Disqus

We are in the middle of a disruptive change in the media landscape brought on by two-way interactive media. No longer do we simply rely on the New York Times for national news, Dow Jones or Bloomberg for business news, Ziff Davis for technology information, or Entertainment Tonight for the comings and goings in Hollywood. Instead, or in addition, we go to Huffington Post for politics, Seeking Alpha for stock news, TechCrunch for technology news, and PerezHilton for the latest in celebrity gossip. What do Huffington Post, Seeking Alpha, TechCrunch, and PerezHilton have in common? They are all blogs. And, blogs have become a significant part of the media landscape.

This is a big deal. It’s the democratization of the media landscape. But, it’s not completely democratizing because only a small percentage of people will dedicate the time and energy it takes to blog and build a sizable and loyal audience. I know a little bit about that. I’ve built a sizable and loyal audience at AVC, and I spend at least an hour every day, seven days a week, on it. For many of the most successful blogs, it’s a full time endeavor, much like traditional media.

However, blogs typically include a comment link where the readers can weigh in on the post. And, on the best blogs, the comments are where the action is. That’s where you see the real democratization of media. If I write a post about Apple’s new iPhone SDK, I’ll get dozens of comments from people who have spent hours in the SDK who know way more about it than I do. I might even get a comment from someone who was on the team that built the SDK. I am always amazed and humbled by the quality of the information that is shared in the comments to my blog posts.

There is one problem with blog comments – most people don’t read them. The average person who comes to my blog does not read past the front page. The number of people who click on the comment link is maybe 20% of all readers on the very best blogs.

That’s where our most recent investment, Disqus, comes in. Disqus is a “third party comment system” which is a long way of saying that it’s a better way to do comments. Disqus will manage a blog’s comments in the same way that the comment systems provided by the major blog hosts (WordPress, SixApart, and Blogger) do. But, Disqus does a few extra things that make a big difference. First, they take the comments and save them on Disqus.com in addition to the blog. And they create profiles for the commenters that aren’t tied to the blog hosting system. Disqus “abstracts” both the comments and the commenters from the blog hosting system.

This allows the comments to go anywhere and everywhere where there is an audience for them. Abstracting comments from the blog hosting platform does for comments what RSS has done for content; it allows the comments to flow freely to whatever place it should most logically be consumed.

Disqus comes out of the YCombinator program. Founders Daniel Ha and Jason Yan were in the summer 2007 YCombinator program, and they launched the Disqus service on YCombinator demo day in August 2007. They asked me to use my AVC weblog to showcase their system that day. I did it without thinking much about it. In truth, it was a big decision, but thankfully it worked out well for both them and me. They got a well known blog to launch on, and I got a much better comment system.

We’ve watched Daniel and Jason develop and improve the Disqus comment system for the past eight months, and we’ve watched them sign up thousands of blogs, many of them popular and widely read. This week, Disqus has launched a major upgrade to their service addressing several interface issues and adding a bunch of new features. We’ve become convinced that Disqus can be the company that unlocks comments from blogs and brings them into the mainstream.

Union Square Ventures was joined by Naval Ravikant, Knights Bridge Capital Partners, and Aydin Senkut, three well-known angel investors, in this first round financing. We are excited to work with them and help Daniel and Jason build Disqus into the company that surfaces the most interesting blog comments and blog commenters.
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