Having a great comment system is essential for building a community around your website.
But it is not easy to find a good commenting system that you could self host on your server.
Yes, there are tons of free and paid commenting services available such as Disqus, OpenWeb, Hyvor Talk etc.
But their free tier displays crappy ads and you may not want to pay $15 per month just for having comments on your system.
Moreover, you don't get the feel of owning the data. Your community's data is shared by a third-party service, and some commenting systems may not allow exporting comments easily.
As we experiment a lot with such things on Linux Handbook here, I thought of sharing some lesser-known but nice commenting systems that you can self-host.
Isso is a free and open source commenting server similar to Disqus. Users can write comments in Markdown. There is also the option to edit or delete own comments within 15 minutes.
Isso also allows you to import comments from Disqus and WordPress. That's an additional benefit.
Discourse is essentially a forum software and quite a good one. At the same time, Discourse can also be used as a commenting system on websites.
This is a great way to build an exclusive community of readers. Anyone who wants to leave a comment needs to create an account. This may deter casual commenters, but people who really want to participate in the discussion are the valued community members.
Using Discourse as the commenting system, you get the additional benefit of having a forum at the same cost.
Basically, it creates a new forum topic for every published article. Few comments are displayed on the website and the rest can be viewed on the forum.
It is open source, so you can self-host or opt for their managed hosting that starts at just 2 euro a month.
We do have a guide on deploying Talkyard with Docker. Feel free to check it out.
Commento is an open source commenting system that you can easily self-host. It is cleand and lightweight with just 15 KB of additional weight to your webpage.
It supports Markdown syntax and visitors have option to upvote or downvote comments. As the website owner, you could also feature a comment by making it 'sticky'.
You can also import your existing comments from Disqus.
You can self-host Commento using Docker or you may opt for their managed service at a flat price of $10 per month.
Utterances is a lightweight comment system built on GitHub issues.
You probably know that GitHub has a built-in commenting system so that developers and users can discuss a bug.
Utterances utilize this system to create a commenting system for your website. Basically, every new article is opened as a new GitHub issue and visitors and readers leave comment on it using their GitHub account.
Okay, the advantage becomes a drawback here as visitors must have GitHub account to leave a comment. If that's not an issue for you, you may use it.
The documentation is not very clear but here's what you need to do. Create a new public GitHub repository for your website. Install Utterances app on that repository.
Giscus is an open source Disqus alternative commenting system based on GitHub Discussions.
If you do not know already, GitHub Discussions is a collaborative communication forum for the community around an open source project.
Consider it an enhancement on the GitHub Issues which are primarily for bug reporting but were frequently (mis)used for discussion on projects.
You can easily self host it by creating a GitHub app. The complete process is documented here.
What's your favorite?
On Linux Handbook, we use Cove commenting system because it integrates natively with Ghost membership system. This is something no other commenting system has done. Cove cannot be self-hosted, though.
Apart from that, we have tested several commenting systems on test websites and listed them here. But at the end, it is up to you to decide which is the best for your need.