Is ease of use worth loss of control?
External commenting systems have become a popular way to increase engagement on a website. But it means giving up your comments to live offsite. What do we lose and is it worth it?
Both DISQUS and Facebook Comments have become immensely popular since release, and rightfully so. Their ease of use for participants on your site is unparalleled and Facebook comments strips away the anonymity that can make internet commenting such a cesspool.
However, by implementing these systems we, as site owners, are giving our comments away. They now live on a server we have nothing to do with. The comments are no longer really connected with our content. If you want to keep the comments, which are arguably a measure of the value of your site, you are forever locked into using these systems.
If you were to move your website, change your URL structure, or change your blogging system these comments often do not move with you.
Facebook comments does away with the ability to link to commenters’ own sites, a disincentive, even if it does cut down on spam.
If you worry about search engine optimization, it seems that Facebook Comments are useless in this regard and, even if DISQUS does offer a link to a commenter’s social media or personal site, it is still limited.
There are plenty of other SEO opportunities that use of these systems excludes you from. Just look at one of the plugins I run on this blog, SEO Super Comments, to get an idea of what you are missing out on.
What if either or both of these systems were to suddenly disappear? These companies provide both services for free and they could potentially be taken away at a corporate whim. Think about this, DISQUS won’t even guarantee you uptime unless you pay the $999/month package.
The most troubling aspect of using these systems is simply this: by using Facebook comments or DISQUS you give up both full control and ownership of the comments on your own site. Control you probably should keep.
Even worse, it seems you will never be able to take that control back.
I know this all sounds somewhat dire. However, professional news organizations are beginning to adopt these systems. These organizations are responsible for recording history. As news gathering has moved to the web, I believe that comments are part of that history. A record of how the average man is reacting to the way our world is changing. A record that news organizations are apparently giving up without a thought.
There are wide implications to giving up your comments to an external system and if you are considering it, you should think long and hard on the topic. Will you be using the same content management system forever? Are you willing to give up control?
When I moved from Blogger to this WordPress install on my server, I had assumed that my comments came with me. Others who have made the move seemed to have no problem. It was only when looking at one of my more popular posts when I realized that almost all my comments had disappeared.
The comments still reside on DISQUS, but there is no way to export them or, even if I were to install DISQUS on this site, re-attach them to their appropriate posts. These comments and the conversations I had on those posts are permanently lost from public view.
Is that what you want for your own content?
EDIT: Please read DISQUS’s excellent reply below. It is worth noting that all my dealings with DISQUS have been uniformly positive in the past.
- Mediaite’s Comment System Will Be Changing To Disqus (mediaite.com)
- Handing comments over to Facebook is a double-edged sword (gigaom.com)
- Disqus 101 (djfupdates.com)
- Do blog commenting systems matter? (arikhanson.com)
- Traffic Report: Why pageviews and engagement are up at Latimes.com (niemanlab.org)