We have made a change to GazetteXtra article comments.
The article commenting interface stopped working for users on Apple devices in March 2019. The plugin was developed by Facebook, but Facebook has declared it will not be releasing a fix.
We explored alternatives, but all would have required users to log into another system to post comments. That difficulty coupled with a downturn in the number of comments led us to decide to eliminate commenting on articles. Instead, readers are invited to choose between emojis indicating love, humor, surprise, sadness or anger about articles.
This change is the latest iteration of commenting since commenting debuted on GazetteXtra in 2007. Within a few years, readers were leaving up to 10,000 comments a month. The only thing required to anonymously comment was a valid email address. The volume and negativity of comments became too much to manage, however.
In 2010, we disabled commenting on articles about crime, courts, traffic accidents, race or sex in an attempt to keep conversations more civil. It helped, but comments still regularly strayed, requiring comments to be removed or disabled on many articles.
In 2013, we changed our commenting policy to allow only Gazette subscribers to comment on articles. They still could comment anonymously, but the number of comments fell to about 700 a month.
In 2017, we changed website software vendors and decided to use a Facebook plugin for commenting. To comment, readers needed to have a Facebook account.
Although our pageviews continue to rise, the number of comments has steadily fallen. Meanwhile on our Facebook page, posts with links to articles generate strong engagement, including many comments. That tells us people prefer to conduct their conversations on social media and not on our website.
The result is our decision to end commenting on GazetteXtra and replace it with emojis.
Readers who want to continue commenting are invited to do so on our Facebook page.