Why Disqus is Broken

  • Disqus is full of adtech trackers

    Disqus is one of the most popular commenting services. However, over the years it has become quite bloated - one blog post explained it in detail. A Disqus-free page makes about 16 HTTP requests while the same page makes 105 requests when Disqus is enabled!

  • Disqus comment box is atrocious.

    It is built to be compatible with all websites so the interface is kept as generic as possible.

  • Not a Disqus problem, but comment boxes in general are broken.

Why Comment UI is Broken

Perhaps one of the biggest problems with comment box is its location. Usually, they are at the very bottoms of a page. I write long and comprehensive articles on specific topics. Readers simply aren’t motivated enough to scroll up, find and read the paragraph again, scroll to the bottom, and finally draft a comment.

Another issue is size. Comment box is a tiny part of the screen real estate so only very motivated readers will draft a comment in good faith, unlike Hacker News and Reddit, which are basically detached comment threads. The side effect is that comments tend to be underwhelmingly trivial and negative.

I need a system that gives readers the ability to comment while they are reading and that forums cannot replace.

The Solution

I started looking for a replacement for Disqus. Instead of finding a similar comment service, I opted for inline commenting. On my main site, I have a lot more lively conversations with readers and now I can confidently say that inline commenting is the way to go.

If you’ve ever used Medium, you’ve seen inline comments in action. Basically, users can respond to specific words, sentences, lines and paragraphs within your posts, instead of en masse at the bottom. These comments are then served up contextually, placed along the side of a post’s content wherever they are relevant.

With inline commenting, it reduces the friction of scrolling and makes it much easier for readers to leave comments, especially on tangential points that don’t warrant full comment at the end. They may want to clarify a claim, spot an error or just want to share some related links that some other readers may find useful in the context.

Also as a writer, I get to know exactly where people are perusing and spending time on. It’s always nice to get feedback from readers, whether they liked or hated a particular part of the story.

After some googling, I found several plugins. To my disappointment, inline commenting plugins are few and far between. None of those fit my need.

  • Genius Web Annotator

    Genius is reportedly changing direction and moving away from web annotation. Also embedding Genius means giving up control on what’s on your page. Anyone can leave malicious comments and you can’t do anything about it.

  • Fundamine

    This plugin only allows sentence-level comments. It is awkward to use because when hovering over sentences, the background changes color.

  • Inline comments for WordPress

    It is native wordpress comments rendered inline. User experience isn’t the smoothest but much better than some others. It is very easy to integrate. Unfortunately I don’t run wordpress.

  • inlineDisqussions

    It was a good idea back in the day when Disqus didn’t have as many ad retargeting trackers. The user experience is pretty bad too.

So as any hacker would do(good ones anyway), I decided to build one from scratch. The problems I solved along the way are interesting. I will share what I learned in a series of posts in near future.

After 6 months of coding the perfect inline comment plugin, I am releasing it as a free SaaS with 0 ad tracker. On top of what Medium already offers, it also has an array of customization options such as setting background color of highlights.

If you have any question, feel free to contact me at ricky@txtpen.com