After years of touting its commenting system as the key to its community of readers, The Huffington Post is abandoning its own proprietary system and today is switching solely to a Facebook commenting system on its U.S. site, including mobile and apps.
The move is a response to the ever-changing online ecosystem, Huffington Post chief technology officer Otto Toth said in a blog post announcing the change on Saturday. “It’s bringing the discussions and debates to the places where you engage with them the most and introducing so much of what makes the HuffPost community great to the broader Facebook audience,” he wrote.
At least two groups of people really didn’t like the move. The first is a lot of HuffPo commenters — at least those commenting on Toth’s post, many of whom said they wanted to keep their personal Facebook life separate from the discussions they have on The Huffington Post. Here’s a taste; the comments go on and on and on:
Some even posted one last time in the old format on other posts to lament the change:
This is the second time in just a matter of months that The Huffington Post is revamping its commenting system. Last year it banned anonymous commenting on the site, and in December it unveiled its now defunct-policy for how users must identify themselves. Under that policy, users had to link to a Facebook profile to verify their identity, but they could choose to be identified by their full name or just their first name and last initial (I’d be Joseph L.). It also gave users the option to request anonymity if they chose to.
While it’s too soon to know how many commenters will really abandon The Huffington Post, spokeswoman Amanda Schumacher told me in an email that “initial Facebook commenting tests across a selection of our verticals did not show a significant impact to the amount or quality of comments.” There are more than 70 million comments posted annually on The Huffington Post, according to a 2012 Poynter article.
The second group that didn’t like the move? Media people who couldn’t understand why HuffPo would want to cede control of such a large and dedicated community to Facebook rather than try and continue to develop it itself.
The switch to Facebook comments is currently only for the U.S. edition of HuffPost, though it plans to change HuffPost Canada and HuffPost U.K. “in the near term,” Schumacher said. Other international editions could follow after then.
Update: This post was updated with additional comments from The Huffington Post at 4 p.m. EDT