Commenting Wars

Sound Familiar? Gawker’s New Commenting Threads are Called ‘Branches’

Gawker released its new commenting system today, and it uses some language familiar to a little startup we know.
 Sound Familiar? Gawkers New Commenting Threads are Called Branches

Mr. Denton (flickr.com/scriptingnews)

After a week of closed commenting sections, Gawker released its new commenting system today, and it’s a doozy. Nieman Lab has a great rundown of the changes, including a computer algorithm that sifts through the comments and looks for ones to feature, as well as “a new inbox [that] focuses attention on all replies to a user’s comments… the original commenter must explicitly approve a reply to allow it into the conversation.”

Nieman Lab reports that the proprietary system is officially called Powwow, but interestingly enough, the actual discussion threads themselves are called “branches.”

If that doesn’t sound familiar, it should. Just last week we reported on Gawker founder Nick Denton’s love for the startup discussion platform Branch, in which he called Branch’s 21-year-old cofounder Josh Miller one of the most interesting people in tech.

Even before today’s official launch, many media watchers pointed out that Mr. Denton’s vision for the future of comment sections was very similar to what the Obvious Corporation-backed Branch is doing.

“Well, the idea of comments as a tree is owned neither by Branch nor us,” Mr. Denton told Betabeat by email. “Not going to avoid using a word because it’s in their name.”

It’s worth noting that Branch changed its name from Roundtable just last fall, and that the company doesn’t own a copyright on the name. But we can’t imagine the Branch team is too happy about this new development. When reached via email, Mr. Miller said he had “no comment.”

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