The Future of Disqus Aims at Better Discovery (Trolls Not Welcome)
Disqus is already everywhere you’ve been on the Web. It’s the most widely utilized commenting platform on the Internet, spread across two million Web sites both small and large (including, may I add, AllThingsD).
Thing is, Disqus gets little time in the spotlight. It’s the space on the Web page where you respond to content, the little blank box at the bottom of an article where users can weigh in. Disqus may already be ubiquitous, but it’s a secondary thought at best, not a destination.
At least, not yet.
The company recently had a “hack week,” piecing together features that could end up in the final Disqus product. The result: Taking the strengths of Disqus’s existing massive network of active comment discussions across the Web and filtering them, surfacing the most popular material for users to browse.
In essence, Disqus wants to build something greater than the sum of its disparate discussion parts, the “destination” experience that the company is missing.
Think of it as an amalgam of features popular on other social sites like Reddit, StumbleUpon and even Pinterest. In Disqus’ early hacked sketches, CEO Daniel Ha and company built a conceptual main homepage where the most active discussions across the network — or “trending” discussions, in familiar social network parlance — will show up.
There are other early projects focused on local discussions centered around the smartphone user out in the world, as well as a media-centric “color it in” feature that aims to add more life to the usual text-based discussions seen on some commenting platforms.
The thinking behind the experiments makes sense. If the company can create new ways to drum up user engagement through a central portal like a Disqus homepage, that activity can be channeled out to the disparate discussions occurring across the hundreds of thousands of sites Disqus currently lives on. Harness the power of a strong, traffic-feeding homepage and you can deliver millions of page views out to sites across the Web.
In turn, Web publishers will be more apt to implement Disqus on their sites at the possibility of that traffic influx.
That’s similar to the power of a site like Reddit, which can send massive swarms of traffic to third-party sites after a link ends up on Reddit’s powerful front door.
But Reddit wasn’t built in a day. The site has an almost cult-like following of devotees, complete with their own jargon, in-jokes and even a loosely defined code of what should and should not show up on the homepage. Disqus’ aim is to go beyond the cliquishness that seems to define Reddit, appealing to the massive consumer base that logs on to Disqus across any given site on the Web.
In terms of community-building, Disqus has its work cut out for it. You may have noticed on a number of Disqus-based comment sections that many conversations devolve into vitriolic spitting matches, often the lifeblood of Web trolls and anonymous sharpshooters whose only aim is to derail a thread. It ruins any hope of fostering dialogue, which Disqus needs in order to make any notion of being a destination site a success.
These are early days and fledgling ideas, and the company hasn’t ironed out all the kinks quite yet. As of Friday, the company is only previewing a taste of the direction it intends to take.
But I’m told we should see more on this front in the coming months, as the company builds better, more finished versions of the products it wants to introduce. Expect to see new features slowly roll out in the new year, including the company’s experimental “Labs” arm.
If you don’t like Disqus’ new experiments, I’m sure there’s room for discussion — just try not to be a troll about it.