Mozilla working on a WordPress, Disqus competitor?

Mozilla is working on developing a content and commenting platform in collaboration with two leading US news papers The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Comments are no more just something a reader said, they have become very valuable part of ‘stories’. They not only engage the readers but also provide the ‘continuity’ to the story as readers come and add their opinion to the original stories. Most of the times you would find the arguements of commentators better than the one given by the author in the story.

So, they are very, very valuable.

While we do have comment systems like Disqus and one can also integrate Facebook or G+ into the comment system, folks at Knight Foundation believe that “commenting sections are often some of the worst corners of the Internet. Vicious attacks and even racist and sexist language are routine, whether the commenters are anonymous or not.”

So they have provided a funding of $3.89 million to Mozilla to create an Open Source comment and content platform in collaboration with the two news organizations.

Those who are active in the Open Source world may be surprised with this announcement as there is already an Open Source comment system being developed by Jeff Atwood of Stack fame called Discourse. One may wonder wouldn’t it make more sense to invest resources in Discourse instead of building another content and comment platform?

Well, choices are good and more there are the better is it for users. While Discourse or other comment systems are mostly just comment systems, what Mozilla is trying to do is integrating a comment system with a content platform. Your comments will become your content!

Marie Gilot of the Knight Foundation asks some questions, “… what if we could build a commenting system that gives commenters a real sense of ownership? What if readers could manage their online identity and contributions across news sites under a single sign-in? What if they could contribute pictures, links, even their own stories? What if they could track discussions and form friendships with one another? Wouldn’t that system build a sense of community and lead to self-policing and civility?”

She then adds that “…the partners will create a user-generated content system made of building blocks that can be rearranged to create dynamic new ways for the user to become a contributor.”

Mozilla says in a blog post, “The community platform will allow news organizations to connect with audiences beyond the comments section, deepening opportunities for engagement. Through the platform, readers will be able to submit pictures, links and other media; track discussions, and manage their contributions and online identities. Publishers will then be able to collect and use this content for other forms of storytelling and spark ongoing discussions by providing readers with targeted content and notifications.”

The good news for smaller publishers is that they will also be able to use the content and comment system, it’s not going to be an exclusive for the large news organizations.

Though it is unclear whether anyone can sign-up for the platform like Disqus or will it be made available to a select group, Marie says, “Under the grant, the system will be made available to all news organizations, not just The New York Times and The Washington Post. The partners will also ensure that the final product is usable by newsrooms of any size, especially smaller outfits that can’t spare staff members to monitor comments.”

Dan Sinker, Director of the Mozilla-Knight OpenNews project, says “We don’t see this project as a single product, but instead as building blocks for engaging communities throughout the web. Open source at its core, and focused on giving users unprecedented control over their identity and contributions, this is a project we believe in.”

OpenNews is a four-year-old joint project between Mozilla and Knight Foundation “to create a global community of developers, journalists, makers, and hackers working, learning, and solving problems together to create the tools journalism needs to thrive on the open web.”

  • yohocoma

    Ironically, only one comment.

  • Makayla Oxley

    Dan Sinker, Home of the Mozilla-Knight OpenNews venture, says “We don’t see this venture as only one item, but instead as foundations for interesting areas throughout the web. Free at its primary, and targeted on providing customers unmatched control over their identification and efforts, this is a venture we believe in.”