Disqus is a top-rated service for hosting and managing comments. But it has as an external service several disadvantages which opposed the philosophy of static websites diametrically. I discuss some alternatives for integrating discussion fora with static websites.
In one of my tutorials I have explained how to integrate Disqus into your static website. But in this article, I recommend looking for alternative comment services. Why this different standpoint? In the meanwhile, I read several articles questioning Disqus. Here is a list of critiques I found on the web (without ranking):
Especially the first and last bullet points defeat the advantages of a static website: Speed and all content always at your disposal. On a static website, data are just plain text file, saved locally on your hard disk. Therefore you can static sites transfer easily: Compress all your data in one zip file and unzip it where ever you want it. — But with Disqus, these advantages are not valid anymore, because your blog text and its comments are hosted separately on different servers.
Summarizing the disadvantages, I mentioned above I am looking for a system which is
I looked cursory in some services:
Staticman: Staticman is open source and transforms user-generated content into data files to merge in your GitHub repository, along with the rest of your content. This approach seems for me promising, but until now, I couldn’t manage to install it. I have reported my problem, and I am currently waiting for help. As soon as I know how to fix it, I will review the system here on these pages.
hypothes.is: The vision is to provide ‘a conversation layer over the entire web that works everywhere, without needing implementation by any underlying site’. For this approach, the data has to be stored centrally. So this software again is not an alternative to Disqus. This remark is not a critique of
hypothes.is because it belongs to another category of software services. It has a new approach worth to review it later in more detail.
IntenseDebate: It is a feature-rich comment system for many blogging resp. CMS platforms. IntenseDebate is developed by the people who are behind many other well-known software services (e.g., WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Simplenote, VaultPress, Akismet, Gravatar, to name a few). It seems a bit odd that I could not find newer information than January 2014. It is free but not open source, but it hosts the content centrally in the US. IntenseDebate is, therefore, no candidate for replacing Disqus.
Graphcomment is a beautiful designed commenting service with a (limited) free plan. But it is disqualified under my criteria as the code is not open source and it hosts the comments centrally too.
ISSO is a lightweight commenting service, programmed in
Python, which allows anonymous comments. It is free, open source, and installed locally. So it does qualify! But the installation procedure seems complex as there is no GUI and one has to use the terminal for the installation. Furthermore, it seems to me that not all operating systems are covered. But I should give it a try anyway and review it.
Discourse is a feature-rich open source environment, supports
Markdown and allows anonymous posting. As a hosting service, it has no free plan and costs as a minimum US$ 100 / month (with 80% discount for educational resp. 50% for non-profit institutions.). But you can install Discourse yourself without cost on your server. Alternatively, you can pay a one-time fee of $99 for a cloud installation with a $10/month hosting fee. With the possibility to install it on your server,
Discourse is another candidate to try out.
Using GitHub: Another website is also recommending to use GitHub for comments. I have no clear idea how these proposed code lines will work in practice, but if it works, then it will certainly qualify: Open source, free, supporting
Markdown and hosted by the website owner.
I reviewed superficially different commenting systems. I was looking for a free, open source system, allowing anonymous content,
Markdown and hosted by the website owner. Four services seem to fulfill my criteria:
Discourse and a code proposal by
hypothes.is is an exciting project, but not a commenting system. It belongs, therefore, to a different category of software (annotation systems).
A competent review of these four systems requires a test installation, which I plan to do in the next few weeks.
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