Interview with Daniel Ha, DisqUs Founder and CEO

January 08, 2009 5 min read

Novedge recently added a section at the bottom of each page of its website providing a space where visitors and customers can leave comments sharing their opinions and experiences. The tools that allowed us to implement this service are provided by Disqus, a new startup located in San Francisco, just a few blocks from Novedge headquarters. Disqus has been deployed on over 38,000 blogs and is hosting the comments of over 70,000 users. After only a week from the introduction of this feature on our website we started seeing the first comments appear on our pages. While many visitors post comments about products, some use this space simply to ask Novedge technical questions or to find out more information about prices. I'm getting very excited about this technology, and its future developments and implications. In order to satisfy my growing interest, I went directly to the founder and CEO of Disqus to get a first hand opinion on this topic. Daniel Ha, who is still in his early twenties, promptly accepted my invitation for an interview and almost in real-time answered all of my questions. Here is the text of the interview.

Daniel, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your company?

I founded Disqus with my friend Jason Yan toward the beginning of 2007. At the end of 2006, we decided to work on a web project together while we were in school (studying computer science). Discussion was an area most familiar to us and we began working on tools for forums, group discussion, and community building. Today's Disqus evolved from this as the blog feature of our project became popular amongst our earliest testers. We both participated in Y Combinator, which gave us some money and a lot of guidance and connections. It wasn't a lot of money, but it was enough for us to leave school and work on our project (which became our company) full time.

We benefitted heavily from enthusiastic bloggers

After launching publicly at the end of 2007, we raised some more money and began expanding the service as fast as we could. We benefitted heavily from enthusiastic bloggers and commenters are naturally vocal with their opinions. Today, Disqus is the leading comment system and management tool for all sorts of sites.

Disqus is quietly introducing a Copernican revolution for the net. While in the past users had to bring content to their social network websites, with Disqus the social network goes where the content is. What are the implications of this paradigm shift?

I think most implications are yet to be seen. What we've witnessed thus far is that people are more willing to contribute to websites when they feel they are rewarded or have control over their comments. If I know that my comments are claimed by me, and they're not just attached to a single site, I'm more wiling to contribute and develop my online persona.

people are more willing to contribute to websites when they feel they are rewarded or have control over their comments

One issue that is brought up often is the fragmentation and overall messiness of discussion. People tend to use their content aggregator or discussion tool of choice, and the discussion may stray far from the original content. I think Disqus will play a pivotal role, moving forward, in bridging all of this together. We certainly think this is one of the most interesting things about what we do.

Disqus is starting to face competition from some big names. How will users react to a proliferation of commenting systems?

We've always had a smattering of competition here and there. The way we will be the best is to continually innovate in providing a great commenting experience. If we can deliver on this promise better than our competitors, then I think we'll do well.

If we can deliver on this promise better than our competitors, then I think we'll do well

For users, I think it's great that they have choice. On the flip side, it may be confusing to have so many different channels for discussion — our job is to make sure their choice doesn't negatively affect them. We want to be compatible; our network of commenters and publishers shouldn't be closed and we're working to be more open.

Another big challenge Disqus is facing is the recent establishment of login systems independent from the content provider (Facebook Connect, OpenID, etc.). Disqus promptly embraced this trend by implementing Facebook Connect. What is your strategy in this specific area?

Our strategy is to play nice. We're not going to be a login service. We do the discussion part well because we focus on that only. Our own login system is necessary for how things work, but we'll openly embrace the best technologies that will benefit the most people on the web.

Our strategy is to play nice

Facebook Connect has been working well for us so far and we're going to be adding more functionality that will allow people to take advantage of what Facebook has available in their platform.

How much interaction with Disqus is happening on the Disqus website and how much on the content hosting websites (blogs, newspapers, etc.)? How do you plan to promote the social features of your system?

The majority of interactions is on the publisher partners. That's how we want it — we provide a service and I don't think we really need to see much traffic on our sites. Most of the interactions on our site is from the administration and profiles.

Novedge, among the first of e-commerce websites, just implemented Disqus across its entire main website. What can we expect as far as reactions from the users and benefits for them?

The first benefit I hope you'll see is an increase in engagement from your users. Novedge is exposed to a greater community of commenters, with social features that ideally encourages contributions.
Users should find it easier to leave comments and find more value in doing this. The overall experience should be more enjoyable as well.

I would like to thank Daniel for taking the time to answer my questions. A special thanks also to Giannii, Disqus Community Manager, for his generous contribution to the Disqus users' community and for connecting me and Daniel. If you have any questions for Daniel or for Novedge, please leave a comment below and we will be glad to answer. The Disqus commenting system is available on every product and brand page of the Novedge website.

Franco Folini

For more information on this topic, take a look at this foldier sPression, an online collection of the most interesting articles on the new wave of commenting technology and its players.

Franco Folini
Franco Folini

Also in NOVEDGE Blog