Where did Online Comments Come from Anyway?

A brief history of online commenting 

By: Amanda Scott, Dec 2, 2018

No one is credited for the creation of online comment sections, which in their broadest sense rule the day. Think about social media – it's all about commenting on other people’s posts. On news sites it’s where everyone discusses the happenings of the world and their opinions. 

Actually, the earliest iterations of the Internet were essentially comment sections.

In the 70s, once users were connected to a computerized bulletin board system (BBS), they were able to upload and download software, exchange messages with fellow users, and read news and bulletins. BBS codes and scripts would become the basis for an early commenting function known as the “guest book,” a logging system allowing visitors of a website to leave a public comment. Furthermore, the basic architecture of the comment thread is based on the 38- to 48-year-old code used to determine the order in which text appeared on BBS. 

One of the earliest iterations of a comments section debuted in 1994: “Travels with Samantha,” an interactive book allowing readers to submit comments via a form. 

Jump to 1996 and Fray.com harnessed the “guest book” script to pose questions to its readers and allow them to submit answers in real time – getting the Internet ever closer to the comments section we know today. 

It is said that the first website to offer a comments section was Open Diary in 1998. That same year, The Rocky Mountain News was one of the first newspapers to add online same-page comments. 

Fast forward to 2008: 75 percent of the websites of the 100 largest newspapers allowed comments on articles, according to a 2008 Bivings Group survey, up from 33 percent the year prior.  

Now think about the comments you interact with on a daily basis – Facebook; Twitter; Instagram; YouTube; Amazon reviews; Yelp reviews; blog comment sections (You need to know what other people say about that chicken recipe and if they have any suggestions before you decide that’s what you’re going to eat for dinner tonight.) Comments are such a routine part of our lives nowadays. 

Could you imagine what the world would look like without comments?