Blog Comment System Shootout: Disqus vs. Intense Debate vs. JS-Kit Echo

WordPress Comment Systems If you’ve visited 40Tech since its inception back in June, you may have noticed a few changes to the system for visitor comments.  We’ve been searching for the "perfect" system, and we’ve tried out Disqus, Intense Debate, and JS-Kit Echo on this site and a test server.  For a few reasons, 40Tech is now back to using the default WordPress commenting system, with some enhancements.  What are the reasons for not going with one of the third- party systems?  Let’s take a look at our experience with each of these three third-party commenting systems.

 

Disqus

Disqus Comment Box

Likes

I really wanted to like Disqus.  When it works, it is the most elegant and visually appealing solution of the three external systems.  It is also powerful, while maintaining its simplicity.  Disqus allows visitors to use their Disqus dashboard to monitor their comments on all Disqus-enabled sites.  For blog owners, Disqus will seek out and retrieve comments and mentions from other sites, such as Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, and YouTube.  Disqus supports real-time posting and updating, as well as threaded replies and comment replies.

Dislikes

We used Disqus for an extended period here on 40Tech.   We ran into a problem, though, with the comment count on the home page and individual post pages either not displaying the count, or not even displaying the word "comments."  A checkbox to fix this in the Disqus dashboard did nothing to fix the problem, and Disqus support never responded to either a support request, or a post in the Disqus forums (those forums have since been replaced).  Eventually, I was able to fix the problem by hacking the Disqus plugin.

Recently, though, Disqus updated to version 3, which broke Gravatar integration here at 40Tech.  The only images that were showing were the images of registered Disqus users, and Twitter users.  This time, I at least got a response to my support inquiry.  One of the developers asked for more information, but I received no follow up after that.   This also happened when I made an inquiry via Twitter.  I understand that Disqus is a free service and top notch support can’t be expected, but I couldn’t use a broken system on a site, and deactivated Disqus.

 

Intense Debate

Intense Debate Comment Box

Likes

Like Disqus, Intense Debate was also visually appealing, and it worked as advertised.  Intense Debate also allows users to monitor all of their posts on various sites from one central location, and will retrieve comments from FriendFeed and republish them back on your blog.  Intense Debate also allows users to associate multiple sites with their profiles, and supports "reputation scores," so that other users can "thumb up" or "thumb down" comments.

Dislikes

I liked Intense Debate, but it had one fatal flaw.  Specifically, if you click on an Intense Debate user’s name in a comment header, the link takes you to that user’s Intense Debate profile, not to the user’s blog.  If you hover over the user’s avatar, then a link to his or her blog appears, along with other information, but this won’t be obvious to many visitors.  We want to give visitors a chance to promote their own sites, so this was a deal breaker.  If a visitor isn’t an Intense Debate user, that visitor can comment as a guest, and then his name will link to his own site.  This is a curious design choice by the Intense Debate developers, as it actually discourages use of Intense Debate profiles.  I have an Intense Debate profile, but never use it on sites powered by Intense Debate, because I’d rather have my name link go to my site, instead of to my Intense Debate profile.

 

JS-Kit Echo

JS Kit Echo Comment Box

Likes

JS-Kit Echo is perhaps the most powerful of the three commenting system.  JS-Kit Echo provides a base commenting system, but also captures all sorts of conversations related to your blog post from across the internet, and displays it within your comments.  Within the comments section of an Echo-powered blog, you’ll find a stream of comments, twitter posts, Delicious bookmarks, Google Reader feeds, and more.  Each one of these pieces of content has been pulled to your site because it references the initial post in some way or another.  Echo gives commenters the option to share their comments with multiple "recipients," sending comments to Facebook, Google, Yahoo, or Twitter.  Echo therefore is almost all-encompassing, both in the content it retrieves, and the content that users can send out to other sites.

Dislikes

Because Echo is so powerful, it is also the most convoluted and hard to understand.  For casual visitors to a site, it takes a bit of study of the comment form to figure out exactly what is going on.  It is even more difficult for casual users to get their brains around exactly what Echo does.

I also found the default skins to be ugly and unwieldy, and I wasn’t confident that I could modify them enough with CSS to make Echo easier to swallow.  Echo also was slow in my testing.  When loading my pages, I would keep an eye on my browser status bar, and at times Echo would take 30-60 seconds to load.  The same happened with other sites I visited.  That was several weeks ago, though, and I’ve since visited other Echo-enabled sites that now load much faster.  Echo might be worth another visit once it has gone through its growing pains.

Echo’s pricing also seems to be somewhat of a moving target.  There was a free version when I tried it out, but now the cheapest version appears to cost $12, and the price of the other versions isn’t even listed on the JS-Kit site.

 

Decision

For now, because of the above "dislikes" with each system, 40Tech is back to using the default WordPress commenting sytem, with some modifications.  Although the other commenting systems do allow customization and even some theming options, this doesn’t match the customization options built into the default WordPress commenting system.  The WordPress commenting system is also supported by a treasure trove of extensions.

The ultimate factor in deciding on a commenting system comes down to how it affects the quality and quantity of comments left on a site.  The number of comments at 40Tech actually spiked the first time I dropped Disqus for the default commenting system (before I reenabled Disqus).  That, though, could have been due to the site content at the time, which did feature a few higher traffic articles.  I wonder, though, if that was the sole reason.  I suspect that most people aren’t interested in bells and whistles, and want to be able to say what they’re thinking with a minimum of fuss and confusion.  While streams of information from other sites might be of interest to blog owners, and may even stimulate more conversation, it also can clutter a blog and distract visitors.

That said, don’t be surprised if you see continued exploration of comment systems at 40Tech.  We like pain.

If you comment at sites, do you have a system that you prefer?  If you have your own site, which commenting system are you using on your site, and how do you like it?

Evan Kline

Hello, I'm Evan. I write about tech from my perspective – that of the average 40-something tech geek. You can also find me on Twitter and at my real-life job as a lawyer.    MORE ABOUT ME.

104 Comments:

  1. hi…
    thanks for your reference!
    i just try Disqus on my blog http://idoodie.blogspot.com
    ^_^ nice interface n can use on mobile phone…

  2. wondering what comment system and plugins you use now on the blog. wordpress gives too much spam. thanks

    • I’m back to the default WordPress comment system. I had used Disqus for a while, but I was running into some bugs with it. That was quite a while ago, though.

      I do use the Akismet plugin, which seems to catch almost all spam here.

  3. I prefer Disqus for a couple simple reasons.

    1. It allows ME to quickly comment on websites. (and with the LastPass extension, even logging in takes only a second)

    2. I have multiple blogs on multiple platforms. Yes, I’m one of those indecisive-haven’t-quite-made-up-my-mind-yet bloggers. But Disqus also allows me to manage all my comments on ALL of my blogs.

    I wish commenting services would yet even be more open, however, because since the web is so vast and there are so many blogs, websites and commenting systems out there, there really is no way to track ALL of them. I wish they could all work together so that no matter what commenting system YOU prefer on your blog, followers could track their comments on WordPress IN Disqus and vice versa.

    • Great comment, Aaron! That would be awesome if there were a unified way to track comments across all blogs. I guess for now, email notifications is the only way to do it.

  4. I am still thinking what system I should be using. Intense Debate, Disqus, Livefyre, or commentluv.

  5. I go for disqus .. I have been using this my website and it is working well and keeping spammers away

  6. I just recently found another commenting system called Livefyre. Has anyone used it? How does it compare to Disqus and these others?

  7. I have never used Disqus before, but it seems a really great choice. I’ve never seen many blogs using it, however.

    I have, however, seen many CommentLuv blogs and everyone says it does increase traffic and it motivates visitors to post comments!

    Most probably I’ll start using CommentLuv myself! Thanks for showing alternatives!

  8. thanks for great info, this is great tools for blog comments

  9. I think this is the perfect site to discuss matters about those topics, thank you for sharing all of your thoughts, I’m gaining knowledge..

  10. WordPress and Blogger still win for me! Although Disqus seems to come close. I agree with your dislike points.

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  11. I just bump into a new thing they call it lyvefire. I think it’s cool almost like disqus.

    • Looks cool. If it weren’t such a big undertaking, I’d try it out here. Back when I wrote this post, we were in our early days without much traffic or comments, so it was much easier to change the site back then.

  12. very nice and informative blog.Well I will prefer wordpress for blog commenting platform as it easier to handle.How ever disqus is also great.Thanks for sharing.

    • That’s what it came down to for me, too. Maybe it has since changed, but we were having issues way back when we used Disqus, which is why we switched back to the native WordPress commenting.

  13. Thanks for sharing with us. this is such a great information. i have just bookmarked your site and waiting for your next post

  14. JS-kit was shut down. I am currently looking to add commenting capability to my site, but need number od comments “Comments (1)” to be disnpayed as plain text, not as a link. DId not fidn how to do it in Disqus and ID.

    • Eugeny, it has been so long since I tried out Disqus, that I’m really not sure any longer. It has probably changed since then, too. Perhaps they have a support address that you could ask them?

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