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June 06, 2008

Disqus' Downtime Reminds Us of Woes for Data In the Cloud

I am a happy Disqus customer. Implementing Disqus comments on this blog, enabling people to track their conversations around the Web, show personal custom avatars and thread conversations, has been among the better things I've done with the blog. Since installing Disqus, total comments have increased, I can get a better sense of my most frequent participants and they can connect one to one. My Disqus comments, and those of others, can even be shared on FriendFeed and other lifestreaming services.

My enthusiasm has not been unanimous across the blogosphere. Some have been concerned that Disqus' hosting the comments on their own site reduces the control a blogger has on this critical element of their site. Others say that Disqus effectively "steals" the SEO value of those comments, robbing you of the Google juice that's yours.

And to date, I've defended Disqus in every way. I'm not an SEO nut, so I can shrug my shoulders at these so-called issues. Until today.

Starting last night, I was surprised to find my e-mail empty of Disqus comments flowing to my in box. Checking the blog, I found many heartfelt comments on the passing of our dog yesterday. But Disqus wasn't sending me the updates. I logged in to the service, and ensured my preferences were set to notify me, and they were.

This morning, the situation is much worse. No comments are showing. The Disqus widget on the right side of the blog is missing. And every Disqus comment that every person posted on any Disqus-powered site is gone. This highlights the concern many have had on trusting the cloud and putting your data in the hands of others. It's always good to make a copy, especially if you don't know their infrastructure, or the company doesn't have a decades-long track record.

I trusted Disqus to host my comments, to run the show, to power my blog and to take on the challenging task of being my connection to my audience. Now, they're down hard. Their blog hasn't been updated to say what's going on, and the last update we got from Disqus' Daniel Ha is that he was playing poker 10 hours ago, via Twitter. I just hope he didn't bet the future of Disqus on a pair of 3's.

In this time where users are turning their data over to the cloud and trusting the underlying Web services, downtime can be a killer. The second half of responding to downtime? Transparency. And right now, Disqus is failing at both.

See also: FriendFeed discussion on Disqus downtime.