Whenever I drop this F word into conversation, it usually shocks people. I've grown used to others recoiling in horror when they hear it, to the point where I avoided staying it. It's taken some creativity to get around it, but I managed for a good few years.
"Wait, you work on forum software? I thought they'd died?"
This was a common response, and one I'd grown weary towards. I'd explain that while forums exploded in the late 90s to peak in popularity in the early 2000s before the social media boom eroded many communities, they were far from dead.
This feeling that forums are an anachronistic relic from the time when 56k baud modems were cool is especially prevalent among the Web3 early adopters as they race to break new ground and put distance between the old and the new.
I understand why some feel that way. If you're over 30, it's likely your personal journey started on forums before moving to social media. It must feel that forums have died, much like candy-coloured iMacs (wait, bad example, they made a comeback) and AOL CDs.
I used to feel ashamed admitting that I was still doing the same thing I was doing in the year 2002. Sure, back then, I was coding on my own in a rented house I shared with a friend, and now at Invision Community, we have a team of nearly 20 and a growing client list, but, you know, forums aren't very cool, are they?
Here's what happened in those twenty years: social media consumed personality-driven informal communities. Brands became more aware of the value of community and owning their own data. We moved with the times.
The report of the death of forums has been greatly exaggerated.
Forums offer an amazing platform for scalable communities with a permanent and organised crowd-sourced knowledge base. You'd be hard-pressed to find an active support community not using a forum.
To check for a pulse, I picked one Invision Community client at random, and their stats show they have 2,500 people active on their forum throughout the day and an average of 1 million page views each day.
That's one client.
Another chosen at random averages 600k page views a day, with 500 people online throughout the day.
Multiply that by all our clients and all the clients from other platforms, and you have a significant slice of daily internet traffic.
Add to that the billions of stored pages in Google's search index and you realise that forums still underpin the internet.
I'm no longer going to feel ashamed to admit that we develop a forum platform. It's something I've done for over twenty years, and I'm proud of my contribution to the advancement of forums.
Back to the
future forums! (Hat tip to Rosie)
I'm realistic about the future. I do not expect a mass movement back to forums. Forums were the only platform outside ICQ, AOL Messenger and IRC chat. So it was natural that they were heavily used. We're not going to recapture that moment again, and that's okay! At Invision Community, we are now working with the world's biggest brands to serve the needs of their customers.
I will fly my forum flag with pride and hope that you do the same.
[This blog is a longer version of an off-the-cuff tweet I made earlier today]