Mike Isaac

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With an Eye for Social, Disqus Gets a Makeover

Disqus co-founder and CEO Daniel Ha

Talk about synchronicity.

Disqus released a completely revamped version of its comment moderation system on Wednesday, not more than 24 hours after WordPress.com introduced a Facebook plugin for enhanced commenting and integration across all WordPress.com VIP and WP-hosted sites. Aside from drastic aesthetic changes, the clear focus of the new Disqus is on stronger social implementation.

Long before Facebook ever dipped its toes into the comment moderation waters, Disqus held a monopoly on offering Web sites a third-party comment moderation system. More than 750,000 sites use Disqus, with upward of 300 million monthly active users engaged with the service.

(Disclosure: As you may have noticed, AllThingsD employs Disqus’ comment moderation system.)

But after Facebook decided to tread into comments on other sites, Disqus needed to get better at social. While Disqus’ value proposition has always been to provide an easier dashboard for Web publishers to navigate and moderate their comments sections, opting to go with a Facebook-based comment section leverages the potential traffic funnel that only a 900-million-plus member network can provide. WordPress.com’s new plugin allows publishers to post items directly to Facebook Pages — to user Timelines — and also allows for “mentions” of other Facebook users by name. It’s a brilliant way of tapping into the social network’s high potential for engagement.

So with social in mind, Disqus has gone back to the drawing board. In a Reddit-like twist, comments can be upvoted or downvoted, allowing the cream to rise to the top while reducing the visibility of any potentially abusive or spammy comments. Comment sections are also tabbed, sorted by an individual story discussion as well as a sitewide “community” tab which displays comments posted across all parts of the site, an aim at increasing overall site engagement.

Disqus co-founder and CEO Daniel Ha also argues that his company’s approach, unlike Facebook’s, is platform agnostic. Users can not only share comments directly to Facebook from Disqus, but also to Twitter and Google+. You’ve at least got the choice with Disqus, he says.

Ha doesn’t sound worried, either (though he probably should be). Disqus was doing well long before Facebook came into the game, and with the new socially focused tweaks, he expects his site to continue doing just fine. What’s more, there may be an attraction to sites that very specifically opt out of Facebook comment moderation, as some users prefer not to use their Facebook accounts to comment on other Web sites. What’s more, Disqus still has the reach and the lead time on Facebook’s comment system.

But lead time and reach aren’t the sole arbiters of success (remember how Myspace was supposed to quash Facebook’s aspirations?), and Facebook’s sheer size and new partnership could help its commenting system catch up fast. For now, Ha’s hope is that his site’s new look and increased attention to social features will be enough to sate its existing clients.

(Image courtesy of Robert Scoble/Flickr)

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