Facebook Comments Box, Ownership

I’ve been looking into the Facebook Comments Box, which launched in February.

Photo by suburbanslice
Photo by suburbanslice

It’s a perfect example of what I’m seeing as a growing trend, in which various “social widgets” actually replace functionality which should be built into the platform hosting the site. Bundling together the ability to use your Facebook identity with the actual management of comments themselves looks like progress but I think it’s really a step backwards.

Announced on the Facebook developer blog, the Comments Box widget is embedded into your site through javascript, and basically enables Facebook-driven commenting.

Facebook users can leave comments using their Facebook identities, and when they do will also have the option to publish those comments back to their Facebook profiles. (This is already possible using the Facebook Connect APIs, but the comment box certainly simplifies the process).

Facebook Comments Box
Facebook Comments Box

What happens in the process, though, is that all your comments on your blog are no longer really on your blog. Those comments are actually submitted to Facebook, who stores them for you and shows them on demand when your pages containing the comment box load.

In WordPress terms, this means you’re not able to use Akismet, or Mollom, or OpenID, or ReCaptcha, or any of the other plugins you might be using on your site to manage comments. (You also won’t be able to use the WordPress iPhone app to moderate comments, since they aren’t submitted as comments to WordPress).

It also means that someday, when you decide to migrate away from the Facebook Comments Box, there’s no simple way to get all the comments out (and it isn’t clear whether the terms of service would allow you to do so even if it were simple).

The announcement is careful to note that:

The Comments Box allows non-Facebook users to make comments on your site as well.

But that feels a bit like “we’ll still allow you to use cash, even after we install the credit card machine” – it’s giving me back something I already had as though it were a bonus. It’s as though we’re at the point where “non-Facebook users” are, like “those with JavaScript disabled,” a community we magnanimously allow to continue to use the web but don’t really design for.

Like Yahoo Updates with JS-Kit, TypePad Connect, DISQUS, and IntenseDebate (though the last of these offers a comment import/export feature), this is yet another “all ur comments are belong to us” move, in which I think the hosting site loses more than it gains.

Or am I just a crusty old first-generation blogger thinking that I need to store away comments in a database I control, and I should really be more open to having my comments streams “in the cloud”?

See also:


  1. I’ve seen sites starting to use Twitter for commenting (and thought about it myself). However, I’d probably want to scrape the comments from Twitter and store them locally as well. The comments are directly related to the blog post, without the post they have no context.

  2. Yeah – I do that here as well, actually. I’m using Chat Catcher to do it, though I know folks like BackType as well.

    Chatcatcher grabs tweets which mention the blog post url and posts them as trackbacks or comments (configurable).

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