As bloggers, we all are aware of the importance of comments. While it is true that some blogs/websites tend to disable comments entirely, those are special instances where the websites do not essentially require comments. However, in general, comments form an integral part of any blog, be it a personal one or a magazine site. After all, what good is any info unless it provokes a healthy discussion?
All blogging platforms (including WordPress) come with native support for some sort of comment mechanism which seems to suffice for most bloggers. But sometimes, users may require some dedicated or specialized comment mechanism. This is where third-party commenting systems come in handy.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the major third-party commenting mechanisms. But before going any further, let us assess the pros and cons of using or not using such third-party commenting systems.
Why Should You Use Third Party Commenting Platforms?
The advantages of using a third-party commenting system are many, and now we shall take a look at some of the major ones.
The foremost advantage of using a third-party comment system is the support for social networking sites. Almost all third-party comment systems offer excellent integration with social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, and some even go to the limits of carving their own user base along the lines of a social network. This enables users to seamlessly share their comments and the articles they read on their social networking profiles, thereby spreading the word and driving more visitors to your website.
Third party comment mechanisms also offer real-time updates and email alerts, good RSS support allowing users to keep track of their comments and take part in discussions in a more organized manner.
Furthermore, most such platforms support a single sign-in with many IDs, such as Facebook, LinkedIn or OpenID. Naturally, this helps in getting comments from different types of users, as well as wards off spam quite effectively.
And lastly, most such systems allow readers to rate the comments too – you can give a ‘Thumbs Up’ or ‘Thumbs Down’ to comments you like or dislike respectively, and you can flag comments and mark them as spam. Obviously, such ‘community recognition’ of comments goes a long way in helping users take the discussions more seriously.
Why Should You Use the Default Comment Mechanism?
At times, we simply don’t need (or don’t want) the third-party commenting facilities. For starters, the default commenting facility blends well with the design (irrespective of whether we use a free theme for our blog or a premium one, the default system for comments doesn’t really look out-of-place).
Often times, third-party commenting systems are notorious for increasing the load time. While they do not really take AGES to load, they do slow down the load time, in comparison to the native commenting mechanism. The reason for this is that third-party systems are not integrated within the blog’s design base.
Next, in order to get the maximum out of third-party systems, your users should essentially have an account. Yes, such systems do allow the users to comment anonymously, but if they are to get the optimum out of the mechanism, an account is necessary (this applies most emphatically to Livefyre). While such accounts do help in killing spam, they are often a deterrent. A native commenting system, on the other, requires at the most an email address – you can let Akismet take care of the spam comments!
Lastly, the in-built comments system is hosted, well, as part of your own website. It is not dependent on a third-party server, and you don’t have to worry about their server being slow to respond, and so on.
With the advantages and disadvantages out-of-the-way, we shall now take a look at the major third-party commenting systems.
Disqus is a comments platform built along a community model. It is one of the most popularly used comment mechanisms and is backed by numerous addons.
- Disqus supports realtime comments in a fast and intuitive interface. You can even get email notifications for follow-up comments (and reply to the responses by replying to that email).
- It is well-integrated with services such as YouTube and Flickr, and you can easily embed or attach media such as photos or videos to your comments.
- You can login, like and share stuff using social networking services like Facebook and Twitter. In fact, the USP of Disqus lies in its integration with social networks as well as its own community model, wherein users can keep track of their comments and share things they like in an easy manner.
- Disqus also comes with moderation tools and an in-house anti-spam technology that ensures that your site is safe from spammers. You can restrict certain keywords within comments and add blacklists or whitelists as and when need be!
- Finally, Disqus offers good support for mobile devices, has been internationalized well and comes with plugins/modules for WordPress, Drupal and easy integration for Blogger, Tumblr and many other platforms.
IntenseDebate is a commenting platform from the stable of, the good folks behind WordPress. It is a wonderful commenting system, that has several good features.
- IntenseDebate provides a decent set of community tools, including integration with services such as Facebook Connect and OpenID.
- It supports nested comments, email notifications and reply-by-email.
- Just like Disqus, users can have their own profiles with full social networking integration.
- You can moderate comments, use blacklists or whitelists, and even assign other admins for the task. Spam protection, of course, is provided by Akismet.
- IntenseDebate is supported on services such as WordPress, TypePad, Blogger, and many others.
It is used by websites such as Infectious Creed and ScreenCrave. Obviously, the user base is not as impressive as that of Disqus, but IntenseDebate is rising at a good (though still not ‘great’) pace.
Livefyre is a real-time conversation platform, that aims to “turn your content into a catalyst for meaningful live conversations.” Ok, that’s good use of English, if nothing else!
- Livefyre, just like its competitors, offers good integration with social networking services. When you comment, you can tag your Facebook friends right away, and thereby bring more people into the conversation.
- Comments are published in real-time, and it also shows a live stat of both those commenting and listening.
- Livefyre comments are SEO-friendly and this helps you increase your page rank.
- Users can create their profiles on Livefyre, and gain additional features, such as the frequency of email responses, linkbacks and credit points on their comments.
- Just like Disqus and IntenseDebate, Livefyre also offers powerful moderation tools and anti-spam measures.
- The USP of Livefyre, arguably, lies in its eye-candy element. It has a beautiful interface, and new comments, for example, are shown as a bubble pop-up at the bottom.
- For general usage, Livefyre is free. But can get a Custom Solution if you need additional features such as developer support, on-page branding, guaranteed SLA Uptime, emails via custom domains and page views over 2 million per month.
ECHO, formerly known as JS-KIT, is another real-time commenting system, that offers several Premium features. Strictly speaking, ECHO is a complete real-time web platform, inclusive of forums, polls, real-time sharing and comments, among other things.
- Just like most other platforms, ECHO too supports real-time comments with no need to refresh the page in order to display new comments.
- ECHO comes with in-line sharing, enabling users to post their comments to social networks at the same time.
- You can sync comments from platforms such as Facebook Fan Pages, Twitter conversations and (soon to be added) Google+ – all in a side stream or even a separate tab.
- ECHO also provides wonderful moderation and analytics’ tools. Plus, it is fully customizable.
However, ECHO is more of an enterprise solution and you can’t simply ‘download’ it for free and start using it. Their website doesn’t actually talk about any pricing, but it does have awhere you can get in touch to learn more.
If you tend to engage your blog users with Facebook in particular, you can try using Facebook Comments Box plugin for your blog. While this clearly does not beat Disqus or Livefyre in terms of features, it has certain unique benefits of its own.
- FB Comments Box plugin sorts comments on the basis of relevance. Comments or topics that have received preference from friends (and friends of friends) are ordered first, while comments marked as spam are hidden from view.
- Users can easily share comments on Facebook by leaving the ‘Post to Facebook’ tick box checked. Naturally, since FB itself is a huge social network, this can drive new visitors to your website.
- The plugin also provides certain moderation tools, grammar filters, mobile version and support for third-party login. Currently, only Yahoo! AOL and Windows Live accounts are supported, as per the documentation.
On the downside, FB Comments Box plugin is rendered as an iframe, and many search engines do not crawl content within an iframe. So this plugin might not give you the SEO boost that you’re expecting from the user comments.
With that, we come to the end of this round-up. Which comment system do you use for your blog? How is your experience with it? Feel free to let us know!
Sufyan bin Uzayr writes for various magazine and blogs, and is the author of "Sufism: A Brief History". He blogs about technology, Linux and open source, mobile, web design and development, typography, and Content Management Systems at Code Carbon. You can learn more about him, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.