After a short private beta test, JS-Kit just announced that Echo, its new blog commenting platform, is now available as a public beta. Echo aggregates conversations around a blog post from across the Internet and allows users to share their comments on Twitter, Facebook, and FriendFeed. Echo offers a number of well-designed and unique features, including real-time updating and the ability to capture social gestures related to a blog's content like star ratings and 'likes' from across the Web. In addition, at least for the time being, JS-Kit also offers good spam and obscenity filters.

Easy Installation

Installing Echo is just as easy as installing the plugins of its competitors like Intense Debate or Disqus - which is dealing with a major spam problem these days. JS-Kit provides plugins for WordPress and Blogger, as well as a code-snippet for other blogging platforms.

The Best Things in Life Aren't Free

It's important to point out, though, that the most interesting features, including real-time updates and comment aggregation from third-party sites like Twitter and FriendFeed are not available in the free version of Echo. The free version includes most of the core features of Echo, including the ability to share comments on Twitter and Facebook, nested replies, moderation tools, and customization.

For $98 a year, paying users will get access to Echo's aggregation features and real-time updates. JS-Kit also offers a white-label solution with priority support, as well as OEM integration.

It's good to see some development in the blog commenting market again. After a flurry of announcement and product releases last year, development and new product releases markedly slowed down this year, even though the growth of Twitter and Facebook only intensified the problem of comment fragmentation.