3rd party comments: Which system is best for your website?

Putting the functionality in place for users to comment on your content is key to building relationships with your readers. Getting them to engage with your website means that they will be more likely to return for more in the future, if their experience is good.

Commenting is fast becoming a science, now rich in functionality to manage volumes of users and to keep the quality of the interactions higher (in most cases). This is why many sites outsource commenting features to third party applications that expertly know how to manage communities. Third party commenting systems which are both easy to install and feature rich. Gone are the days spent haphazardly strapping together plugins, MySQL databases and CAPTCHAs. Third party platforms host your comments in the cloud, allow for ubiquitous sign-in, are easily installed with a couple of lines of Javascript and instantly provide you with the tools to manage comments, automatically filter spam and integrate with social media services.

Below we highlight four of the most popular commenting systems available to promote great interaction with your users:

Intense Debate was acquired in 2008 by Automattic, the company behind WordPress. The platform comes standard with a new WordPress installation. The platform is not often found outside of the blogging community although it can be installed on any site.

Disqus can best be described as a social network for commenting. Websites are treated as communities and comments are seen as conversations. Users are able to follow both other users and communities, which helps to build active communities around your content. The platform has been implemented by a number of respected publishers such as CNN, Time, and Engadget, as well as on Memeburn. It is used by some 350 million people a month.

Livefyre is one of the lesser known platforms for social commenting. According to the team behind Livefyre, the key to keeping users on your site is ensuring that they are engaged in conversation in real time. Livefyre allows you to tag other commentors as well as your Facebook and Twitter contacts within posts, in addition to not having to refresh the page to see the latest posts. Livefyre has attracted publishers, such as The Next Web and The Sociable.

Facebook recently overhauled their commenting system, bringing it in line with the functionality of systems already mentioned. Facebook is able to provide deep integration with its website that no other platform can provide through their API.

Social Media Integration

The above three platforms, Livefyre, Disqus, and Intense Debate, offer you integration with other services. If you are logged-in to Facebook, the platforms will default to your profile or you can sign in with Yahoo, Aol or Hotmail.

Unlike Livefyre and Diqus (which extend login to OpenID, Google, and LinkedIn), users cannot post anonymously as guests on Intense Debate. This may very well enhance the quality of the discussion as trolls and spammers are weeded out.

Disqus and Livefyre allow you to tag other commentators within the conversation, along with Twitter users, and Livefyre extends this functionality to Facebook. However, Livefyre also beams off annoying out of context messages from your social network pages to those you tag. Facebook Comments is no different to the usual Facebook tagging.

Facebook Comments is however in a league of its own when it comes to social network integration and the deep integration with their own platform is open to no other service.

Users are able to post their comments to their profile and news feeds, which is standard. The really unique feature, however, is that friends can respond to that comment within Facebook and it will appear in the comments box on the original site. The same is the case for publishers with a Facebook page. This means that users can comment on either the article or the Facebook page and the comments will appear on both.

Another unique feature of the Facebook platform is the way in which comments are ranked. While Disqus and Livefyre rank their comments by likes and time, Facebook comments ranks comments based on peoples social graphs. As a result, comments are ordered by comments made by friends first and then the most liked after that.


Disqus offers basic CSS customisation in the free version. However if publishers wish to erase the disqus logo and make the commenting system look their own, a full theme editor is available to those who choose the Professional package at US$199 a month — other benefits of the paid subscription offers include Analytics, APIs and priority support.

Intense Debate can be customised fairly extensively for no fee.

Facebook’s customisation options are very limited, publishers can choose between a dark or light color scheme . If your site isn’t straight grey lines and blue headings with a white background. Facebook comments will stick-out like a sore thumb.

The Livefyre service is lacking in this area, the only customisation the service offers is a whitelabel service.

Administration and Moderation

The functionality of the administration and moderation features of each service is very similar. All offer an Admin Panel, Spam Filtering and Community Flagging. Livefye, Disqus and Intense Debate all offer instantly accessible easy to use Administrator interfaces. Facebook Comments however requires a knowledge of HTML and the Facebook social graph.

There is no clear winner as each system has its benefits and drawbacks, but there are two platforms which stand out from the crowd: Facebook Comments and Disqus. Even with the lack of customisation options and easy to access administrator controls, the deep integration with Facebook is too good a functionality to pass up. Disqus on the other hand provides excellent easy to setup and use controls and interfaces but lacks the potential to effectively drive traffic from Facebook.

If you have a sound coding knowledge and your site design is not too complex and colourful, Facebook comments is the way forward. However if you need a simple, quick to setup and easy to customise and control commenting system, you will do yourself no harm by implementing Disqus.



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