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Remarkbox is the Disqus Alternative


Disqus does this for all sites. They punt the user to their interface / dashboard whenever they get the chance. One sleazy thing they do is show a fake notification icon count of 1 all the time to people who are not logged in.

When I get some time, I intend to create a blog for Remarkbox and talk all about it.


I may be wrong, but IMHO that should be your H1 on the page - something like “Remarkbox is not leading your visitors away!”. Because it is truly annoying, and I’d even call it back-stabbing.

That could even win you a large account once in a while (again, providing that Disqus really does that crap indiscriminately).

However, that raises another question: a comment system must take a lot of CPU/RAM/boxes. When are you going to run out of money? I.e. how many free users you can afford?


Screw blog; that should be on the landing page. No need to mention Disqus, just say what you do right.


Why the same email gets different ID on different forums?

I expected:

  • Once I login once, I do not need to enter my email again on any Remarkbox sites - until the cookie expires
  • The generated ID is the same for the same email


It should be working how you expect, so that sounds like you uncovered a defect. Did you use a different browser?


No, same FF. I first went to the home page, then opened the westworld2 in another tab, made a test comment there, verified it (became 0yHOwSxF), then closed that tab and made a comment on the main page - that one became KCLEx6aV.

Not sure it is a bug, but certainly an unexpected behaviour.

Building my first SaaS, a Disqus alternative - Part 1

Oh yeah, actually westworld2.com is a dedicated install of Remarkbox codebase. Its running in “stand alone” mode. That makes sense in that case.


$14/mo Moderator access for unlimited verified domains.

Don’t do that. Don’t do that. You’ll regret.

Large consumers will probably need enterprisey features - company accounts with admin that can grant rights, integration to their systems, stats, SLA(!), 24/7 support, API. You won’t cover it for extra $9/mo. It worth hundreds.

Just say that enterprise version is in plans (contacts us with requirements).

The second tier can be a multi-site layer, for people like me who runs a few small-traffic sites (i.e. one admin only, no 2nd admin or a team).

Agencies who manage multiple disjoint sites could be third tier - multiple admins, but each admin can admin each site in a group.

And general I’d suggest to create tiers based on projected usage. However, do not charge by usage – that would be micro-calculations (“each post costs $0.0012”) and is very confusing.


If you go to my personal blog for example, you will be ‘0yHOwSxF’ again.


Mmm… you have a stand-along version? Don’t abandon it, some larger consumers may want to have it on premise under their full control. And make it your competitive advantage - Disqus doesn’t have it, does it?


No I don’t think Disqus has a stand alone version. They have been putting all their efforts into turning their offering into some sort of social network platform.


Hi @Russell_Ballestrini, thanks for sharing!

This is off-topic, but your introduction caught my attention when you referred to a previous SaaS success. Is there a place (comment thread, blog post, etc.) where I can find out more about the story of LinkPeek? Thanks!


Hey Kohanz, I never wrote a blog post retrospective but I have blogged about LinkPeek (https://linkpeek.com) over the years on my personal blog.

You can see me transition from an idea to a company with real issues.


Hey Russell - I love this idea. I have wanted to use Disqus on some sites of mine, but I hate their load time and their ads, so I simply won’t.

I went to the bottom of your landing page and tried the “Remarkbox Demo - try it out!” area. It failed - got a “502 Bad Gateway - nginx” error. I put in fake data so perhaps that killed it? Maybe validate inputs better? Reproduce by entering “gdfgdfgdfgdfg” for both message and email.


Hey @shanelabs - thank you for reporting that.

yes, I think the invalid email is causing the exception. I have added this error to my backlog and will hopefully fix it tonight.


I’m gonna be a naysayer: this category is way too mature to compete with a slightly tweaked product.

It’s not just Disqus (which is 10 years old now and apparently on 750k sites) but also Intense Debate from Automattic (makers of WordPress) and LiveFyre and muut and Facebook Comments. This is what I found searching for “hosted comments system”.

How are you planning to become one of the options there? How are you going to beat accumulated 10 years of SEO of your competitors?

Comments system have powerful network effects. Users would rather use existing Disqus login to comment than signup for another service and website owners take that into account when picking a comment system.

Also, while the desire to not annoy your users (be it site owners or comments) is noble, it’s worth pondering why Disqus does the annoying thing they do?

My educated guess is that on average it works for their business and brings more users than not annoying them. What they do might be sleazy but it’s probably effective and in business you don’t always have option to take the high road.

Notice that the annoyed Disqus users still use Disqus, they didn’t bother to switch to muut, LiveFyre etc., which all have free options. Their revealed preference (what they do vs. what they say) suggests that Disqus is pretty sticky for them and they are unlikely to switch because the amount of work would be more than hypothetical benefits.

Even without competition this would be a tough business. People (as opposed to companies) are not that eager to pay even paltry $5/month for completely non-essential service. We might all marvel at the irrationality of not willing to part with equivalent of 2 cups of coffee but that’s the reality.

That’s why those kinds of businesses pretty much require massive user base using the product for free to get %0.1 to pay to sustain the business. And for $5/month you get the worst kind of customers (cheap and entitled).

This is not a good kind of business for bootstrapped/solo/indie person if only because at some point you’ll spend all your time dealing with operational issues of launching more servers, debugging issues and trying to provide support when things inevitably go wrong for the (mostly free) users.

Disqus is massive today, they seem like a stable company employing tens of people but it took them $10 million in funding to get there and they don’t have a amazing business (or they would IPO by now).

Generalizing a better solo business is one where you can charge $20+ so that you can become sustainable with much smaller customer base and therefore you can attack an underserved niche, rather that competing with companies that already have hundreds of thousands of users and massive SEO advantage.


Thank you for your naysaying. I came up with this same list of objections (3 years ago) and still decided it was worth a try. If for nothing else, I still have a better comment system for my own projects. If I can provide an arguable better service to a few people on the side with minimal spend on marketing, its worth it, for my personal brand alone.

Yes, Free and $5/mo plan customers can sometimes act entitled and often complain the most (often publicly) but I’m not ready to toss out the baby with the bath water. If anything, I actually think it would be fun to operate and scale this service if the free plan explodes. I wrote it to scale. Even if I break even at the end of the month, I would still do it.

Personally, I strongly feel there is a niche market of people who are sick of Facebook and Disqus and will pay to have a better option. If that doesn’t work, I still have a couple pivots up my sleeve.

At this point most of the product is finished and working. I would be crazy to not have a landing page and try to sell it.


Much of what you said is true. But commenting “universe” is so huge and diverse that I’m sure there must exist ways to make money before taking directly on Disqus.

If you mean customers, then there always those who unhappy and wants to switch, but looking for right service.

If you mean end users, then this is not an issue anymore, as “Connect with Google/Facebook/Twitter account” cover 99% of population, and they get signed up in one click.

For one thing, I like that his app has a hosted version. I feel there should be a demand for on-premise application for larger businesses.

He can give the app to open source/community sites for free. It will be running on their servers, not increasing his bills but increasing his recognition (and some support costs, alas, but oh well, this is unavoidable).

He can partner with hosting cos to install the app as an option for static hosting sites.

He can make an image on DigitalOcean and sell them at $10/mo (the image cost is $5, the rest is profit) as a ready to spin commenting system for events or such.

That is just from the top of my head.

And while you found a lot for “hosted comments system”, I’ve found only one (on the first page) for “self-hosted comments system”.

I’m not saying that this is the way to go, but just that there are angles to attack the problem.

(P.S. Found another one: de:comments - $50/site. If they make money, there should be a market outside of Disqus.)

It does. And I’m actually interested in that too. (I do not have an answer)

It probably is, as in “make most money”. But it doesn’t mean it is the only way to make money in this niche.


you saw all the recent stories related to comments and disqus on hacker news right? definitely worth reading those for customer pain and/or posting a comment when future ones show up. check out f5bot/littlebirdie so you don’t miss future ones. cheers @Russell_Ballestrini!


No. I avoid that place as far as possible. Link?