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Best Commenting Systems for Websites That You Can Self-Host

Here are some ad-free, private commenting systems that you can self-host and own the user data.

Abhishek Prakash

Warp Terminal

Having a great comment system is essential for building a community around your website.

However, it is not easy to find a good commenting system that you can 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 extensively with such things on Linux Handbook here, I thought of sharing some lesser-known but nice commenting systems that you can self-host.

This is not a WordPress-specific article. I have deliberately skipped WordPress comments plugins here.


Isso comment

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.

It uses Python and SQLite in the backend and you can deploy it on any website using a single 40kb JavaScript.

Isso also allows you to import comments from Disqus and WordPress. That's an additional benefit.

You can find official installation instructions here. We have also created our own self-hosting guide for Isso with Docker.

Deploying Isso Commenting System Under Nginx With Docker
Follow this Docker Compose approach to make an easy deployment of Isso on a server based on the official Dockerfile from the devs.


Discourse commenting system

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.

Discourse can be easily installed using Docker and you can integrate it on a variety of CMS thanks to JavaScript.


Talkyard comment system

Like Discourse, Talkyard is also a forum software that doubles up as a commenting system.

It can be easily integrated to Ghost, Hugo, Gatsby, Jekyll or anywhere thanks to a 140 kb JavaScript.

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.

Deploying Talkyard Forum Under Nginx With Docker
Deploying Talkyard forum is a tricky task. Follow this hybrid docker approach to deploy Talkyard on a server with other web-services.


Comentario self-hosted, open source commenting system

Comentario is an open source commenting system that you can easily self-host with Docker. It is clean and lightweight, with just 20 KB of additional weight to your webpage.

It is the successor to the abandoned Commento project.

Like Commento, 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'.

Threaded comments are also there. Owners and moderators are labeled properly, which is a good thing.

You can self-host Commento using Docker. A hosted cloud version is planned but not available yet.


Utterances comment system

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.

On the Utterances website, choose some additional parameters and then it will give you a small JavaScript that you can add to your website.


Giscus self hosted commenting system based on GitHub Discussions

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?

All of the options mentioned here lack a feature for the multi-author websites. I don't see the option to send email notifications to the author of the article. Sure, you can send the notifications to the admins and moderators for all comments but you cannot be selective about automatically sending it to the respective authors.

On Linux Handbook, we have used Cove commenting system because it integrated natively with Ghost membership system. Cove cannot be self-hosted, though.

Later, I moved all my Ghost websites to Hyvor Talk. This one is also not self-hosted but provides a good-looking commenting system that is ad-free and privacy-respecting.

Hyvor Talk - The Best Commenting Platform For Your Website
Hyvor Talk is a privacy-focused, fully-customizable, and affordable commenting platform for websites.

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.

Abhishek Prakash