Why Jetpack Comments is Not A Great Alternative to WordPress’ Native Comment Form

Jetpack ships with more than 30 different modules including, Jetpack Comments. One of its primary features is allowing people to login using credentials from their WordPress.com, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts.

Jetpack Comments Form
Jetpack Comments Form

This module has replaced the WordPress native comment form for nearly two years on WP Tavern. It makes it easier for people on social networks to post a comment, but the convenience comes with several drawbacks.

Lack of a Graceful Fallback

Jetpack Comments Temporarily Offline
Out Of Fuel

In early 2014, several Tavern readers experienced Service Temporarily Unavailable errors when trying to submit a comment. The error was caused by a security setting with mod_security on DreamHost and exposed the lack of a graceful fallback. Instead of displaying an error, the iFrame should have been replaced with the native comment form. I created an issue on Github explaining the problem and although it gained immediate attention, not much has happened since.

Annoying Page Refreshes

It’s normal for articles on the Tavern to have several comments with multi-threaded conversations. I’ve discovered that Jetpack Comments will sometimes take me to a different part of the page after I reply to a comment instead of taking me to where the comment is published. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s annoying.

It’s 2015, 10 years after the term Ajax was coined by Jesse James Garrett. Ajax stands for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML. It’s a collection of technologies that provide near real-time interaction with page elements. For example, if you leave a comment on a site running the P2 theme, it will appear on the site without refreshing the page.

Page refreshes are distracting, annoying, and break the flow of a conversation. I’m not the first one to request Jetpack Comments be Ajaxified. In an issue on Jetpack’s Github account, George Stephanis, who is a member of the Jetpack development team explains that, while theoretically possible, it’s not high on the priority list.

It’s theoretically possible passing the event through JS window.postMessage — but to actually render the comment would take some theme integration that we can’t presently assume. If someone wanted to write this I’d be fine accepting a pull request that fires an event and passes some limited data back, like the comment ID and status or something, but it’s not high on the priority list.

The ticket has gained little traction with no signs of Ajax support being added anytime soon. His response is similar to Matt Mullenweg’s in episode 130 of WordPress Weekly, when I asked him why comments haven’t changed much in WordPress over the years, “It’s very difficult to iterate comments as it’s hard to get those changes to be compatible with every WordPress theme in the world.”

It’s Not Highly Extendable

One of the biggest problems I have with Jetpack Comments is that it’s not easily extendable using plugins. Since it’s an iFrame hosted on WordPress.com, it’s hard to manipulate and is an all or nothing approach.

The Old Comment Form

In 2011, I used a collection of plugins to add features to the native comment form so it felt more like a reply box on a forum. Readers had the ability to style and preview comments without having to write code. They could also subscribe to the thread and edit their comment afterwards for up to 10 minutes.

However, my favorite feature was the Reply link next to each comment. When clicked, the name along with a link to the comment id was automatically added to the comment form. For example, @<a href=”#comment-11784″ rel=”reply”>Name of Awesome Commenter</a> – Comment text here. Since the theme didn’t support threaded comments at the time, this feature came in handy.

Comment Form Used on The Tavern in 2011
Comment Form Used on The Tavern in 2011

Although some of the features are replicated in Jetpack Comments, the old form felt like a better experience to me. If you’re a long time commenter on the Tavern, I’m curious if you feel the same way?

I Don’t Recommend Jetpack Comments

In an era where Twitter, Facebook, etc. provide the ability for real-time communication, Jetpack Comments and the default comment system in WordPress feels like ancient technology. If all you need is an easy way for people to login using their social media accounts to post a comment, Jetpack Comments is a good solution. However, if you need something more robust, look elsewhere.

Unless the team adds Ajax support for comment submissions and makes the module more extendable, I can’t recommend it as a viable alternative to the native comment form in WordPress.

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60 Comments


  1. You have an interesting perspective on this, Jeff. Nice job.

    I’ve been using Disqus on some projects and have been impressed with the user experience, especially when SSO is enabled (which is a free feature, but you have to request that they turn it on for you) so if the user is signed into your blog they are already logged into Disqus and can comment straight away.

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    1. Do you have the ads on Disqus disabled by chance? Why are you using a third-party commenting service?

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      1. Yeah, I have the Discovery mode disabled. I haven’t tried it yet, but I may have to just to see how it goes.

        I like the community engagement and moderation tools that are baked-in, and believe it or not, I actually prefer having comments stored in the cloud rather than locally. It’s less database overhead to deal with (especially if you have hundreds of thousands of comments), and I even think people are more likely to use their real names/profiles because it’s a known service and they may even be logged in already with a cookie or with SSO which lowers the barrier even more for them to make a comment.

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  2. I agree with you… WP basic comments are good enough but far from being better, and Jetpack is not worthy ( my 2 cents) I personally scouted for months for a Disqus clone and i find incredible no one has done that ( I’d pay for that, as I would pay for some gamification add-ons )

    maybe this post will give an hint to some programmers…

    manolo

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  3. 3rd party commenting system means they own the comments, they spy on your users, and they advertise through you. Irrespective of Jetpack/WordPress comments inadequacies they are the best options out there.

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    1. It doesn’t mean they own the comments as they’re usually synched locally to the database. It’s not as if they take all the comments away from the site. It’s also a sad state affairs if Jetpack/Native comment system is the best options out there. However, at least with a collection of plugins, you can ramp up the native comment system in WordPress to be fancy.

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    2. I agree. I wouldn’t want anyone owning my comments but me.

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  4. This post raises the question: why are you using Jetpack comments on this site, if you don’t recommend using Jetpack comments in general?

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    1. heh, I was wondering when someone would ask that. The site is owned by Matt Mullenweg and he has chosen to use most of Jetpack’s features on the site, including Jetpack Comments.

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      1. I find it odd/funny that you feel the editorial freedom to criticize Matt’s pet project but not to change the settings on this site…

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      2. What does that mean? I’ve spoken to him about it before and I’ve told him in person how much I dislike the module but it remains in use on the site because that’s what he wants. It’s that simple. Last night when commenting on the site on my Macbook Pro, my frustration boiled over and I felt it was a good recipe for a post.

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      3. I am not criticising you, or Matt for that matter. I really enjoy this site and your work to bring interesting articles to the forefront.

        I am really pleased that you seem to have complete freedom to write about what you like. I am surprised to find that you are not given the freedom to change the settings to something you prefer.

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      4. This and I pretty much agree with everything Jeffro said.

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      5. I much prefer your “Old Comment Form” and setup. If only the authors of the plugins involved had continued their support and kept them current I would be using it now, if not here, then on my own sites.

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  5. I think there’s a huge opportunity here for someone to come in and rock the space.

    I’d be interested in learning what websites have commenting systems that are doing it “right” – and seeing if there’s anything we could take away either for a plugin, a 3rd party service, or even a patch if it were to warrant.

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    1. As for core, Brian Krogsgard has a list of improvements that I think is a good start https://poststatus.com/wordpress-comments/ but yeah, I’ve been wanting to see someone rock the comment space for years, but have yet to see anything come close. Who remembers the plugin competition WeblogToolsCollection held in 2008 when WP Comment Remix took the grand prize? http://weblogtoolscollection.com/archives/2008/09/13/wordpress-plugin-competition-25-winners/ that was a pretty slick plugin which is defunct now.

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  6. I think the lack of *good* options shows the overall value comments really provide. On some sites they are good, but in general I’d say they are a lot of noise. Especially considering they don’t provide much in terms of monetary value for publishers, I doubt we’ll see a lot of innovation in the space.

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    1. That’s too bad. Maybe the Tavern will go down in history as one of the only sites who routinely had great comments which at times, were better then the content. Alas, more sites are simply turning them off. Seems like there is a special recipe sites need to have in order to have thoughtful, engaging conversations within the comments section. I feel like if I’m in a room of 100 people and they ask us to raise our hands if we care about comments, I’d be the only one raising my hand.

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      1. No Jeff, there’d be at least two of us.

        When you work with Jetpack comments you soon find out its shortcomings. And if you didn’t have someone telling you “I insist you use it”, you’d definitely rip it out before you delivered the site.

        And as a commenter, even though I have to use it here, I dislike the fact that I still have to type in my email address before it can recognize me. And that’s not all I dislike about it. Its just one of those average modules built into the Jetpack behemoth with nothing particularly to recommend it. Would it make it on its own, as a stand-alone plugin, I doubt it?

        Its not even as good as IntenseDebate ~ you do remember IntenseDebate don’t you? In 2008, according to Matt it was going to “supercharges the comment section of WordPress blogs” and they were going to “integrate its features into WordPress core, WordPress.com, and Gravatar as appropriate”.

        So I guess it must be much harder build a good comment system than I (and he) had imagined.

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    2. It’s funny because if you have comments turned off, people complain that you aren’t “being social” and you “don’t understand blogging”… yet the comments section (as has been said) seems to be the part of the blog that gets the least amount of love.

      Right now it’s more beneficial to post a link to Facebook/Twitter/Gplus and hope the engagement is there (which is hardly efficient since that’s three networks to monitor for conversations).

      I don’t have an answer, either… I’m just thinking out loud.

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      1. There’s a ton of engagement that happens for articles on Twitter. People are already logged in, don’t have to fill in any fields and can Tweet away on a story. Granted, you’ll never know that engagement happened unless you have a way to display it on the site, but I’m not a fan of showing Facebook messages, Tweets, etc all in the comment area. It would be interesting perhaps if there was a unified Comment form that tied into a few major social networks and respected their limitations where you could converse with people in their own medium but it shows up as one conversation on the site without looking like a mess. Then again, 140 characters doesn’t allow much room for thoughtful conversations.

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    1. There isn’t a best comments plugin. I hit the sweet spot with a collection of plugins in 2011. Bundle all those features into one plugin and then maybe, you’ll have the best plugin.

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  7. It seems to me that the real opportunity is for someone to add AJAX refresh to Jetpack Comments. Jetpack not having that feature might be a huge problem for some folks, but if that’s the only real issue then it’s easy enough to solve. A lot of other systems have a whole slew of funky issues or outright conflicts.

    Admittedly, however, they might be right about the theme conflict issues. Given Jetpack’s goal of working most anywhere they do have to be extremely careful of limiting compatibility.

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  8. I’m using “Subscribe To Comments Reloaded” and that works just fine.

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  9. Another issue is with the responsive nature of nested comments on this site. The column width becomes more narrow as the comment response level gets deeper, eventually resulting in lines of text with 3-4 words on smaller screens which is almost unbearable to read.

    A good solution would be to keep the column width consistent and change the border or background color of the deeper level responses to indicate the structure while maintaining readability.

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  10. From the looks of it. All the drawbacks mentioned in this article regarding Jetpack comments are easily solved within just a few days of coding (I’m being lenient). I mean, fallback to the default comments when the service is not available? It sounds easy enough to fix. Ajax submission? Easy enough also.

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  11. Granted that comment platforms need a lot of work and the space can be dirupted, what you really have to ask is how many people are willing to pay for a comment platform? Probably not many.

    Thus explains the reason why most solutions are only sub-par.

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      1. Personally I hate disqus both as a developer/site owner, but also as a user.

        It’s worth remembering though that WP was one of very few CMS with a native comment platform early on. Having that was a killer feature for many many bloggers and much bigger driver of WP adoption over the years than… Let’s says JetPack ;)

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  12. It would be a sad day, when there’s no comments, to read or write, when it’s a posts like this.

    I always read the comments, often you can find value in them.

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    1. wpdiscuz looks cool Rahul, and so does WooDiscuz – WooCommerce Comments [https://wordpress.org/plugins/woodiscuz-woocommerce-comments/] I am going to try them both out on my next site. Thanks for the heads up.

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    2. Thanks Rahul… this look nice! I m gonna give a try for sure

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  13. Personally if I write some comments anywhere I prefer to log in with twitter (Twitter is great platform). Disqus has some advantage, that I can check my comments anywhere on one place and I don’t need to set up ”notify” under every comment so I will avoid boring email notification. Anyways I don’t like much Disqus on other side, bc. its somehow still slowly and on some sites loading takes some time.
    Post comment in tavern takes some time too. Log in somewhere with wordpress.com is really not my favorite thing.
    I think core comments are great and probably the best solution for small or maybe medium sites. For more users, more comments it depends …
    Anyway this post and comments below proof that wptavern is great source of informations, where author have enough freedom to write even ”agains” owner, can put different opinion without fear. It just showed, that both – owner Matt and author Jeff are on right place and do their jobs well. Thanks them for that.

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  14. I tried logging in and commenting here on an iphone (safari) and found it doesn’t work — the form gets all shaky and won’t open all the way.

    Loss of control over the comment form and subscription emails is what bothers me most about JetPack Comments. You can’t style the form, and every WP.com/JetPack blog/comment subscription gets the same blue template as every one else using it. If you often get several of these from different sources the lack of differentiation is confusing. There is also some embedded intro text you can’t change; this includes use of the term “blog” which should not be assumed to be appropriate in all cases.

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  15. I never liked Jetpack comments. It’s just boring to subscribe to comments, logging in is a pain and so on…

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  16. We need add_theme_support(‘ajax_comments’).

    Plugin discovery of theme capabilities has long been a quiet issue, but it’s not one without a th forward.

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  17. Native commenting is still the way to go if you take the time to find good plugins to enhance it.
    I’m really impressed with WpDiscuz. Couple it with Postmatic and you have an awesome comments template, ajax posting, livefyre-style updating, comment voting and email notification *with email replies*. With almost no overhead.

    The two don’t work out of the box together quite yet, but we’ve reached out to gVectors to make sure that happens. I did wire them up on my own tonight and it was amazing.

    If you want to see a very bright future check out this demo. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
    https://vern.wistia.com/medias/i5n503kqul

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    1. I’m going to agree 100% with Jason. I’m currently running a hybrid of wpDiscuz with Postmatic, and my engagement level has increased exponentially since implementation.

      I put this down to two reasons:

      1. Lack of barrier to entry when commenting with wpDiscuz – you simply use your name and email, boom – done. It’s also a very clean and simple UI, both front-end and back-end.

      2. The simplicity of getting a new blog post by email, then hitting “Reply” on that email to leave a comment? And then get further comments and replies by email, and replying to those by email? Again, much like wpDiscuz – boom, for simple UI and ease of implementation.

      It’s early days, but in the month since I’ve been using the combo, my comments have probably doubled (and even tripled in some cases). Which makes sense – given email is still the most used channel for interaction, why would you not want to comment on blog posts and discussions from there?

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      1. Hey Danny,

        Those numbers are awesome. Thanks for sharing.

        The folks at WpDiscuz rolled out initial support for Postmatic over the weekend. We put together a tutorial of how to get it running: http://j.mp/1MllVXM

        I expect to see even tighter integration in the future, but as it stand the two play together well.

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  18. The major problem with Jetpack comments is that they do not let people with self-hosted sites using WordPress CMS and simultaneously having WP.com accounts (purely because it is required for running Jetpack plugin) to comment with their site’s details. Jetpack comments recognise the e-mail address and change the site from a self-hosted one to the WP.com address, which is clearly not what is desirable.

    PS: That’s why if Jetpack Comments is the only option (like here) I am forced to opt for Twitter authentification. And in most cases I prefer not to comment at all.

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  19. Is this a joke? Clearly this website is using the Jetpack commenting system today, and nothing much has changed over the years.

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      1. Yes, this site uses Jetpack comments but I don’t own this site and it’s not my choice as to which comment system it uses. If I had my choice, I’d go back to the native comment form.

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      2. Yeah, i understand Jeff. I tested Disqus, and then JetPack Comments. I just felt that The native comments will serve my readers better.

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  20. Hey Jeff, I think that now you have migrated to postmatic and this seems pretty appealing for me.. All I am looking for my site is facebook comments as I expect more interaction from that platform, any specific alternatives that you suggest for me.

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  21. Hey Jeff, my favorite feature was the reply link next to each comment too… it is pretty easy to set up and usefull isn´t?

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      1. Install the Simple Comment Editing plugin and activate it. There’s nothing to configure after you activate it.

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