Disqus to Facebook: “We Aren’t Shaking In Our Boots”

Last night, reading a TechCrunch profile of the weeks-old startup Zaarly, it was possible to imagine that the company — whose mobile app connects people with things that they don’t have the time or resources to secure themselves  –  could be the next Foursquare. It wasn’t just the piece itself was bullish. But the absence of anything but rosy comments to follow –  “clever,” “cool,” and “much more likely [than Kozmo] to scale this time” –  quickly became conspicuous.

The same has been true of many stories since early last week, when TechCrunch decided to sideline its commenting platform, Disqus, and test out a new Facebook commenting plug-in that makes it impossible to comment anonymously. Now, every comment left at the site is tied to a Facebook account. Except for those who ask their comments not be posted to their profile pages, comments are also appearing there and in the commenters’ news feeds, too.

Given that TechCrunch covers Facebook so closely, its experiment makes sense. But I’ll be surprised if it presages a big change in online media — no matter how big an uproar it has caused. From what I’ve seen so far, Facebook is sucking the life out of the site, whose anonymous commenters — while often crass, cruel, or unintelligible — also regularly provided valuable, unvarnished, views and insights.

Let’s go back to Zaarly, whose proposition right now sounds fun, but thin. Using Zaarly, for example, you can offer to pay $200 for front-row seats at a Cleveland Cavaliers game to anyone else on the Zarly platform who happens to be within five miles of you. While novel, the idea doesn’t seem to offer a lot of utility. Another use case that was cited in TechCrunch –  that you can request that someone at a nearby Starbucks bring you coffee for a pre-agreed amount – isn’t much more convincing. 

At the old TechCrunch, one could have counted on reading some healthy skepticism in the comments, possibly focused on Zaarly’s apparent lack of a business model. With its new commenting system, the most negative thing someone said of Zaarly was, “I dunno. This sounds like one of those clever ideas that nobody will actually use.”

No wonder Daniel Ha, the co-founder of the four-year-old, 20-person startup Disqus, isn’t terribly concerned about Facebook comments. At least, not yet.

“We think of Facebook as a competent competitor,” Ha told me late yesterday. “They’ve put a stake in the ground – they see a lot of value in what we do. But we haven’t seen [Facebook] make a dent in our traction, which is why we aren’t shaking in our boots.”

Disqus isn’t so easy to slow down. Ha says the company, backed $4.5 million, including from Y Combinator and Union Square Ventures, has over the past year grown each of its core metrics —  from traffic to users, to the number of publishers using its platform — by 500 to 600 percent. 

More telling, Disqus, which is already the commenting platform for more than 700,000 “communities,” including CNN, Fox News, Al Jazeera and the popular blog AllThingsD  — has been seeing “30 to 40 percent growth in daily installs” since Facebook began its public relations push.

“I think we can credit [Facebook] with driving traffic to Disqus,” said Ha.

Maybe so. Like it or not, one of the reasons that people appreciate the Web is their ability to maintain some degree of anonymity. Not everyone wants to subscribe to Facebook’s high school hegemony. I hope media outlets keep that in mind.

Related Posts

14 Comments

  • “Facebook’s high school hegemony”

    Nicely put!

  • Correction: Facebook commenting plug-in (as deployed on TechCrunch) actually does allow to post anonymously, since one can log in using the nickname registered at Yahoo.

  • [...] Disqus to Facebook: “We Aren’t Shaking in our Boots” – PE Hub [...]

  • Decades ago when my poli sci professor droned on about removing intellectuals from a discussion to increase the effectiveness of propaganda, I thought it was just something people who thought they were intellectuals said to make themselves feel important.
    Your article made me reconsider that.

  • Dude, the background of this site totally wigs out on my LCD monitor. I think I just had a seizure.

  • Disqus should be worried. Their system is low quality and unreliable. Facebook is not.

  • It sounds like you used to anonymously troll the Techcrunch comments and now you’re bitter that you can’t do so anymore. Lame.

    hahahahalololoirony

  • Their switch to Facebook comments is horrible. It finally convinced me to unsubscribe from TechCrunch, after putting up with so many poorly-written and poorly-researched articles. I’d rather read an Ars or Krebs article any day.

    Instead of getting upset that their readers genuinely dislike the quality of their work, and changing comment systems to filter out some of the complaints, maybe they should focus on not running such a crap website.

  • Great, but how in the world does Disqus expect to make money? Oh, that’s right, it’s a Union Square special.. a lot of traction, no real money machine.

  • [...] Disqus to Facebook: “We Aren’t Shaking In Our Boots” Last night, reading a TechCrunch profile of the weeks-old startup Zaarly, it was possible to imagine that the company — whose mobile app connects people with things that they don’t have the time or resources to secure themselves  –  could be the next Foursquare. It wasn’t just the piece itself was bullish. But the absence of anything but rosy comments to follow –  “clever,” “cool,” and “much more likely [than Kozmo] to scale this time” –  quickly became conspicuous. [...]

  • [...] Despite the clear competition from Facebooks new commenting service, commenting company Disquss co-founder and CEO Daniel Ha says he is not concerned about Facebooks foray into the field, according to PeHub. [...]

  • [...] 虽然Facebook的新评论服务明显是在和Disqus抢生意,但是Disqus的首席执行官Daniel Ha却说他对于Facebook想要分一杯羹的行为并不在意。相关内容见PeHub [...]

  • The switch to Facebook comments finally got me to remove Tech Crunch from my feed. I simply am not willing to use my real identity everywhere on the internet (It personally has nothing to do with being anonymous for me since I use the same Disqus identity basically everywhere online), therefore a switch to FB comments basically means I’m no longer able to comment and, thus, am considerably less interested in their site. If they have any genuinely interesting articles I’ll end up seeing them on Techmeme anyway.

  • [...] This, I think is a direct hit to Disqus and "Troll" Land. Read here peHUB » Disqus to Facebook: “We Aren’t Shaking In Our Boots” Disqus said: "we offer better services" the Trolls said: "we know the value of [...]

Leave a Reply

PEHUB Community

Join the 12500 members of peHUB to make connections, share your opinion, and follow your favorite authors.

Join the Community

Look Who’s Tweeting

Psst! Got any hot tips?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

PE HUB News Briefs

RSS Feed Widget

Marketplace

VCJ Headlines (subscribers only)

RSS Feed Widget

Buyouts Headlines (subscribers only)

RSS Feed Widget

Reuters VC and PE feed

RSS Feed Widget