting on several of my personal sites, especially with the increased privacy concerns of GDPR.
However, WordPress comments alone have some pretty big deficiencies. Happily, many of these are fixable using plugins.
Native WordPress Comments
- 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
- Tons of plugins to add more features such as “likes” or embedding images.
- Commenters are not informed when someone replies to their comment!
- Commenting requires a page reload rather than using Ajax, resulting in a slow and clunky user experience when commenting.
- Comments are paged so that when you happen to be at a page boundary, only one comment shows up even though you might have many more.
- Depending on your theme, appearance can be dated compared to modern commenting services
wpDiscuz – MY PICK!
It’s got a sleazy-sounding name that makes it sound like a bad ripoff of Disqus (see below), but wpDiscuz is actually an awesome commenting platform that pretty much fixes all of the deficiences of native WordPress commenting! As the name implies, this commenting plugin has a “Disqus-like” feel but uses the native WordPress database. I really like that because it means my comment data is on my server, not Disqus’ or anyone else’s!
wpDiscuz is very customizable and has tons of options. Some features I particularly like include the ability to upload images in comments, AJAX comment submission (so the whole page doesn’t refresh), and anonymous commenting.
If you’re looking for a sleek modern commenting platform for your WordPress site but hate the problems that Disquz brings (see below), check out wpDiscuz. I use it on all of my blogs, including this one. Oh, and I forgot to mention that it’s totally FREE!
- Uses the WordPress database but has Disqus-like features like AJAX loading (doesn’t require page refresh after submitting comments)
- Allows anonymous commenting
- Allows customizing of comment form (for example, removing the “website” field)
- Allows lazy-loading of comments, or “Read More” after set number of comments! (Just disable paging in WP admin Settings -> Discussion). This is a great fix for a fundamental deficiency in native WordPress comment paging!
- Allows image uploading!
- The built-in spam filter works better than Akismet or any other spam filter I’ve tried!
- Has voting
- Has subscription (actually, many types of subscriptions!)
- Allows social sign-in
- Has so many settings (which is good) it might take some time to learn how to set everything up to your liking.
The Jetpack plugin offers some nice modifications to the default WordPress native commenting system like social login and AJAX submissions. A separate feature in Jetpack is the ability for commenters to subscribe to comment threads on Posts (not Pages or CPTs). Definitely worthwhile if you’re not using wpDiscuz and already have Jetpack installed.
- Social commenting
- AJAX comment submission
- I had some issues with the AJAX submissions getting blocked by security features on my hosting once. Just check and make sure commenting works on desktop and mobile
Free Commenting Services You Can Use On Any Website
HTML Comment Box is the free commenting system that I used on my first HTML site. It’s an old-school, no-frills, commenting system that looks a bit home-brew. But you can use it on any site by simply pasting in some code. It does place ads on your site unless you upgrade.
HTML Comment Box offers truly anonymous comments with no email address required, which can be really useful in some cases and is super easy to install. However, it’s kind of out of date in other respects.
- 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.
- 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. (Note, this might have been fixed by now)
- Old look and features.
- No social media integration.
- Commenting requires a page refresh, so it’s a bit slow in use.
- Doesn’t allow uploading images in comments
- Places ads on your site unless you upgrade
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. 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 made this settable using a pulldown. Comments can be shown according to top, newest, or oldest. Unfortunately, it defaults to “top”, when I want “newest”.
There was some excitement about Facebook comments when it came out, but I’m not seeing it on many sites anymore. 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. It’s very rare that I see a website with Facebook commenting these days.
- 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.
- Can click on user profiles to learn more about them. Useful!
- Only people with Facebook accounts can comment. This will discourage or prevent many people from commenting!
- Comments reside on Facebook servers. Can’t import them into WordPress if you change commenting systems. Facebook can mine your comments for data.
IntenseDebate is owned by Auttomatic, the makers of WordPress, but you can implement IntenseDebate comments on any site, not just WordPress sites.
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). Their site hasn’t been updated in a while so I wonder how long this one will be around.
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. I haven’t seen any new features in a while so I wonder if this platform will be retired soon though.
- Can import your existing WordPress comments into it, for a seamless transition
- Comment data is located on your servers, not theirs
- Nice features such as upvoting, downvoting, threaded comments.
- 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).
- Email address is required to comment.
- Comment form is at bottom of comments.
- Not sure if it has been updated in a while.
Disqus is the most popular third-party commenting system and is ubiquitous. I used it for years but recently switched after it started getting blocked in my Chrome browser (it would sometimes load but it would take forever). My commenting also dropped off; not sure if that was the reason or not. But, Disqus definitely comes with a lot of baggage, i.e., ads (unless you upgrade), tracking, and privacy issues.
The worst insult was when I tried to migrate my comments from Disqus into WordPress. The migration code was super buggy and it dropped many of my replies. In the end, I had to migrate my comments in small chunks of 40 or so at a time.
- 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.
- Ability to include photos in comments.
- Although you own the comments, the comments reside on Disqus’ servers.
- Has tracking and privacy issues; blocked by my Chrome antivirus plugin.
- 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”).
- Loads after the rest of your site loads, so it can be slow to show up.
- Migration plugin is buggy.
- May insert ads into your comment feed.
Non-Free Commenting Systems
Commento is a commenting service with an emphasis on privacy. There are no ads or tracking, so there is a cost of $10/month or $99/year for 50K daily pageviews. Look is similar to Disqus, but cleaner.
Allows anonymous commenting, although that button is not as obvious and some commenters will definitely miss it. Does not allow adding images to comments (at least I wasn’t able to in their demo).
I need the ability to upload photos, so Commento was out for me. But, if privacy is a concern for you, you should look into Commento.
- No tracking or ads; good for privacy
- Clean layout
- Costs $10/month; no free plan
- Can’t add images to comments
- “Comment Anonymously” button is not as prominent as regular “Add Comment” button
Commenze is a new lightweight commenting platform that differentiates itself by being customizable. Price starts at $9/month for 10K monthly views (which isn’t a lot). The next service up is $25/month and is “ad-free”, implying that there are ads on their $9/month service, which doesn’t rub me right.
Hyvor Talk is a newer commenting platform that you can install on any website manually or as a WordPress plugin. Cost starts at $5/month for 100K page views per month. Commenters can upload images. There’s a demo right on their home page.
As far as I can tell, commenting requires login; there is no anonymous commenting. This can be a plus or a minus, depending on your needs. I haven’t tried this, but it has the features I would need.
ReplyBox has a similar look to Disqus but without ads or fluff, and with privacy in mind.
It does require login with username and password to comment (at least their demo does). There is no anonymous commenting. This can be a plus or a minus, depending on your needs. For my purposes, this is a showstopper, since I’d like folks to be able to comment without logging in.
I hope this article has been helpful to you. Note, I have disabled commenting on this one article because so many people were “testing out” the commenting system. This site uses native WordPress comments.