To make the system work in real-time, the company used XMPP, a protocol originally designed for instant messaging. This makes it possible to keep pages updated with comments as they appear, rather than forcing the user to refresh.
Other companies are trying to solve the problem of conversation fragmentation. Disqus, for example, has the capacity for real-time comments, and can automatically share comments on Facebook and Twitter. A proposed protocol called Salmon could help comments posted on third-party sites find their way back to the original post, as long as both sites involved have integrated the protocol.
Ilya Grigorik, chief technology officer of PostRank, a company that helps clients monitor social activity around their content, says users increasingly discuss content away from where it was originally posted. About 60 percent of the interactions that PostRank has recorded on 1,000 feeds that his company has monitored over three years happened on third-party sites.
At least in some cases, Livefyre seems to have successfully fostered the real-time conversation that Kretchmer hopes for. Spin Sucks, a social media strategy and social media consulting blog that was testing Livefyre during its beta, reported that in six months of using Livefyre, its comments were up 27 percent on average (though the site made other changes that could have affected this statistic).
Livefyre is already available for blogs based on Wordpress, and can work with publishers who use other systems. Kretchmer says the product will soon be available for Tumblr, Typepad, and Blogger as well.
The core product is free. Kretchmer says the company plans to make money by charging for premium features, such as the ability to build applications that use the platform. In the future, he says, the company may also charge for analytics.