Comment Platforms Comparison

When creating my website one of the key goals was to make it interactive so that it’s not just me sharing my thoughts but also my friends, colleagues and the world at large able to contribute. As per all things technical I didn’t want to have to create a comment system myself as there’s always someone that’s done it better. That’s where comment platforms come in. Comment platforms allow web developers to tap into existing services that offer comment functionality and storage by including a relatively small pieces of Javascript into your HTML.

For my site the main usage was going to be around opinion pieces and technical releases for the products that I tinker with. In short, my blog posts.

Thinking deeper into what I wanted I came up with a list of requirements that my preferred platform absolutely had to have. The two critical ones are that it is free and that I was able to integrate it into my site as is. I wasn’t going to be changing my site back end just to fit the solution – the solution had to come to me. There was also a list of other requirements that I considered important but that I could live without. These included being able to comment with logging in, getting extra features through logging into the service, nice threading of comments, some kind of moderation so that I can control the masses if necessary, the ability to detect and prevent spam in an automated way without looking at my site every hour, and that the time and complexity of adding the platform to my pages wasn’t onerous.

Through some research I discovered six main products that I wanted to look further into. These are Disqus, IntenseDebate, Facebook Comments, CoComment, JS-Kit ECHO, and Livefyre.

Given that I couldn’t find any succinct information on the differences between the platforms, here’s my summary based on the requirements I had for my site and my first impressions of experimenting with each of the platforms.

Requirement Disqus IntenseDebate Facebook CoComment JS-Kit ECHO Livefyre
System cost is free (Very Important) Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
System can be used on custom websites (Very Important) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Users can enter comments without logging in (Important) Yes Yes No No
Users can login for extra features (Important) Yes   1 Yes   2 No Yes   3
Comments will be automatically threaded (Important) Yes Yes Yes Kind Of   4
Comments can be moderated (Important) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Spam comments will be automatically removed (Important) Akismet   5 Akismet   6 Unknown   7 No
Comments can be easily added for a page (Important) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Comments appear in real time Yes Yes Yes Yes
CSS No   8 No   9 Yes   10 No   11
Comments can be shared on Facebook Yes No Yes No
Comments can be shared on Twitter Yes   12 Yes   12 No No
Votes can be given to comments to raise their visibility Yes Yes Yes Yes
Comments can be tracked via RSS Yes Yes No No
Users can use their profile across multiple sites Yes Yes Yes Yes
Email notification on comment reply Yes Yes No No
Gravatar support Yes Yes No Unknown

1. Able to follow other users. Able to see all comments across multiple sites.
2. Allows you to follow peoples and maintain an account.
3. Allows you to track groups, friends and looks to build communities.
4. It uses the concept of quoting and doesn’t really thread.
5. Administrators will have to register with Akismet which is free for non-commercial purposes.
6. As per 5.
7. I believe that Facebook have their own spam detection and deletion as would be used on the site
itself. I wasn’t able to find any details on this though.
8. I’m not a CSS guru but I found it very trick to get it exactly as I wanted.
9. As per 8.
10. Minimal efforts to customise the CSS were completed. It didnt really seem necessary as the layout
was already the expected Facebook design.
11. I didn’t even want to start on the CSS for this. It seemed like a lot of work to get it to a
standard that is acceptable in the web world.
12. If logged in through Twitter. Can only share your own comment.

Disqus

Discus is my preferred solution of the comment platforms. It met all my basic requirements and narrowly edged out IntenseDebate. There was very little between them and the only thing it really came down to was the ease of setup to login through Facebook. (It also allows login semi-anonymously using your email or using the following accounts: Discus, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, and Open ID) Based on the service that you are logged into you can also share your comment.

The layout of the comments is pretty nice if a little spacious. There’s probably come CSS tweaks I can do to fix this although I haven’t had a lot of fun trying to change items. On a looks side it imports your profile picture that you login with (this is not updated if you change your profile picture after the comment), allows likes and dislikes for the entire page, likes for the comments and allows users to include images in their comments. The threading was simple but was nicely
indented and the collapsing of threads and the sorting options (popular, best rating, newest first, and oldest first) give users a lot of control over long comment threads.

I also liked that you could subscribe by email or RSS without having to post a comment yourself.

In terms of market share Disqus seemed to be the most used service I could find around. This potentially means that you’ll have a few more users who already have an account and the benefits that have a Disqus account provides – not that there’s many of these that are that useful. I think most people are going to be logging in through the other services regardless.

My only dislike are that after exiting the settings the page resets to the top of the page (this happens in IntenseDebate as well) and that with my previous CSS design updating the CSS was a nightmare. That’s no longer a problem though.

All in all it’s a really great free service with the most comprehensive features and it’s my choice for this site.

IntenseDebate

This was probably my second favourite. I really like the layout of the posts and when you post something it has quite a cool effect. I probably could have made the comment text white as well and then it would have looked even better.

In terms of requirements ID met all my major ones. It’s free, was easy to install into my custom website, you can post anonymously using just an email address, allowed you to login to their own service, had great threading, access to spam prevention service Akismet and was
easily added to the webpage.

My main gripe was the integration with Facebook. Like Disqus they also provide the option but through Firefox and Internet Explorer I had issues logging in after the first time. This may be a clash between the Facebook comment platform and ID but it wasn’t a problem at all with Disqus. Login was possible using IntenseDebate, WordPress, Twitter, and OpenID but not Google. I also think that the base design of Disqus matched my sites design slightly better.

Other nice features were the both up and down voting on users comments, the sorting by date, rating (based on your up and down voting), and last activity and the extended list of RSS options. There was also the ability to collapse threads.

Similar to Disqus I found my initial trials with the CSS to be rather difficult.

It’s a very nice platform but I just felt it wasn’t as slick as Disqus.

Facebook

What you see is what you get with the Facebook comments platform. It’s really only designed to be used by Facebook users and because of that it failed a number of my key requirements. Despite that it is yet another good solution that was easy to setup, gave a number of configurable options and was easy to use. Not surprisingly it had the best integration with Facebook with a user being able to see replies in their Facebook notifications. Being part of Facebook I believe it will also tap into their spam detection and prevention which is a benefit over the configuration required in other services. For me though it just doesn’t offer the range of services that Disqus and IntenseDebate do.

CoComments

The main site has Copyright 2006-2008 information on it and it looks like it hasn’t been updated since then. The layout that it provided was pretty horrible to the point that I immediately wanted to dump it and it looks completely different between Firefox and Internet Explorer and Chrome. (The second two looked similar in not applying the see through effects from my site.) It had the most limited login options of the reviewed services and not having anonymous login and a reputation for being targeted by spam didn’t help either. Given how deficient it was I didn’t spend a lot of time playing with this service.

JS-Kit ECHO

The system cost for this package is not free and I believe it wasn’t even clearly available what the prices were. Given I’m a hobby website developer that put this platform completely out of reach.

Livefyre

Livefyre had integrations with a number of common blogging and website creation platforms but was unable to be integrated with custom sites. Given I’m a custom site that meant it was no
good to me. If this changes in the future let me know and I’ll re-evaluate.

Edit: I’ve removed all the javascript to display the post types. I gave up on including div’s in the wordpress format.