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Disqus vs. Facebook Comments: Barriers, UX, and Stickiness–Which is Better?

Disqus vs Facebook commenting As someone who spends far too much time commenting on others’ writing and discussing business online, I think I have a fairly good feel for user experience when it comes to online commenting systems.  Disqus and Facebook commenting seem to be the major 3rd-party players in the commenting world right now, and they deliver very different products.

Barriers To Entry

It seems to me that the most successful discussions I’ve seen over the years have been on the Disqus platform.  Facebook comments seem to be picking up steam and replacing Disqus on quite a few sites.  I’d imagine this is because the proprietors believe that everyone is on Facebook, while Disqus requires a separate account registration.

There’s some logic in that, but a few flaws in the assumption as well.  The first is that Disqus does allow anonymous/guest commenting when the administrator enables that setting, so everyone can comment on any given article if desired.  There’s no exclusion of unregistered commenters.

The other flaw is the assumption that Facebook ubiquity is superior.  Many Facebook users don’t want their work discussions carrying over to their personal Facebook profile.  Even though the default in Facebook commenting is to not post to your profile, many users will be resistant to the idea of linking those comments to their account, whether or not their perception is misinformed.  Further, many will likely tone down their comments because they somehow believe they are more closely tied to their personal profile (toning down comments might be good or bad, depending on your goal).  Again, the users’ impressions might be wrong, but we all have concerns about Facebook’s ability to change our privacy settings at their whim.

User Experience

The UX on both of these platforms is…not quite velvet yet.  They both have some nice features, but they’re not particularly intuitive once you get past your initial comments.  Facebook’s system seems to be implemented differently on different sites.  Replying to other users can be clunky, and the ability to name other commenters with an @FacebookName isn’t consistently supported in my experience.

disqus-favorite

Disqus’s reply comments feel much more organized.  Still, the ability to follow a discussion is quirky.  To see what others are commenting after leaving the site, a user needs to “favorite” the discussion by clicking the little star.  Further comments will then come directly to the user’s email.  Without favoriting it, the user only receives direct replies to his or her comments.

That’s a decent, if not intuitive feature, but it also triggers a daily email digest with all comments from the previous day.  Most users want immediate updates, or a daily digest, but not both.  As a regular user, I don’t see a quick way to choose one or the other.

facebook-no-optionsOn the Facebook side, I’m not even aware of a feature that allows you to follow all comments on a thread.  Users receive notifications when others reply to their specific comments, but that’s all (this may be in the custom implementation of the platform).  A user has to come back to the page regularly to see if any new discussions have arisen.  If the Facebook user checks the box to also post the comment to his/her personal profile, then they’ll receive more notifications on the Facebook platform, but most don’t.

This is particularly problematic for the authors of pieces who want to respond quickly to those commenting on their articles.  Disqus’s “favorite” feature, while clunky, at least allows the author to sit back and wait for comments.  Reloading the web page every hour to check for comments is like AOL dial-up.  This has to improve.

Stickiness–will they keep talking?

The whole point of a commenting system is to encourage discussion.  You might get more users in with a lower barrier to commenting, and you might get them to comment quickly with the right visual calls-to-action or simplified UI to remove any extra steps.  At the end of the day, though, the total number of comments you receive, especially those that interact with one another, will be the measure of the success of your system.   The quality of those comments is somewhat important, but discussions create traffic, and sooner or later the wiser minds will join in.

My experience, thus far, is that Facebook commenting has a long way to go.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see it take over the market place within a few years because of Zuck’s ability to buy or build anything he wants, but for now it’s not drawing me back in to discussions.  If Facebook leans further into the commenting platform and draws more of its core users into those discussions (most likely by lessening our privacy choices in our comments), they may very well draw discussions from broader audiences since their user base is so much larger.

In the meantime, the articles I’ve written on the Disqus platform have had more fully-developed discussions than those on Facebook commenting.  If Disqus could add a few more options for notification customization right on the commenting interface (not requiring the user to go into a “Settings” screen), they might be able to hold on to their position as the premier commenting system online.

About Sam DeBord

Sam DeBord is a former management consultant and web developer who writes for for Inman News and REALTOR® Magazine. He is Managing Broker for Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth, and 2016 President-Elect of Seattle King County REALTORS®. His team sells Seattle homes, condos, and Bellevue homes.

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  • (I know this will probably get buried, being posted on Saturday morning of a holiday weekend. Some times you just wake up and have to write an idea up before it gets away from you.)

    • I know the feeling. That was me yesterday.

  • @disqus all day, everyday

  • Speaking of disqus/engagement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNzUN84KP5k

  • Try marking a post as a featured comment. I’d like your thoughts on how this new feature increases stickyness.

  • deidrew

    I agree that with Facebook commenting you already exclude those who don’t want to attach their Facebook profile to their opinions. Although I find it interesting that Huffington Post abandoned their unique (and gamified) system of comments to go to Facebook comments precisely to cut down on some of the anonymous chatter.

    I like Disqus but it’s limited in the ways you mentioned. Some of the best commenting systems out there these days seem to be proprietary such as the one the NY Times has which has some neat curation options. What I’d really like is a to rope together all the comments on various platforms for a single blog post (all the tweets, all the FB comments) etc. in one place, sort of like a Storify of commenting…

  • Sam, do you use commenting for your Real Estate Websites?

    I have tried and found the comments were mostly negative on individual properties, so I took it down.

    I prefer Disqus, but for me I will use what is offered. I just wish I could get some good comments going on my Real Estate Website.

    • Bryn, I just use the blog commenting system we have on Real Geeks. It’s tough to get a good discussion going on a personal blog without huge readership.

      I did get a few comments when I took a dig at portals’ lack of listings in a post and promoted it to a few thousand FB users, but it’s usually crickets.

      • what about jetpack for wordpress, seems pretty easy and lightweight full featured system

        • Probably a great choice on a WP platform for simplicity.

  • Steven

    As far as the pure mechanics of commenting goes, Reddit seems to have nailed commenting. Hiding/Revealing of different threads and sub-threads of comments. Add to that the Reddit-Enhancement Suite which lets you view videos and images linked in a thread without leaving the thread or having lots of videos/images pushing down other comments.

    While it does have its drawbacks I think it is the best system so far and could work in a blog/article environment.

  • **UPDATE** – I did find a way to automatically subscribe to every thread that you comment on. It’s in the profile settings. That’s decent, but it’s a blanket setting and still not as flexible as doing it on the discussion interface.

  • Peter

    test

  • hellyeah

    Disqus ftw

  • Name

    Why do I have to give my email if I’m anonymous?

    • aviation912

      Because you can get back and reply with the same anonymous account or better get notifications while still being anonymous.

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  • StopTheLies

    Facebook is the Matrix, cure for the human disease. Are you unplugged or enemy?

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