Aug 25, 2021 4 min read

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.
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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.

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

Isso

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

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

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.

Commento

Commento self-hosted commenting system

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

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.

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.

Abhishek Prakash
Creator of Linux Handbook and It's FOSS. An ardent Linux user & open source promoter. Huge fan of classic detective mysteries from Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes to Columbo & Ellery Queen.

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