Disqus vs. IntenseDebate: Why Both Miss the Mark


It really shouldn’t be this difficult.

I wanted to upgrade my comment system to give it a little nicer look than the built-in WordPress design. I wanted to make it easier for people to leave a comment and interact.

These are things every blogger should be interested in doing.

I first tried Disqus. It’s a nice-looking comment system, but there were two major drawbacks: Disqus comments are maintained on their system, not on my own site. I can sync up my comment database with theirs — which is why the comments that came in while I was on Disqus are still here — but when I go to moderate them, I have to go off of my site to do so. Likewise, my WordPress for Droid app (or the WordPress for iPad app, for that matter) wasn’t able to see comments pending moderation.

A bigger drawback was that the comment count never worked correctly. On my index page (the “front” page), a post would show “0 Comments,” even though there might be five or six that would suddenly appear when you clicked through to read the post. After contacting Disqus’s tech support team, which I will admit was very good, they weren’t able to offer many suggestions other than the tired old, “It may be a plugin problem: try deactivating them all and reactivate them one by one to see if the problem goes away.”

Sorry, tech folk, but let’s be clear about something: deactivating all of my plugins isn’t an option. There are some plugins that crash the site if they’re not on. I can’t accurately detect which one might be the problem by bringing them up “one by one,” because it could be a combination of that handful that the site won’t run without that could be causing the problem. And once it comes to that, what you’re really telling me, whether you mean to or not, is that your software simply will not work on my site.

So Disqus was out.

Then I tried IntenseDebate. There’s a big advantage right off the bat: IntenseDebate is made by Automattic, the same company that makes WordPress, so it should be a much better fit.

Only, it isn’t. IntenseDebate basically takes over commenting on WordPress. You can still moderate comments from within WordPress apps, but the problem I keep having is that IntenseDebate seems to lose connection to my WordPress account, which means my Dashboard won’t reflect the correct comment count, recently approved comments or pending comments.

When I go specifically to the Comments tab on my Dashboard, I see all of the comments. But even if approve any pending comments there, when I return to the Dashboard, they’re still not updated until I manually go to Settings, then reset the plugin. This forces me to log in, after telling me that there was some unspecified error in logging in, despite the fact that the username and password they have on file is, indeed, the correct one. The comments are synced again, but then I have to adjust a setting or two to make sure it is set the way I want it. And this becomes nearly a daily ordeal, just to get the Dashboard correct.

I’m also not a fan of IntenseDebate’s little odd loading, which causes my index page to load with one set of comment counts initially, then blink to a second count within a half-second or so. It makes it look like I’m hiding comments, something I wouldn’t do to begin with, when all I really want is for the comments to display correctly and with the right counts from the get-go. The tech support for IntenseDebate is very helpful as well. There has been mention of a newer version coming to address some issues, though I’m not entirely sure whether my particular issue is one of the problems being targeted for a fix.

The best thing that could happen for WordPress users is that in a future version of its main software, IntenseDebate should just be rolled in as the default system. That way, we’d get the better look without two separate programs constantly losing sync between each other.

Any program that is going to make me do additional work on an almost daily basis just to make sure people’s comments appear is not a program I’m willing to deal with.

I’ll work with WordPress’s basic commenting system until I find something better. In the meantime, we’re about 80 comments away from the 10,000th comment! I’m looking forward to reading yours!


  1. @DulceDeLauryn I would definitely recommend it. I liked IntenseDebate and Disqus, too, but the sync issues just became too annoying for me. I can’t explain why I’m getting more comments since switching to a system that requires a minor registration, but it’s happening, so I’m not complaining! 🙂

  2. Wow .. I see you’re using Livefyre, never heard of it until now. So far this looks really cool. 🙂

    Overall I like both Intense Debate and Disqus. I have them installed on different sites. However, I might try this Livefyre next. @anisesmith… have you ever seen this!?

  3. I’ve used both Disqus and IntenseDebate and both have good and bad points. I ran across today and now I’m checking it out. So far I’m not sure if it’s any better than those two (or really any different). WordPress default commenting just doesn’t seem to have enough bells and whistles when there’s so many options out there. I’m not sure what the best solution is.

    How did you add the Twitter option to your comments here?

    1. I’ll have a look at that one, too, Jason…hadn’t heard of it.

      The Twitter link option on the comments is through a plugin called “Twitterlink Comments.” And I’ve also just added “CommentLuv,” a component that IntenseDebate included as part of its standard design.

  4. Patrick:
    I appreciated taking this post into consideration-
    Each reader brings a perspective, and mine is “keeping things simple” so when I read your thoughts here it was with a sense of growing interest. The subject you tackle is one that goes internet-wide. How systems can make what could be a simple thing complex. When the “New Twitter” came out I immediately saw “uh oh, we’ve lost the clean lines and elegant simplicity of the original model” so I avoided using it. (I’m still using the old twitter.)
    I want to thank you for commenting on my blog yesterday.
    For me, right now, it’s practice practice practice, until I can feel “I’ve become a blogger.” Commenting on other blogger’s posts, I have discovered, is one of the most effective ways to grow in the basic skills.
    One more thing- You say “There’s a big advantage right off the bat: IntenseDebate is made by Automattic, the same company that makes WordPress, so it should be a much better fit. Only, it isn’t.”
    Yup! You hit the nail on the head. “You’d think it should…”

    Your comment is characteristic of the

    1. Thanks, Wayne.

      I’d have honestly been happy with either system…if either fully worked. I liked Disqus a lot and I’ve seen it used on bigger professional news sites. And IntenseDebate had a layout and an easier user interface with color customization options that were really simple to manage.

      But the minor sticking points were enough to get them both knocked off. I hope the bugs can be resolved, because I’d seriously consider giving either one a try again.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.