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!
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 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.
- 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.
- Although you own the comments, the comments reside on Disqus’ servers, so you might have privacy issues.
- Not GDPR compliant.
- 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.
With all of these “cons” it might seem like I don’t like Disqus, but I actually use it on my most popular blog because it offers the ability to easily upload photos. On the other hand, I’m always on the lookout for new commenting systems!
Commento is a new commenting service with an emphasis on privacy. There are no ads or tracking, so there is a cost of $10/month or $99/year. 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).
- 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
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.
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).
- 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).
- 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.
- Comment form is at bottom of comments.
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 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 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”.
- 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. It is questionable who “owns” the comments. Facebook can mine your comments for data.
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. 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. 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.
- 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
- Tons of plugins to add more features such as “likes” or embedding images.
- Only works on WordPress sites.
- Commenting requires a page reload rather than using Ajax, resulting a slow and clunky user experience when commenting.
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 most of my WordPress sites, including this one.
HTML Comment Box is the 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.
I 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.
- 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 embedding images in comments
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.
ReplyBox has a similar look to Disqus but without ads or fluff, and with privacy in mind.
It is free for 10K pageviews per month, and $10 per month for 100K monthly pageviews.
It does require login with username and password to comment (at least their demo does). There is no anonymous commenting. For my purposes, this is a showstopper, since I’d like folks to be able to comment without logging in.
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.
I have one high-volume site that uses Disqus. The volume is high enough on this to get some income from Disqus ads.
What commenting system do you use on your website? (Note, this site uses native WordPress comments). – Brian