At the time of creating any blog or news based websites most webmasters gives the least amount of importance to the commenting system of their website, without even understanding the importance of it. Eventually comment section of a website is the only place where people interact with the author when they are exited 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 Disqus commenting system, without even realizing the consequences. And by the time you will realize it, your site would have become so big & popular they you can’t take the risk of changing your commenting system. If you are thinking why, keep reading.
People mostly use 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 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 now-a-days many non-techy people can make a websites too, but they don’t get the insights of an experienced personal. 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 to stay away from them.
1. Loading External Resource
If you are not a very technical guy, loading extra external resource doesn’t seems much scarier to you. But trust me, it is. When any static resource gets loaded from any 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 visit 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 loads 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 for the same resource to the disqus server over and over.
2. Slow Load Time
This is highly dependent upon the first point I’ve discussed above. Now as these commenting systems loads their static resources from their own external domain name, so if a visitor of your blog visit 10 articles of your site, the browser will send a request for that same resource to the disqus server everytime they load the page. As a result everytime 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 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 has ever made. Now as these script heavily uses Ajax to perform their nifty transaction trick without reloading the page, it actually makes the overall site experience very slower.
3. 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 sites (using 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 because as these commenting scripts uses Ajax to do their cross-domain transaction, it take a measurable time to fetch the huge data from the external server and then pass 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 happens at the jQuery level, often browser waits for a few time to the whole website gets loaded properly. But as these scripts takes 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.
4. 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 but 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 fits 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 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.
5. 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 in your own server and when needed it fetches out the required comments using SQL query. Now these CMS are extremely well-coded and use some extraordinary object caching algorithm to make sure your site load 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 send 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 has 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 post a new comment it again fetches the query newly and keep it in the memory until it’s get updated again.
It’s a very intelligent way to make the site load faster while keeping the 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 gets 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.
6. Hard to Migrate
One of the great aspect of using these third party commenting systems like disqus is that they provide 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 site started using these third party commenting system like disqus on their early days without even realizing their blunder but eventually they have stick 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 are 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 problem starts.
Though some third party commenting system allow 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 allow their users to export their existing comments as a XML file only if they have a hand few of comments. If you have a lot of comments in your discus system, you cannot export them. This is not just my own experience, their said it clearly on their own website, have a look.
This is what disqus have 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 an 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 discuss and you are able to export the comments from disqus as XML still it’s not easy to exporting 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.
7. Security Concerns
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 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 gets stored. Now if their server gets breached you may loose of your user user’s private information and loose the faith in your user’s eyes. Also there is a high risk involved (in my opinion) trusting anyone with my user data.
So, next time if you are building a new website or blog and thinking about using disqus commenting system rather than the inbuilt commenting system provided by your CMS (like WordPress), I will suggest you to 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 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 site with thousands and thousands of comments. So, why create more trouble when you can evade it at the first place?
What is your experience with disqus and similar third-party commenting system? Does it also made your site slower? Do you also regret using disqus at the first place? Have you faced any of the issues I’ve explained above? Does this post helped you? I’m really curious to know the answer of these questions. Please share your thoughts about it in the comment section below and we can carry on the discussion there.