Intense Debate vs. Disqus

Image representing IntenseDebate as depicted i...
Image via CrunchBase

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.

  1. Integration with Facebook, Twitter
  2. Realtime updates
  3. User profiles (ability to see a user’s history, ideally helps prevent users from masquerading as other people)
  4. Stay in control of our data (don’t lose comments if we leave the service later)
  5. Keep data in sync — edits to comments in WordPress should propagate the edit to the comment service, and vise-versa
  6. 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.

They both have spam filters and integrate with Akismet.

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.

Intense Debate lets you “Follow” (aka friend) other users and see their recent comments on any other blog.  Disqus doesn’t let you friend anybody but does let you find them on Twitter and Facebook.

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 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.

Update 9/19/2010

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

22 thoughts on “Intense Debate vs. Disqus

  1. OK, so how does my 'Meeting the Mentalists' qualify as a 'Related External Link'? Or are you being a bit mental? Fine by me if you are: all the best people are mental 😉


    1. Hah 🙂 Good question. It’s a little plugin I wrote that does a Google Blog Search on the post title (or category or tags) and finds similar posts. After this post I noticed it needs some work. 🙂

      I just started trying out a similar plugin called Zemanta that’s pretty cool. It finds images, links, etc and adds them to your post with a single click. It’s nicer than mine because it’s editorially-controlled rather than just randomly grabbing blog posts that came up in a Google search.


    2. Hah, sorry about that. I wrote a little plugin that's supposed to use Google Blog search and find related posts and link to them. It never worked to well and I've switched to a cool little plugin called Zemanta that does the same thing —

      …and I originally responded to your comment through my WP dashboard back when I approved it. Apparently ID ate my comment.


    1. At work it looks like we’re going to use Disqus. Quite a different counterpoint (work has several blogs with pageviews in the millions, vs my blog with pageviews in the single digits).


  2. It's easier to integrate in IntenseDebate. In Disqus, I spent a lot of time trying to figure the article id to sync the comments into my posts. Yeah I agree with gabrielk, IntenseDebate is a creation of Automatic.


  3. I can't find the answer to my question, so thought I'd check with you since you have used both systems. With Disqus, you can reply to a comment and it will be emailed to the commenter as well as left as a reply in your blog. Does IntenseDebate have that feature? So far, I haven't been able to find it if it does. When I reply to a comment, it only shows up on my blog. I want to be able to do a 'one' click commentary. Just curious if you know the answer, and most grateful if you would share any tips and tricks. So far, IntenseDebate has been a pain for me. Maybe it's because I use blogger instead of wordpress?


    1. I just happened to notice while approving comments — each user controls this for his/her self.

      At under Edit Profile > Account there's a checkbox for "Email me when …someone replies to a comment I've made"


  4. Just thought I'd point out that TechCrunch uses DISQUS, not intensedebate.

    From my own perspective, I really really wanted to like intensedebate because of its provenance and because of its aesthetics (to me they were a bit more pleasing than DISQUS). But I had no end of problems with it. I installed DISQUS and while it does have the occassional hiccup (for example, changing the default language from English to French for some strange reason and then switching it back, zut alors!) it has been smooth sailing.


    1. Disqus lets you change the default avatar, I haven't seen a way to do that in Intense Debate. Funny enough, despite being an Automattic product Intense Debate doesn't listen to WordPress's avatar settings at all — I guess because it's technically a separate app.


  5. So has intensedebate replaced comentluv? I am a little hazy on how the two websites kind of link to each other, but i am currently using intensedebate, but my main goal was to draw more traffic and readers to my first, new blog.


  6. I see you are using IntenseDebate after all, that is a good more. Did you ever considered using WP built in with Akismet?


  7. Hey Gabriel,

    Awesome comparison between Disqus and Intense Debate. I wanted to know if you'd like to feature this post on A project we’ve started to house all the best product comparisons on the web under one roof. You can back-link to this original article of course. Check it out, and if you're interested, I will send you an invite.

    Akshay Arabolu, Founder


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