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Remarkbox is the Disqus Alternative


#21

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.


#22

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.


#23

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.


#24

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!


#25

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


#26

Hello everyone. Here is an update on my progress:

I’ve implemented a concept of Namespaces to allow certain users the ability to moderate or own certain parts of Remarkbox. I’ve created a concept of Namepspace owners and Namespace moderators, owners can change Namespace settings like custom CSS etc, while moderators are only allowed to edit or delete comments.

If you sign up for Remarkbox, the domain of your site is your Namespace.

I’m using the “stand alone mode” of Remarkbox (and this new concept of Namespaces) to power both the FAQ and the Meta sites for Remarkbox (https://faq.remarkbox.com and https://meta.remarkbox.com)

As for sales:

I’ve closed my 3rd paying customer!

As for marketing:

I setup this landing page to try to target unhappy Disqus users:

https://www.remarkbox.com/finally-a-disqus-alternative.html

Over all things are going slow but I’m more excited then ever.

My next goal for this month is to complete the SaaS self sign up flow. If I can get this working I can put more of my effort into marketing.

My question for today: What do you guys thing about selling “FAQ pages as a service”? I feel like this could be more lucrative (business to business instead of business to blogger). This wouldn’t be a hard pivot, but would be another offering.


#27

Error on https://www.remarkbox.com/finally-a-disqus-alternative.html

:

As to “FAQ as a service”: just as commenting service, there are already plenty of very strong competitors. This is what was available 4 years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5215458

Their quality is beyond what a single developer can do.


#28

Thanks for the error report, fixed it. Could you fix your link - it has a “:” at the end and is causing issues.


#29

Glad to hear an update about this. I’m still eager to give this a shot and test its speed vs disqus. But there are two hold ups from my end

  1. Your site is still offering ‘beta’ signups. I don’t want beta - I want to use your product. Perhaps it’s still in beta in regards to stuff like #2 below, but it’s been 3 years - get out of beta already :wink:

  2. Tried your latest demo, got the email to verify, clicked on it and nothing happened. My comment was still unverified, and I didn’t see where I could “change your username as well as edit or delete past comments.”


#30

Hmmm, that is odd. Are you sure you are logged in? Your comment should be verified when you log in (assuming you are using the same browser) but if this doesn’t work (sometimes it doesn’t) you should be able to click a verify button below the comment.

Also, if you are logged in, If you click your username you should be able to click account settings and change your username, as well as enable gravatar.

Additionally, you can take a peak at the back end dashboard here: https://my.remarkbox.com - this is the area I’m currently focusing on to setup self service so that I can get out of Beta. If you don’t want to wait for self service I can manually hook up your domain if you want a fast track to using it on your site.


#31

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15511297


#32

@Russell_Ballestrini, probably a weird question, but I’m considering some functionality. My on-premise application has a web-interface, so the whole team can use it from the same internal server. There are a few places where I think they should actually be leaving notes and comments to each other.

I assume if I add Remarkbox to the app pages, by default I’d probably made team in different companies talk to each other, right? Because the page names would be the same. Not what I want. Or is it looking at the parameter names or host name (usually internal IP in my case) where the app is hosted to determine the “namespace”?


#33

In “embed mode” Remarkbox uses the domain part of the URI as the Namespace and the thread is the whole URI.

For example: if the parent page’s URL is https://www.example.com/page-1.html

  • The Namespace would be www.example.com
  • The thread would be https://www.example.com/page-1.html

That said the thread could be a different identifier, it doesn’t necessarily need to be the URI.

To make it work for an internal site, you would likely want to give the internal on-premise application a sub domain for various reasons (private ip addresses are often reserved and any network could use it).

All that said, the communications wouldn’t be private so if these are internal communications Remarkbox isn’t a great choice. For Remarkbox to be private it would also have to run on prem.


#34

Got a note about security, thanks.

So if I have a URL like

http://SOME-PRIVATE-IP:20111/console/accounts.html?envid=b89bb07d-a4f2-49fb-8621-452aee16e9f9

Can I programmatically set the thread to “accounts-b89bb07d-a4f2-49fb-8621-452aee16e9f9” in the embedded mode?


#35

Yes. For example, I had a silly hackathon project where instead of the threads being URIs they were latitude/longitude coordinates of the browser. It was like having a forum anywhere you went. I dropped precision so it was like 1 kilometer threads.