Disqus is a very popular service for hosting and managing comments. But it has as an external service several disadvantages which are the philosophy of static websites opposed diametrically. I discuss some alternatives for integrating discussion fora with static websites.
Disqus has a long list of drawbacks
Yesterday I explained how to integrate Disqus into your website and today I recommend to look for alternative comment services. Why this contraposition? Since yestersay I read several articles questioning Disqus. Here is a list of critiques I found on the web (without ranking):
- Disqus is slow and has a bad (re-)loading behaviour.
- Disqus is tracking many different things for different customers; some of them hidden and unknown.
- Disqus does not allow Markdown.
- Disqus does not allow anonymous content (IP address, email and name is recorded).
- Disqus is hosted in the USA which is considered to have less stricter privacy laws than Europe.
- Disqus is not open source.
- Disqus does not allow that user can use free licenses for their comments. It is not clear who has the ownership about the comments.
- Disqus in one central authoritiy collecting all comments of your website visitors and users on their servers.
Especially the first and last bullet points defeats 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 websites transfer easily: Compress all your data in one zip file and unzip it where ever your want it. — But with Disqus these advantages are not valid anymore, because your blog text and its comments are hosted separatedly on different servers.
What are alternatives for Disqus?
The Hugo page on comments lists six of avalable alternatives for comment on static websites. On AlternativeTo you will find 24 more systems. I am looking for a system which is
- open source
- and does not host the user-generated comments centrally
I looked cursory in some services:
Staticman: Staticman is open source and transforms user-generated into data files that sit in your GitHub repository, along with the rest of your content. I will test Staticman later and review it here on these pages.
txtpen: txtpen is proprietary software and collects data in its own server. e.g. it does not qualify as a better alternative to Disqus. But textpen is interesting for another reason: It is a service for commenting inline annotation, but not a good one. There are others with better interfaces and more widespread like the proprietary platform diigo and especially the open source project hypothes.is.
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, but it seems a promising 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 and the content is centrally hostet in US. IntenseDebate is therefore no candidat for replacing Disqus.
Graphcomment is a beautiful designed commenting service with a (limited) free plan. But it is disqualified as the code is not open source and the comments are hosted centrally.
MUUT: It does not allow pre-moderation, e.g. every comment is online immediately. But it is no alternative to Disqus: There is no free plan and every possible right of user-generated content, which is hosted centrally, is transferred to MUUT!
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 is seems to me that not all system are covered. But I should give it a try anyway.
Discourse is a feature-rich open source environment, supports Markdown and allows anonymous posting. As a hosting service has it no free plan and costs as minimum US$ 100 / month (with 80% discount for educatioanl resp. 50% for non-profit institutions.). But you can install Discourse yourself on your own server or pay a one time-fee of $99 for a cloud installation with a $10/month hosting fee. SO this is another candidat to try out.
Using GitHub: Another aporach is using GitHub for comments. I have no clear idea how this will work in practice, but if it works, than 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 free, open source system, allowing anonymous content, Markdown and hosted by the website owner. Three systems seem to qualify these criteria: Staticman, ISSO, Discourse and using GitHub. hypothes.is belongs to a different category of software (annoation system) but could maybe complement forum resp. commenting systems.
If one of these systems could be an alternative to Disqus und replace it can only be determined after a temporary test installation.