The blog commenting landscape is dominated by a handful of big names. Currently, Disquis and Facebook have the lion’s share of the market, although Automattic, the owners of WordPress.com, have a large presence with their Intense Debate platform.
However, a different company is hoping to challenge these stalwarts of the industry. Livefyre, although it’s been around almost a year and a half, is still widely thought to be the scrappy upstart of the field.
But Livefyre isn’t just billing itself as a “me too” operation. The platform is working to add compelling new features to separate it from the pack. I decided to give it a go.
I haven’t been using Livefyre long enough to comment on how it affects my community, but I have formed a quick first impression. It’s a service with a lot to love, but there are a few rough corners that might give webmasters reason to pause before signing up.
The details, as usual, are below the fold.
Setting Up Livefyre
Having experimented with Disqus, Intense Debate and now Livefyre, I can safely say that Livefyre’s setup process is the fastest and easiest of the three.
With Livefyre, you simply fill out this short form and then either create a new Livefyre account or connect it with an existing one. If you’re a WordPress user, the next step is to simply download the Livefyre plugin, install it, confirm your account and then watch as Livefyre automatically imports your existing comments.
The entire process will take about two minutes of your time and there are no API keys, logins or other steps to worry about; it’s completely seamless and even comment import is blisteringly fast. My site had about 4,000 conversations and the comments imported in full in about ten minutes. Previous systems took several hours and some even required a database export or multiple attempts.
The caveat is that Livefyre is not currently available for Blogger, Joomla, Drupal or TypePad. Although support for those platforms is “coming soon”, there’s no direct way to integrate with them at this time. However, WordPress, Tumblr and “custom platforms” are covered.
All in all, installation and setup, for a WordPress user at least, is fast and simple. I was actually done so quickly I wondered if I had forgotten a step along the way.
What to Love About Livefyre
Livefyre’s commenting system is sexy and very fast. It looks clean and efficient and doesn’t seem to slow down one’s site much, if at all. Testing it out, I’ve had fewer problems than with Intense Debate and Disqus in this area. It takes a very minimalist anti-clutter approach to commenting, so much so that it presents all commenters, logged in or not, with a a single textbox form and a “post comment as” button.
The idea, it seems, is to lower the barriers of entry to commenting as much as possible.
The social networking integration in Livefyre is also very powerful and compelling. Not only can you log in and share your comments on Twitter, Facebook, etc., but you can also tag your friends on both services directly in your post. This can be a great way to bring others into the conversation, especially if you’re mentioning them.
Finally, Livefyre’s anti-spam system, which is based on Impermium, seems to work very well and keeps the bad guys out better than Intense Debate and Disqus.
All in all, there’s a lot to love about Livefyre and many reasons to jump on board. However, there are a few reasons to give pause before diving in.
The Drawbacks of Livefyre
The biggest problem I have had with Livefyre is that the system is very much a “take it or leave it” operation. Although I like how Livefyre looks on my site, if you don’t there isn’t much you can do. There are no customization options, so you can’t set things such as colors, theme, etc., and you also can’t enable or disable features (flagging, real time information, etc.).
In a similar vein, you can’t give your visitors the option to comment on your site without signing in to either Livefyre or one of their accepted services. Though I’m pretty sure nearly everyone will have a Facebook, Twitter, Google or Linkedin account, they might not want to share it with your site or with Livefyre, thus preventing them from commenting.
Similarly, Livefyre has a very strong emphasis on real-time conversations and real-time commenting. Unfortunately though, very few blogs get the kind of traffic to make such conversations practical. Though it looks great on the demo, most likely your site won’t be seeing that kind of interest and, even if it does, it won’t see it on the bulk of its pages. That makes the “People Listening” feature a bit of a waste.
Finally, the moderation features are a bit odd and left me a bit frustrated. Although the bulk of your moderation is done via the WordPress administration panel, many of the features are limited to the actual comment page, such as banning users. There is a dedicated administration area for your Livefyre account on Livefyre’s site, but not only can you not get to it through your usual login (that takes you to your profile as a commenter) but their system is more feature-limited than your on site controls and the comments, at least in my case, are out of order.
It is also worth noting that I received several comments during my trial but never received a single email notice, despite setting my notifications to be “immediate”. The notices were not lost in my spam filter.
Despite these hiccups, Livefyre will still be very useful for many sites and could be a good choice depending on what you want from your commenting.
All in all, Livefyre is an extremely simple, extremely fast and relatively poweful commenting system with a few unique features, especially in the social networking integration department. It definitely has a lot to offer. However, with that simplicity comes a certain degree of inflexibility. For the most part, Livefyre makes the choices for you and you can either accept them or go elsewhere.
If you play around with the demo, like the way Livefyre works and don’t mind asking your visitors to log in to comment, then by all means go for it. Livefyre is fast and easy to set up. However, if you’re the type who likes to fiddle with every detail or just change a few things here and there, you either need to use a different system, likely the default, or seek out one of their professional upgrades.
All in all, this is a solid offering from a plucky upstart and one that is definitely worthwhile for many websites.
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