At the time of creating any blog or news-based websites,
Most webmasters give the least amount of importance to the commenting system of their website,
Without even understanding the importance of it.
Eventually, the comment section of a website is the only place where people interact with the author,
When they are excited or happy with the article and helps to grow the whole website community.
In most cases,
They end up using some third-party commenting system like Disqus or Spot.im, etc.
Without even realizing what a blunder they are making.
I’ve seen many websites (both big & popular as well as small websites) using the Disqus commenting system,
Without even realizing the consequences.
And by the time you will realize it,
Your site would have become so big & popular and then you can’t take the risk of changing your commenting system.
If you are thinking why?
People mostly use a third-party commenting system on their website.
Because they think it will reduce a lot of moderation pressure from their head and it will make their website faster.
Whereas, in reality, the completely opposite thing happens.
Now, before getting any further I must clear out a few things.
While reading this article if you are imagining a blog with a few hundred comments on it, then you are mistaken.
Try picturing a blog with thousands of comments on it, then you will get the true essence of this article.
As creating websites has become very easy nowadays many non-techy people can make a website too, but they don’t get the insights of an experienced person.
Before writing this article,
I’ve used Disqus for months to research it thoroughly and at the same time I’ve also tried Spot.im (a new player in this arena).
But in both cases,
I’ve come up with the same conclusion.
Never ever use these third-party commenting system on your website.
Here are the 7 facts about Disqus and similar commenting system for which I will suggest you stay away from them.
Loading External Resource
If you are not a very technical guy, loading extra external resource doesn’t seem much scarier to you.
But trust me, it is.
When any static resource gets loaded from an external domain (not the site’s domain name),
It makes the whole website caching very difficult to comprehend.
The reason behind that is when a browser sees that a website is loading some static contents (like CSS, js, images) from their own domain,
It keeps a copy of them in the browser cache.
So that next time when someone visits the site,
It can load those static resources from the browser itself instead of requesting for it again to the server and wait for it to get downloaded and complied.
But as these commenting systems load their own static files (mostly js files) from their own domain name (like //example.disqus.com) and as a result browsers cannot cache them.
So, if a user visits 10 articles of your blog, the browser will request the same resource to the Disqus server over and over.
Slow Load Time
This is highly dependent upon the first point I’ve discussed above.
Now as these commenting systems load their static resources from their own external domain name,
So if a visitor of your blog visits 10 articles of your site,
The browser will send a request for that same resource to the Disqus server every time they load the page.
As a result, every time the browser has to wait to receive the static files from the Disqus server and then compiling it.
Also when you use these third-party commenting system like Disqus,
None of your user comments are actually getting stored on your own server.
Instead of the commenting script post that comment data to Disqus server using Ajax (so that the page doesn’t get reloaded) and save it there.
So, literally, your server has no copy of any comment your users have ever made.
Now as these scripts heavily use Ajax to perform their nifty transaction trick without reloading the page,
It actually makes the overall site experience very slower.
Making Site Unresponsive or Crash
This is highly dependent upon what I’ve described at point two.
Now, please don’t think that here by saying “Unresponsive”.
I’m actually trying to mean the responsive design of the website.
Not at all!
What I’ve tried to mean here by unresponsive is the laggyness of surfing the website.
So, don’t confuse this with responsive design.
Responsive design has nothing to do with commenting systems.
Now, you won’t feel the unresponsiveness on a site which has just a few hundred comments on their entire website,
You will feel this laggyness when you visit a site which has thousands and thousands of comments.
Even in many cases,
I’ve seen that if you try to load a big site (using a commenting system like Disqus) with thousand comments on it on a mid-range mobile device (doesn’t have much RAM like those flagship smartphones),
It will actually crash the browser after waiting for a period of time.
The reason it happens is that as these commenting scripts use Ajax to do their cross-domain transaction,
It takes a measurable time to fetch the huge data from the external server and then passes them onto the actual site.
Moreover, if you have enabled the real-time comment features comes with most of these commenting system,
It will make the whole situation even more critical.
As then it has to run a ton of jQuery codes over and over to check if anything new there and as the result will make the website surfing experience unresponsive.
Now as these all happen at the jQuery level,
Often browser waits for a few time to the whole website gets loaded properly.
But as these scripts take more time and more RAM (on your device) to execute properly,
The site gets laggy and the whole user experience of the website gets ruined.
Hard to Design & add Custom Features
Most of these commenting system comes with some of their prebuild designs.
Though if you are nerd enough, you can make some minor design changes through CSS.
You cannot change the overall design of the comment form and comment display pallet.
So even if you don’t like their design or if it doesn’t fit your website design,
You still have to live with it.
On the other hand,
If you would have used default commenting system comes with the CMS like WordPress,
You could have to change anything you like in your comment form and comment display pallet.
You can make it look like anything you want, anyway, you want it.
Also, you would have the ability to add more functionality within your commenting system if you like.
But with these third-party commenting system,
You left with no choice than using whatever they are offering with whatever design and feature it is.
Impossible to Optimize
This is again a very important thing as the load time and speed of your website is also depends on this point.
When you use the default commenting system provided by your CMS like WordPress,
It stores all the data on your own server.
And when needed,
It fetches out the required comments using the SQL query.
Now these CMS are extremely well-coded and use some extraordinary object caching algorithm,
To make sure your site loads as fast as possible while keeping the server load to the minimal.
A very common example is when you load a blog post which uses the defaults commenting system of WordPress,
What happens in behind is…
WordPress sends a query to the server to load the list of comments for that specific article,
When the site loaded for the first time.
And, then uses PHP memory caching feature to store that retrieved data into memory.
As these SQL queries have a high cost (takes more time to execute),
It is much more efficient to keep the data on the memory unless it’s get updated.
Next time when someone posts a new comment,
It again fetches the query newly and keeps it in the memory until it’s get updated again.
It’s a very intelligent way to make the site load faster while keeping resource usage at low.
Also if you have your own VPS,
You can add much more sophisticated memory caching software like Redis.
And, make the whole process even smoother compared to the Memcache that uses in most servers.
Now, this is something you will never get on a third-party commenting system,
As they never actually get stored in your own server,
You cannot use these caching processes.
Also, it is much faster to fetch the data from your own server than fetching it from an external server.
Hard to Migrate
One of the great aspects of using these third-party commenting systems like Disqus is that,
They provide an extraordinary tool to import your existing comments on your site to their commenting system.
But what they do not provide is the other way around.
As I said earlier many big sites started using these third-party commenting systems like Disqus on their early days without even realizing their blunder.
But eventually, they have stuck with it!
As they have no other choice to get back to using the default commenting system of their CMS,
Without losing the existing comments on their website.
Now, we all know the value of each comment on the site and the last thing any webmaster will ever want is to delete their existing comments.
So, they have no other choice!
But to stick with using Disqus forever no matter how much they regret their old decision.
The import tool of these commenting systems is so cool that,
It will import all of your existing comments from your existing WordPress site to their commenting system.
But when you try to stop using their service and migrate your comments from their commenting system to back to your own WordPress server,
This is where all the problem starts.
Though some third-party commenting system allows users to export their existing comments on certain cases,
Some don’t even allow any export service at all.
So if you stop using them you will lose all of your comments.
For example, discus allows their users to export their existing comments as an XML file only if they have a hand few comments.
If you have a lot of comments in your discus system,
You cannot export them.
This is not just my own experience,
They said it clearly on their own website, have a look.
This is what Disqus has said,
Exports may not be available for all sites, particularly those of a large size.
If you’ve requested an export file more than twice and still have not received a download link from us,
It’s likely that export for your site is currently unavailable.
So, now as you have tons of comments with Disqus,
You have no other option than keep using them.
Also if you have a handful few comments with discussing and you are able to export the comments from Disqus as XML,
Still, it’s not easy to export them back to WordPress’s default commenting system.
As WordPress doesn’t provide any official comment importing plugin,
Either you have to use some third part Disqus importer tool for WordPress or you have to build your own plugin to actually migrate your Disqus comments back to your own server.
This is really painful, I know.
When a user decides to post a comment on your website,
That means they like your work and want to interact with you or your website’s community of users.
No matter what the case is,
It’s completely your responsibility to keep those user details (like name, email, IP address, etc.) secure at any cost.
Because your user trusts you and you should keep up with their trust.
But when you use a third-party commenting system like Disqus,
None of your user data gets stored on your server.
And, you have no access to the external servers where they get stored.
Now if their server gets breached you may lose of your user’s private information and lose the faith in your user’s eyes.
Also, there is a high risk involved (in my opinion) trusting anyone with my user data.
But you have no proof and if they do without letting you know, it can’t do anything.
So, in short,
You are stuck with a commenting system!
You cannot leave even if it’s slow and painful as you cannot export your old comments.
And, also you have to blindly trust others with your private user data.
This is complete nonsense to me.
And, I will never take this much risk with my user’s faith and neither suggest anyone take it too.
So, next time if you are building a new website or blog and thinking about using the Disqus commenting system,
Rather than the inbuilt commenting system provided by your CMS (like WordPress),
I will suggest you re-think about it thrice before actually doing it.
As I explained above at the beginning you might not get the idea about the whole lot of issues you are going to face in the near future.
But as your site grows you will start realizing the effects of this blunder.
And, when you actually realize it to return back to the general commenting system,
It might be too late and you cannot export your existing comment from discus anymore.
Trust me, the default commenting system of WordPress is truly extraordinary.
And, works fantastically even in big sites with thousands and thousands of comments.
So, why create more trouble when you can evade it in the first place?
- What is your experience with Disqus and similar third-party commenting system?
- Does it also make your site slower?
- Do you also regret using Disqus in the first place?
- Have you faced any of the issues I’ve explained above?
- Does this post help you?
I’m really curious to know the answer to these questions.
Please share your thoughts about it in the comment section below and we can carry on the discussion there.