The ultimate guide to comments for static sites

Daniel Olson | June 11, 2019

One of the most frequently asked question for static WordPress sites related to how comments work. While native WordPress comments may not be supported there are plenty of alternatives to choose from.

In this list we’ll feature the options we think could be a good fit for your next project. Whether you’re building a static WordPress site on Shifter, GatsbyJS, or React.

Talk by the Coral Project

https://coralproject.net/talk/

An open-source commenting platform focused on better conversation.

Features include:

  • Identify journalists in the conversation
  • Mute annoying voices
  • See when other commenters joined
  • Manage their privacy
  • Download their history
  • Share discussions
  • Sort by most replied/liked/newest
  • Receive notifications when a journalist interacts with them
  • See new comment alerts instantly
  • Identify and filter out off-topic comments
  • Plugin directory
  • Works with Slack, WordPress, and static sites

Talk is a comment system created by the Coral Project. It has an interesting history in that it was founded through a collaboration with the Mozilla Foundation, New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Talk is available as an open-source and self-hosted comment system build for newsrooms. One of their goals is to increase public trust and we would agree that they are off to a good start.

What’s really cool about Talk is the ecosystem of tools built within it. They offer a plugins directory which includes ways to extend the base features of Talk. If you need a custom integration or feature you can use their API to develop one too.

While Talk is open source and designed to be self-hosted they do offer options for Talk-as-a-service. Pricing isn’t available publicly but you can contact them to start that discussion.

The Coral Project is now officially a part of Vox Media. With such a large network of media sites using their Coral Project products, we can assume this project isn’t going away anytime soon. With a growing plugin directory and growing need for trusted comment systems, Talk is in a really good place to become the go-to comment system when privacy is a concern, which it should always be a concern.

If you’re a developer, we recommend checking out their GitHub page, it has so much going on.

Schnack!

Schnack is an open source commenting system written in JavaScript.

https://github.com/schn4ck/schnack

Lightweight, total size is about ~8KB.
Open-source and self-hosted
Ad-free and Tracking-free
Offers tools for moderators
Uses OAuth to authenticate
Requests users to use OAuth compatible services such as Google, GitHub, Facebook, or Twitter.
Migrate from Disqus and WordPress XML comments

Schnack self-hosted and open source comment system built using JavaScript. It runs on Node and or as Docker container for quick starts in production or testing locally.

The barrier to entry for Schnack is hosting it. Unlike most comments-as-a-service providers like Disqus where they are ready to integrate, you’ll need a place to host Schnack. As a self-hosted option, this may not be a surprise but it’s something to consider.

If Schnack sounds like a good fit and since it does offer a Docker version, it might be possible to deploy Schnack to Amazon’s Elastic Container Service, AWS Fargate, or similar.

For more info, check out their product site or GitHub page.

Remark42

Remark42 is a self-hosted, lightweight, and simple (yet functional) commenting system, which doesn’t spy on users.

https://remark42.com/
  • Social login via Google, Facebook, Github, and Yandex
  • Optional anonymous access
  • Multi-level nested comments with both tree and plain presentations
  • Import from Disqus and WordPress
  • Markdown support with friendly formatter toolbar
  • Moderator can remove comments and block users
  • Voting, pinning and verification system
  • Sortable comments
  • Images upload with drag-and-drop
  • Extractor for recent comments, cross-post
  • RSS for all comments and each post
  • Telegram notifications
  • Export data to JSON with automatic backups
  • No external databases, everything embedded in a single data file
  • Fully dockerized and can be deployed in a single command
  • The self-contained executable can be deployed directly to Linux, Windows, and MacOS
  • Clean, lightweight and customizable UI with white and dark themes
  • Multi-site mode from a single instance
  • Integration with automatic SSL (direct and via NGINX-le)
  • Privacy-focused

Remark42 is a self-hosted and open source comment system designed to run on Docker. While it’s designed to run as a Docker container, it can also be compiled to run without it. It appears to be written in Go and is active on GitHub.

Like Schnack, it offers integrations with OAuth logins by Google, Facebook, Github, and more. It also includes options to migrate comments from Disqus and WordPress. The RSS features on Remark42 could be a handy feature for news and media organizations looking to keep their visitors engaged.

Lambda Comments

Lambda Comments is an open-source self-hosted blog comment system that can be deployed to Amazon Web Services.

https://jimpick.com/2016/05/05/introducing-lambda-comments/
  • Open-source and self-hosted
  • Built and designed to run on Amazon Web Services
  • Low cost
  • Completely serverless
  • Written in Node
  • Runs on Lambda (of course), DynamoDB, S3, API Gateway, and S3
  • Integrates with CloudWatch Logs
  • Optional integrations with AKISMET and Slack

Lambda Comments is a comment system built using AWS Lambda. Of all the options, this may seem the least polished but it’s by far my favorite even without using it. The idea of a comment system built using Lambda just makes sense. The pricing model fits, the technology fits, and it’s low cost.

Since AWS is pay-as-you-go, the exact cost of running Lambda Comments isn’t that clear. However, it’s creator estimates the cost at about ~$1 per month. More or less depending on use.

Compared to the other options in this list, it lacks support for OAuth and migrations from Disqus and WordPress. That’s not a deal breaker though if you’re starting a new project. The other features you may expect are a UI or admin interface. You won’t find that here either unless you’re using the UI built for DynamoDB which might be enough for most AWS users.

A fair warning though, the last commit on this project was about 3 years ago. It may no longer be active but that does not mean it doesn’t work. I could easily see this project ported over to the Serverless Framework and updated to use the latest version of Node very easily.

To give it a try, checkout the GitHub page for Lambda Comments.

HashOver

HashOver is a self-hosted and open source comment system written in PHP.

https://github.com/jacobwb/hashover
  • Supports RSS for comments and Likes
  • Automatic URLs and Permalinks
  • Allows for anonymous posts
  • Themeable and customizable CSS

HashOver is written in PHP that’s offered as an open-source and self-hosted comment system. It comes with options to combat spam all locally. You can also async load comments for better performance.

As a self-hosted option written in PHP you’ll need a place to run this. AWS Lightsail is an option but you really can host it anywhere that supports PHP.

Isso

https://posativ.org/isso/

Isso is a lightweight commenting server similar to Disqus.

  • Written in Python
  • Database-backed by SQLite
  • Embeddable with a single JS file
  • Supports migrations from Disqus and WordPress
  • Markdown friendly
  • Features for moderators

Isso seems like a developer-friendly option for self-hosted comments. It’s lean, fast, and it’s dependencies come standards on most hosting environments.

The barrier for entry to Isso is going to be a familiarity with Python. The good news is that Python could be seen as simple compared to most PHP projects. If you’re a WordPress developer writing your own themes or plugin and never used Python before, you should give it a try. Python is often a favorite language to most who write it.

CommentBox.io

Hosted commenting that’s painless to embed, a pleasure to use, and a breeze to moderate.

https://commentbox.io
  • Freemium
  • The free version limits the number of comments
  • Get unlimited comments with a subscription
  • Lots of features for moderators
  • No credit card required for free tier
  • Works with WordPress and static sites

CommentBox is a hosted solution for comments. Their tagline is no ads, no tracking, just comments. While it’s a hosted solution you won’t have full control over your data they do support a feature to export all your data at any time.

I would consider CommentBox as an alternative to Disqus. As a fully-hosting solution you can get started in a matter of minute with minimal or no technical knowledge. In our opinion, their privacy policy is solid. They don’t support trackers, ads, or share data with 3rd parties. It can be a pain to host your own comment system but partnering with a provider that secures your data and promises not to share it seems worth trying.

Disqus

Disqus is a hosted comment service for websites.

https://disqus.com
  • Feature-rich dashboard
  • Tools for Moderators
  • Network of comments across sites
  • Lightweight even for the for largest of sites

Disqus is a go-to comment alternative for the WordPress community. This is mainly due to the integration that if offers for migrating from WordPress comments to the Disqus platform. They offer a WordPress plugin to migrate existing comments to Disqus before disabling native WordPress comments. We’ve created a few how-to documents on setting up Disqus with WordPress sites hosted on Shifter.

This popularity doesn’t come without some criticism though. Over the past few years, security research groups reported several security breaches. Security concerns aside, it offers more features in one platform than most of the providers on this list. If privacy, autonomy, and control over your data is your top priority it may not be a good fit but as always, we recommend doing your research as technology does change.

Closing Remarks

Is that is? Nope! There are a lot more comment systems we’ll cover and add to this list. As we test them we’ll feature them in a separate post and share our feedback. If you use WordPress and need comments, we want to help you figure out how to make that transition as smooth as possible using the tools you’re familiar with. Even if it’s no coding required.

If you’ve used any one of these tools and would like to share your feedback, please let us know!

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