A Look at the Lack of Progress for Online Dialogue

Forty years later, online commenting has seen little innovation

By: Amanda Scott, Dec 5, 2018

Online dialogue has hardly progressed since the infancy of the internet when online comments were configured as a bulletin board system. The code and database configurations for bulletin board systems, which is the basic architecture of the comment thread, is around 40 years old.

By the late 90s, online comments progressed to the form we all know that resides below articles and blog posts. Online comment sections were meant to revolutionize the way we communicate and participate online, but they’re still the same. Users can read other comments, post new comments, reply, “like” or upvote other users’ comments, downvote other comments, and sort the entire comment thread by oldest, newest and most liked. No more, no less.

By comparison, let’s review the progression of cellphones. Motorola debuted the first cellphone in 1973, (right around the time bulletin board commenting systems debuted). The first cellphone took 10 hours to charge and lasted 35 minutes. In the 40 years since, cellphones have become smartphones: mini computers in everyone’s back pocket that provides access to the internet, houses a complex camera system and gaming features. They have advanced so much that the phone feature of the cellphone is actually the least utilized feature of the device! Cellphones have drastically altered the way we communicate with each other.

Meanwhile, online comments have seen little to no innovation. As incivility and vitriol have taken over comment sections, organizations and websites have done away with online comment sections rather than find a solution to fix the pitfalls and pain points of online commenting, as those in the cellphone world have done to revolutionize the way we use and interact with our devices.