I had the, er, privilege of spending a couple hours today comparing Intense Debate to Disqus. This kind of thing has been covered around the web, but I just couldn’t find all the answers I needed for my particular purpose. I ended up taking a short test drive of them both, and as you see I already use Intense Debate here on my blog. Funny enough I found the answers to most of my questions looking under “Support” on their sites and then clicking around.
Feature-wise, they’re nearly identical. The only real differences:
- Intense Debate is owned by Automattic, the company behind WordPress. Therefore they have a lot of experience to draw from, a proven talent pool and track record, and intimate knowledge of our blogging platform. Disqus is a Y-Combinator startup, the entire team seems to have gone straight from college to founding this company.
- Disqus has some kind of a VIP program that includes the ability to skin the Disqus comments like your site, more advanced filtering tools for comments, support, and a service guarantee. I could not find a similar program for Intense Debate.
- Disqus has native integration with multiple platforms (WordPress, Movable Type, and a bunch of others). Intense Debate has native integration with WordPress and a “generic install” that you can add to any page (whether it’s a blog or not).
We had a few specific concerns and needs that we wanted to make sure were addressed.
- Integration with Facebook, Twitter
- Realtime updates
- User profiles (ability to see a user’s history, ideally helps prevent users from masquerading as other people)
- Stay in control of our data (don’t lose comments if we leave the service later)
- Keep data in sync — edits to comments in WordPress should propagate the edit to the comment service, and vise-versa
- Needs graceful fallback in case the service goes down
The long version
Both meet the criteria above, as well as allowing us to keep the comments if we revert to WP comments (or switch to a different system). They both sync comments with WP (so if their system is down you can still comment, and when it goes back up it grabs any comments it missed, and if you switch away from them you keep all your comments). Edits are synced as well.
Disqus seems to have real-time comment updates, I couldn’t find that feature on Intense Debate.
Both have a cool social “Like” feature that shows the avatar of people who like a post or who like other comments. However, it is different than Facebook’s “Like” and could be confusing with both on the page.
Disqus’s “Like” button allows you to share the story/comment you liked on Facebook or Twitter. On Disqus’s site they use a service called BackType to import Tweets about your posts into your comments, like trackbacks. Intense Debate has community plugins that can let you Tweet and Share posts on Facebook, and there’s another plugin that integrates with a service called LinksAlpha to imports Tweets about your posts into your comments.
Both let you sort posts and subscribe to comments via e-mail or via RSS.
Both let the administrator read/reply/moderate comments via e-mail.
During my brief tour, Disqus seems like they’re pushing integration with Facebook and Twitter with their own platform as a springboard (e.g., you find people interesting on Disqus and then follow them on Twitter or friend them on Facebook), while Intense Debate seems like they’re trying to be their own platform (e.g., you go to your Intense Debate dashboard to check up on friends).
Disqus is a little less mature than Intense Debate but also seems to have a larger following, although they’ve been around about the same length of time. Intense Debate is owned by Automattic (the company behind WordPress) and has grown drastically in user share since they were purchased.
Disqus has historically been more unstable than Intense Debate; I found more references to problems with Disqus’s service than Intense Debate’s (although it could be that Disqus’s problems are aired more because of their larger userbase). I also experienced a problem with Disqus where every time I clicked someone’s profile I saw the profile of the first person I clicked on instead of the current person I wanted to view.
Intense Debate does not currently have any kind of paid or high usage program, and although they are used by some big blogs (i.e., TechCrunch) [update 2011-01-23: TechCrunch was apparently just dabbling, and ended up settling on Disqus. I’m currently unaware of any large blogs using Intense Debate.] those blogs are hosted by WordPress.com VIP and I don’t think it is a far reach to assume that they therefore get a guaranteed level of service. Disqus has a VIP program for guaranteed service levels.
We’re testing Disqus on the blogs at work, but the jury’s still out there. We have a very strict SLA with our blog GMs, and we try and keep services (and WordPress plugins) standardized across our blogs.
Also, I just found out an annoying little trait with Intense Debate. Every time I’ve been replying to comments from my WP dashboard, the comments I make get eaten — they aren’t displayed and aren’t synced with ID. Annoying, to say the least. Filed a bug report.
Related External Links
- Meeting the Mentalists « Phil’s Boring Blog (here’s to you, Phil)
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