Hari's Corner

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Online forums - fighting a losing battle?

Filed under: Internet and Blogging by Hari
Posted on Fri, Feb 19, 2010 at 17:43 IST (last updated: Fri, Feb 19, 2010 @ 17:43 IST)

PeopleIf you've been wondering what I've been up to while my blog has been in a state of neglect the past several days, wonder no more. An idea caught my mind and I decided to follow it up.

To cut a long story short, I decided to re-launch ToonsAndComics, my brother's old forum as well as try and spruce up LiteraryForums.org, to revive it from the dead, so to speak. I'm increasingly convinced that it's fighting an uphill battle. I'm not giving up just yet, but I feel that people over the last 5 years have definitely moved away from online discussion groups to social networking platforms. Sure, there's still the strong presence of well established online forums with hundreds of thousands of members, but those are exceptions.

My point is that, today, it's harder for individuals to start a discussion community or a forum and sustain it in the long run unless it's as a support service for a particular product or service. Social network sites, backed by well established companies and professional staff have offered a whole new platform for people to interact online and the medium is far more democratic than forums. I think that web forums are no longer the "social scene" of the internet.

The deeper issue is that social networking sites aren't merely communities. They're platforms to establish an infinite number and variety of social interactions within them as people sign up "friends" or "followers" and join groups of similar interests. The web's interactivity has changed and the bigger players have stepped up. I'd hate to think that small forum-based communities are dying, but the trend indicates that. Individuals running single forum websites can only offer so much. Online social networks have completely altered the web scene. Individuals come and go, but the platform remains. More than anything these platforms offer something that online forums cannot, namely integrated login and access to any number of services and sub-communities. Google is a prime example. Who would want to sign up on 10 different websites to access 10 services or discuss 10 different subjects? Usenet and mailing lists don't suffer similar drawbacks, being entirely different in their approach. Subscribing and unsubscribing from them is simple and easy as they use the existing platform of e-mail to handle the interactions.

Will online (web-based) forums slowly disappear or will they make a comeback? What do you think?

8 comment(s)

  1. Hey, I haven't really thought about it before but now that you mention it yeah! Web forums are dying! It seemed just yesterday when forums were the in-things and every single website community, no matter how small, had its own forum. Heck, E2 had a forum.

    The existing and huge forum communities will obviously stand a long longer than others but overall I sincerely doubt many people starting up a site would say "yep, let's create a forum" - people are just too lazy to have to check another website, then check each individual category. They want things spoonfed in a newsfeed.

    Comment by Dion Moult (visitor) on Fri, Feb 19, 2010 @ 19:14 IST #
  2. Yes, the ROI is just not worth it anywhere. If you want a community, you go to Orkut, Facebook or any of the multitude of social sites. If you want a website, the most popular choice is a blog at the moment. So online forums seem to be sandwiched between heavyweight contenders at the moment.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Fri, Feb 19, 2010 @ 19:53 IST #
  3. I rarely ever visit online forums any longer. In my little world and little online presence, I see them as a dying breed to be honest. I think they still have their place, especially for those wanting to ask questions to receive some sort of answer but the social aspect they use to carry are slowly dying.

    Comment by Drew (visitor) on Tue, Feb 23, 2010 @ 07:26 IST #
  4. I am so glad for forums, as I met you and Ray on one. I don't think that we would have crossed paths if it weren't for that forum. I haven't frequented there very often as of late, though.

    Comment by mrcorey (visitor) on Tue, Feb 23, 2010 @ 12:37 IST #
  5. Drew, but a lot of big forum admins feel that forums aren't dying. Maybe there is a place for every kind of community on the Internet. Usenet is still active, isn't it? :-)

    MrCorey, too true. A lot of us can relate back to the LinuxQuestions.org days. :biggrin:

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Tue, Feb 23, 2010 @ 13:48 IST #
  6. I had always thought that Drew was a forum god, due to the sheer number of his posts on LQ. :biggrin:

    Comment by mrcorey (visitor) on Tue, Feb 23, 2010 @ 17:55 IST #
  7. I agree, I recently decided to launch a forum about photography and it has gone no where. Pretty sure that will be my last adventure in the online forum world no matter what.

    I've tried numerous niches such as Health, Video Games, Webmaster/SEO, and Adult. The only one that did any good was the Adult one, the others have all flopped so far.

    Comment by David (visitor) on Mon, Mar 1, 2010 @ 22:41 IST #
  8. David, don't give up yet. I think your forum has potential.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Tue, Mar 2, 2010 @ 13:51 IST #

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