From the magazine “Wire”
Earlier this week, Vice’s technology and science news site Motherboard dropped its comments section, opting to replace it with an old school “letters to the editor” feature. Then Reddit launched a news site called Upvoted that didn’t include a comments section. (You can still comment on the stories on Reddit itself.)
What’s going on here? For years, comment boxes have been a staple of the online experience. You’ll find them everywhere, from The New York Times to Fox News to The Economist. But as online audiences have grown, the pain of moderating conversations on the web has grown, too. And in many cases, the most vibrant conversations about a particular article or topic are happening on sites like Facebook and Twitter. So many media companies are giving up on comments, at least for now. So far this year, Bloomberg, The Verge, The Daily Beast and now Motherboard have all dropped their comments feature.
While it’s too soon to say that comment sections are outright dying— there are plenty of major sites that still have comments, including WIRED—it’s safe to say there’s a trend towards replacing them with something else. Here’s a brief history of major publications pulling the plug on comments. Feel free to suggest additions to the timeline in, well, the comments.
September 24, 2013: Popular Science becomes one of the first major publications to ditch its comments feature, citing studies that found that blog comments can have a profound effect on readers’ perceptions of science. “If you carry out those results to their logical end—commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded—you start to see why we feel compelled to hit the “off” switch,” former digital editor Suzanne LaBarre wrote in the site’s announcement.
April 12, 2014: The Chicago Sun-Times suspends its comment feature, citing concerns over the “tone and quality” of the comments while its team developed a new discussion system. Most articles on the site still don’t allow comments.
August 2014: CNN quietly disables comments on most stories sometime during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
November 7, 2014: Reuters drops comments for all of its stories except its opinion pieces, saying that social media is a better place for discussion. “Those communities offer vibrant conversation and, importantly, are self-policed by participants to keep on the fringes those who would abuse the privilege of commenting,” executive editor Dan Colarusso wrote in the company’s announcement.
November 20, 2014: Popular tech news site Recode follows suit, also citing social media as the best way for readers to provide feedback.
December 15, 2014: The winter of comment discontent kicks into high gear as The Week pulls the plug on comments.
December 16, 2014: The very next day, so does the millennial-focused Mic.com, proving that comment-phobia isn’t just for old media.
January 27, 2015 Bloomberg’s website relaunches with no comments.
July 6, 2015: Tech news site The Verge announces that it’s shutting off comments for most articles for the duration fo the summer. Most articles still don’t have comments enabled today.
uly 7, 2015: WIRED launches our new “short post” format, which doesn’t include a comments section.
July 27, 2015: Internet community news site The Daily Dot switches off comments.
August 19, 2015: So does The Daily Beast, but the site claims that it’s working on “multiple ways to bring you an upgraded commenting experience.”
October 5, 2015: Vice Motherboard announces that it’s replacing its comments feature with a weekly “letters to the editor” feature.
October 6, 2015: Reddit launches its news site Upvoted, which has no way to comment on or “upvote” things directly on the site. You can guess where the site’s owners hope discussions will take place.