Facebook's Commenting Versus Livefyre's Comment App

We spoke with Jordan Kretchmer, founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based start-up Livefyre, Inc., which offers a third-party application that competes with Facebook's commenting system and sometimes complements it.

We’ve been hearing much chatter about Facebook’s commenting system amid the site’s continued improvements to both the plugin and native version of this popular feature. However, some have been critical, like Jordan Kretchmer, founder and chief executive officer of Livefyre, Inc., which offers a third-party application that competes with Facebook’s commenting system, and sometimes complements it.

Integrating with Twitter and Facebook networks, Livefyre offers real-time comment streaming with social integration. Here, Kretchmer fills in the blanks, talking about the company’s plans for future, as well as what jobs Livefyre is filling right now.

How did the Livefyre startup come about?

I was a vice president at Current TV and looking at comment interactions around the community. I started wondering how to make comments more conversational and social, how to build more conversational applications.

So you founded Livefyre to fill in the gaps you saw in comment interactions?

Yes, we launched in December 2009. We wanted to fix online conversation. Little changes had been made, so comments looked prettier, but comments systems overall had not been updated in 15 years. You went to the page, left your comment, and left the page. There was no wholesale shift to what comments should be. There was no innovation that brought comments up to speed with the rest of the social web, and no ability to pull content on news topics of the day into the conversation.

How would you describe Livefyre?

We care about community. We help publishers build and get value out of the eyeballs on their sites, so they can increase engagement metrics and turn passive viewers into active communities.

Who are your main competitors?

Facebook and Disqus. Js-kit is not a competitor. They no longer do comments.

How is your system different?

We are the only comment system that is actually real-time. On some systems you have to wait up to 20 seconds to see a comment posted or to see a response to a comment. That’s too long. People will leave the page. Our live-streaming connection is as fast as chat.

What’s so great about real-time?

It’s sticky. The comment stream is like a live conversation. People are watching, waiting to see what happens next. People stay longer on the page. There’s reason to stay – actual engagement.

Who are your clients?

Livefyre is currently the conversation platform on more than 5,000 sites, including TheNextWeb.com, NewsGrange.com and Sociable.co. We’re geared to publishers and keep them from losing ownership of engagement with their content. A place where Facebook Comments fails. We show publishers that with Facebook Comment, they are literally handing over their users over to Facebook, and losing considerable value and ownership in the process. The users are no longer part of their community. They’re part of Facebook’s community. Part of my job lately has been showing pubishers what this means. When they see what’s going on, it scares them.

What’s the value in keeping them on the publisher site?

Metrics improve. More time is spent on a page. Sites get more page views. This is real-time social engagement. People want to stick around on the page to see what happens. It builds real community and social interaction right on their content.

What about the people in the communities, do they benefit?

People who leave comments want to have the ability to share them with the right group. Facebook forces the social-graph (meaning your friend group from the past and present) on all interactions. It emphasizes the friend group. Livefyre realizes that you don’t have the same conversation with people at pottery class on Saturday as you do with the friends at the game on Sunday. Facebook Comments wants you to have all conversations with everyone you know. That’s just not how we humans do things, even in real life.

What do you think about Facebook Comments?

Kudos to Facebook for introducing technology that orders conversation. But reordering the conversation from how it naturally occurs can be frustrating to users. You can leave a comment and then not be able to find it again later because the comments were reorganized in a new way. It doesn’t offer time-based, back-and-forth interaction.

What’s your reaction to Facebook’s announcement that it changed its comment system?

Their system is over a year old. They added new features. But the features are not the issue. The issue is philosophical. Facebook reorganizes comments for the users and forces the social graph on them rather than using an interest graph specific to content that covers certain topics.

How are Livefyre comments social?

Livefyre combines Facebook and Twitter comments from around the web and centralizes the discussion on the original content. But it goes both ways. You can type the “@” symbol in the comment box, to tag as many connections from Twitter and Facebook in the conversation as you want. It’s a social, engaging experience in the context of the comments stream. You can post to Twitter or Facebook as you comment. You can sign in through Google, Facebook or Twitter.

Can you sync with contacts in Linkedin?

Not yet. We’re thinking about it, but this is not one of our top priorities right now.

Livefyre is currently free. Will it always be?

We’ll always have a free version of the comment system. It’s open-ended. It can be installed anywhere with a line of Java script or into WordPress as a plug-in. It is compatible with Drupal, Joomla! and Blogger, and native plugins for those platforms are coming soon. We are charging for high-traffic licenses and will add special functionality and custom integration according to different pricing.

What’s some ballpark pricing?

I can’t go into details but the cost is reasonable. Early partners requiring large custom integration will get a better price.

How about the revenue model?

I can’t disclose that in its entirety right now. A portion of revenue will come from the high-traffic licenses mentioned earlier.

What’s are some top priorities for Livefyre now?

API’s to access content streams in different, interesting ways, like custom widgets, are coming soon. And we’re looking to build platforms that support conversations in general, not just comment streams. There’s a lot of technology under our comments system. We want to make some of that available. You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on us over the next month or two.

How are you staffed – are you hiring?

We’re engineer-heavy. We have 14 on staff now, eight engineers and the rest of our staffers are sales and community management. We’re growing rapidly. And yes, we’re hiring. Engineers, community managers, marketing, pr, sales and evangelist positions. We have waffles on Wednesdays. Yum.

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