Disclosure: VentureBeat uses Disqus for its comment platform.
Disqus is rolling out a significant update to its online comment platform today that add videos, photos, and other forms of rich media to discussions between readers.
The platform generates 1 billion unique visitors and 20 million comments per month on web publications and other sites. Disqus claims that it offers a much more comprehensive and inviting than what native comment platforms provide.
Users can sign in to make a comment using social media accounts or via a Disqus account, which helps with transparency of commenters (should you want to encourage the real use of names on your site). Disqus also tracks all your commenting activity across multiple publications (provided they use Disqus), notifies you when someone responds to a comment you’ve made, and offers voting on comments. Publishers in turn get comments about their content that add more value to the work and hopefully help spur audience growth.
Yet until now, most of the discussion happening on its platform was in the form of written responses, which is sort of limiting.
“Discussions aren’t just made up of words,” Disqus VP of product Sam Parker told VentureBeat. “That’s something we’ve seen over time — that more and more people are expressing themselves with pictures, videos, music, memes. …”
Parker added that prior to the roll out, Disqus was already seeing 3 percent of all its comments contain some form of rich media, usually in the form of links to YouTube videos or images. In testing, the number of comments with rich media doubled to 6 percent, which he suspects will continue growing significantly over time.
But this doesn’t mean Disqus is becoming a platform that wants everyone using photos or videos to discuss things.
“Success doesn’t look like 100 percent of comments having rich media,” Parker told me. “We’re attempting to build something that’s [more dynamic] for conversations.”
The update will enable users to see new “media cards” for about 12 different media partners, such as Imgur, Twitter (tweets), YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Soundcloud, and others — with more media card integration coming in the future. Whenever someone drops a link into a comment, the rich media will automatically load. Of course, both publishers and Disqus users can turn rich media off if they’d prefer to just see text and URLs.
The new rich media support is a smart move for Disqus, not only because it makes the commenting platform more dynamic but also because move makes it more competitive with other comment platforms. (For instance, Gawker Media’s Kinja discussion platform, which has always supported rich media, will soon be in both Gawker’s network of blogs as well as Business Insider.)
Parker said that in the future Disqus is working on adding better tools on the publisher end, too. Eventually, publishers who don’t have the resources to constantly monitor content discussion or hire a community manager will have access to analytics that show the most frequent commenters, trending comment topics, most popular rich media in comment threads, and lots of other useful data.
The rich media update for Disqus’ comment platform launches today, meaning most people should be able to start responding with ridiculous animated gifs exclusively now.