Why is everyone using Disqus?

Recently I discovered that more and more Blogs I visit start to use Disqus. And I don’t understand, why.

As Tim Bray said: “Own your space on the Web, and pay for it. Extra effort, but otherwise you’re a sharecropper“.

I read it as this is not just about owning your own ‘real estate’ on the web, but also owning your content. There is a saying going through the net (I couldn’t discover the original source, but it’s quoted like hell out there): “If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product“.

What’s this Disqus thing in the first place?

Maybe the reason that I can’t understand why everyone starts to use Disqus is, that I didn’t get the Disqus concept right myself.
For me, Disqus is outsourcing the discussion part (read: comments area) from your blog (or website) to a third party. Completely. Including the user-generated content in these comments.

Disqus offers itself as an easy way to build up communities. It’s targeted at advertising, so everything you post in your comments via Disqus may will be used to target ads.

If your read through their terms and conditions, you will notice that your personal identifiable information you and third parties (like Facebook, when connecting to Disqus) pass to them may also be sold, together with any information you ‘publicly share’ via their service (read: your comments).

What’s so bad about it?

Well, you may decide for yourself if not actually owning your own content is okay for you. You may decide to share your comments on a site that uses Disqus or you may decide to NOT share your thoughts there.

But making this decision for your Blog is making this decision for all your visitors and everyone that want to comment on your posts is forced to share their comments with Disqus – or not share their thoughts with you.

The latter is the real problem with it. I won’t comment on sites using Disqus. So you won’t receive feedback from me. Okay, some people would rather say that’s a good thing ;-), but others would be pretty happy about what I have to say.

The technical debt

On several occasions I noticed that the Disqus service isn’t that reliable. I am commuting a lot. Right now I’m sitting in a train and have tethered internet connection. Mostly, Disqus doesn’t load at all for me. I can’t tell why. Especially not why it mostly happens when I’m on a tethered connection. And honestly, I don’t care.

When using Disqus for your site, you’re not only sourcing out your comments and your user’s content, but also the continuity of your service. What, if the Disqus API changes? You need to react, or lose you’re comments. What, if they decide to shut down the service? You lose your comments. Maybe you’re able to export all ‘your’ stuff previously. But then you’re on your own how to import that stuff into your own system again.

In my opinion, the price you pay with using this service is too high. You may loose participants in your discussions, you loose control over your content and you loose control over the availability of parts of your service.

Oh, wait. I forgot to mention the advantages you have from giving up your control. Erm.. Okay. Maybe someone tells me? I can’t find any.

Update: Fixed a typo. Thanks to Bob for the heads-up.

Author: Sebastian Gingter

Software Engineer at Thinktecture, Fulltime geek, loving father & husband, always learning.

16 thoughts on “Why is everyone using Disqus?”

  1. The major benefit to using Disqus as a commenter is that I don’t have to sign up and create accounts for random blogs around the Internet. With Disqus, I have an easy path to attach a piece of insight to my web identity.

    That said, this is easily fixed by using a “local” comment system that lets me use my Github or other account to log in. Gravatar would be icing on the cake!

  2. Hi Justin. Oky, I see a little benefit for the commenter there.
    I, personally, don’t get it why ‘random’ blogs should require their commenters to sign up / login though.

    With anonymous comments (okay, almost. Providing an E-Mail ist nice for Gravatar support and follow-ups of other comments 🙂 ), there’s no need to create accounts. And with the Auto-Fill option on modern browsers you don’t have to type in everything every time too.

    I try to have it simple for my commenters, and I hope I succeeded in setting that up. At least, I got your comment 😉

  3. You might have noticed that some ad blockers like Ghostery on Chrome, they just block the disqus comments… So all of your comment area is empty and users can’t even see it 🙂

  4. I’m commenting out of sheer joy that another person has banished that foul internet demon known as Dick-Us, I mean Disqus. May it rot in hell forever.

  5. Thanks for your thoughts on this. I’ve been going back and forth on the idea of adding Disqus to my site. Still not sure I’ve made up my mind. Disqus can can easily deter users who don’t have a Disqus account from leaving comments.

  6. I find this DISQUS crap nuts and I refuse to comment via any site that uses it. Wanna comment via Facebook? Connect thru DISQUS or you can’t comment. Same with Google and Twitter. Oh, & also DISQUS wants access to your email addy, friend’s list, anything you post on those sites, your home address, phone numbers, a list of your embarassing fetishes, and your soul. I may have missed some demands… so why give us a “choice” if everything is forcibly funneled thru DISQUS?

    A site I regularly use, and comment on, just started using DISQUS recently, & suddenly the comments have just…dried up. So guess I’m not alone in my dislike of DISQUS.

  7. Same problem here. I can’t understand why more and more wordpress use disqus. But it would be interesting to develop’ a free disqus that you can load on your website, without have to rely on an external server. That would be great 😮

  8. Thanks for your insights and I couldn’t agree more. I’m currently in the final stages of building a WordPress website where one of the remaining questions is wether to use Disqus instead of the built-in commenting system. You make a very good case against it and I don’t understand why anyone would use it either. Especially for a blog where commenting should be a matter of entering your name and email address and writing a short line of text.

    Maybe the advertising part can benefit your website in that it causes extra backlinks to your website/blog, in theory causing it to rank higher in search engines like Google. But that’s all I got, and I think the actual effect is questionable.

  9. Good timing. I’ve been reading through several blogs this morning and Disqus has kept me from leaving comments on pretty much every one. Not a fan of having to login to post comments. The normal WP system where you just enter your name and email seems a much better system when coupled with anti spam tools.

  10. In the US, NPR shifted over to Disqus largely as a reaction to the overgrown need to manage its Comment Forums after 2008. Before 2008 (When Obama was Elected) the comment Forums were populated by a community of posters, both Left & Right that largely stayed stable. Then after 2008, the place was flooded by trolls. They changed names. They changed emails. In a lot of cases, it seemed like single individuals who would post multiple times using puppet logins.

    And then they just kept posting. Flooding the forum strings to the point that they became Troll blogs. It seemed that Disqus was brought in to handle the heavy, increased traffic and the complaints. Disqus introduced its censor algorithms where NPR before was relying on the old style Live Person forum manager/reviewer. And from a corporate POV, the algorithm route makes sense.

    But I’ve seen a weird side-effect. The Censor algorithm is basically a list of ‘Bad Words’ or Words that aren’t ‘Nice Conversational Terms’. Or even worse, a list of direct naming of topics that are ‘Taboo’. And this list goes far beyond the F-word and that ilk. Saying something such as “Beating a dead horse” can get your comment zapped, for example.

    By the same token, the Trolls have learned to ‘Train themselves’ to the algorithm…to spew what they want without ever using a single ‘Bad word’…because ‘being Obnoxious’ is invisible to the algorithm.

    But worst of all, the trolls use Disqus’s mechanism to kill true forum debate. Because trolls aren’t interested in a discussion. To Them, your website’s forum is ‘THEIR Blog’. And the Disqus Mechanism to Flag a comment is repeatedly used by the trolls to remove comments they don’t like..especially if they interfere with their broadcast of ‘Their Blog’.

    Just my 2¢

  11. Never thought about the aspect of “losing” control over the discussion by using a plugin like discus. Well, now it makes total sense to me and I thank you for this article..

  12. DISQUS sucks. They give the option of logging in using your Facebook or Twitter info but it conveniently NEVER works. I have tried on different sites using different devices — always the same error “There was an error submitting the form.” DISQUS forces you to use it or you will not post any comments.

  13. Disqus locked me out of my account without reason or recourse after years of using it. I believe wholeheartedly that they seek to be community gatekeepers, effectively controlling the conversations on the web and thus the ideas that are being spread – it’s disturbingly Orwellian. I highly recommend that people stay away from them and any other centralized system of content control – such power will always be abused.

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