CEO and co-founder Daniel Ha (no relation to me) gave me a quick demo of the new features. He says one of the most important additions is a new Discovery module, which is basically a box recommending other articles on the site that readers might like. Those recommendations are based in part on the article being discussed and the comments that have been posted, and in part on what Disqus knows about an individual user’s reading behavior.
For Disqus users, this should help make the service valuable even if they’re not leaving a comment. For Disqus publishers, this should help drive more pageviews from a high-quality, engaged audience. Ha says it could also provide some opportunities for monetization down the road, say by adding a sponsored recommendation, though he emphasizes that he’s not interested in just adding banner ads into the comments section.
Other changes include a faster load time that makes comments feel more like a native part of the page, rather than a widget that loads later on. (I remember the load time was a constant source of frustration at my old employer VentureBeat, which uses Disqus.) There’s also a streamlined process for sharing comments on Facebook and Twitter, and a new voting system, where you can not only vote good comments up, but also vote bad comments down — a seemingly minor change that Ha says should help communities police themselves, allowing the highest quality content to rise to the top.
Disqus has been testing a beta version of the update since May with “thousands” of sites, including Wired, PBS, BarackObama.com, Slashfilm, and VentureBeat. The company says it now reaches 750 million unique monthly visitors across 1.1 million sites, and that it has more than 300 million active users.