Facebook Launches Improved Commenting Plugin: Should Disqus and Co. be Scared?

Facebook today announced the launch of its improved Comments Box plugin. Among the highlights are improved moderation tools for publishers and a new algorithm that pushes comments from your friends and friends of friends, as well as the most liked and active comment threads to the top of the queue. While Facebook launched its first commenting plugin back in 2009, it never saw a huge spike in adoption so far, while other systems like Echo and Disqus have now become the de facto default choices for most publishers. Today’s update will likely bring more sites on board as publishers look to increase their reach on social networks.

It is important to note that the Comments Box will support authentication mechanisms besides Facebook itself. At launch, only Yahoo IDs are an option, but the company says it is working with other providers. As TechCrunch’s MG Siegler notes, though, rumor has it that Facebook scrapped the implementation of Twitter and Google authentication just before today’s launch. That’s a shame, given that the system’s utility is directly dependent on how easy it is for readers to comment on a story.

On the other hand, though, even without support for Twitter and Google, Facebook commenting is very powerful. Given its millions of users, Facebook not only makes it easy for people to log in (indeed, if you are logged in to Facebook you don’t have to log in again to comment on third-party sites), but as your comments can optionally appear in your Facebook wall, your comments are seen by more people. At the same time, the publisher’s reach also expands as comments are syndicated more widely. Uses will also receive Facebook notifications when others comment on their posts, making them more interactive, which in turn should drive more comments back to a publisher’s posts.

No Import?

Installing the Comments Box only takes a few clicks and mostly consists of copying and pasting a single line of code into your code. For publishers, though, that is only one part of the equation. One feature that is sorely missing here is the ability to import older comments. If you are currently using Disqus, for example, you can’t just easily switch over to Facebook’s commenting system without losing your current comments or running them side-by-side on older posts.

Not a Threat Just Yet – But It has Potential

For the time being, dedicated commenting systems like Disqus still have the upper hand, with easy migration tools and the ability to log in with a wider variety of credentials. In the long run, though, this improved Comments Box is another sign of Facebook extending its reach far beyond its own properties. For many publishers, the potential of a wider reach on Facebook and a deeper integration with the world’s most popular social network could outweigh the negatives. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Facebook’s commenting system pop up on more sites in the near future.