Here are some stats comparing forum software options:
490 seems impressive for beta forum software, that doesn’t have a one-click PHP/MySQL install. Discourse could potentially catch up to Vanilla by next year, if you extrapolate on year-over-year growth rate. Cool!
I posted an updated screenshot. No idea how they are generating this data but the nearly across the board decline for all of them (except XF and Discourse) in the last 6 months alone is kind of what I was telling @astonj about in his topic.
Traditional forum software is a sick, sick puppy and has been for a long time. Which is too bad because the communities are great.
Many of us have been saying forums are dying for several years now, but it’s not because of poor design, it’s because of poor function; why would anyone want to hang out on a forum when they can get more of what they used it for on FB?
Forums need to offer something new.
Perhaps it’s time to move on from forums completely - and focus our attention on community software.
I have no interest in facebook and I don’t use it (and have facebook.com blackholed on my local DNS boxes), so FB can’t fill any kind of niche for me at all—and whatever it could do it poisoned by its consumer-toxic business practices. Facebook is an outstanding resource for companies looking to understand how to better sell things to people, but as an open communications tool that fosters free discussion between actual humans it’s a horrible failure. The fact that people can use it to throw baby pictures at each other has long been incidental to its actual purpose of providing revenue to facebook.
Twitter is a tool I use for work to watch emerging news and talk with coworkers and other tech writers. It’s important, but it’s not the same type of tool as a forum.
What do you mean, though? What does Facebook give me that forum software doesn’t? Brand engagement? The ability to reduce my browsing habits to a commoditized, monetizable resource that can be sold to advertisers?
Web-based forums as they exist today are a combo evolution from the pre-WWW USENET and the pre-internet BBS ecosystem. BBSs are extinct and USENET has rotted away into a porn- and spam-filled corpse, and over time the Web has absorbed the vast majority of both those mediums’ intended functions.
As long as the Internet still has a heavy textual component—in other words, forever—something like forum software will always be around. Although the forum applications themselves will shift with time as software design trends come and go, the idea of topic-specific places where folks can talk about things will always be with us.
I don’t know what “community software” means, but it sounds like potentially the same misguided idea that Yahoo and other companies fell into in the early 2000s when they all decided that being “web portals” was the new hot thing. Doing one thing well is far better than half-assing a lot of things—the history of tech is littered with canonical examples (and, indeed, Discourse has been accused of this very thing on a few of the more graybearded sites it’s been rolled out to).
Forum software is a means to an end, not the end itself. Those means might be busted—and I don’t think anyone would argue that vBulletin is a paragon of usability—but the end is one of the main reasons folks continue to use the Internet. Making the means better is laudable; declaring the end as a waste of time and putting effort toward a different one is folly.
I agree that the design on most forums is terribly bad, but when you consider that forums with pretty decent design are also dying it makes you wonder whether there’s more to it than just design.
Some of the points you made in the first 5 minutes:
Couldn’t find your threads - on most (if not all of) my forums we have a ‘Your Threads’ link.
Clicking on link goes to top of topic - vB has, for a long time now, had links to get you to the first post, first unread post, and last post in a thread.
Multi quote - I can’t remember the exact point you made now as I watched the clip several hours ago, but when multi quoting the quotes are there in the post so you don’t have to scroll back up. Unless you mean to view other (non-quoted) posts.
Having to preview text. vB has had a wysiwyg editor for a good few years now (if anything it could be argued that’s actually better than what DC has, as it can be jarring writing on one side and editing on the other - however I think improvements could be made here to make it a big plus).
I’m not defending or disputing your criticisms of forum software, many of them are valid - what I’m saying is that it’s not just the design why forums are in decline, because there have been some very nicely designed forums out there that haven’t been immune to the decline. IMO, there’s a lot more going on, some of it function, some culture; people want different things from ‘community sites’ these days, and a large part of that, whether we like it or not, is down to what they have become accustomed to on social networks.
It’s no coincidence that some of my most immune sites, were those where we did not allow mass ‘add me on FB/twitter’ type threads. Unfortunately, as things progressed it didn’t stop people doing it via PMs. Most of the people who would visit us daily, but no longer do, haven’t gone to some other forum - they’ve gone to (i.e. spend the time they would have on our site) on FB. It’s something that should not be ignored imo.
My guess is people signup for forums/groups on FB but engagement wise it won’t be like a dedicated site with a forum. It just feels more homey.
A forum is a single purpose piece of software (when done correctly), FB will not even come close to the features people want (badges, gamification, levels, UX, integration points, API, plugins, advanced search, etc).
Facebook’s model encourages chit-chat and discourages discussions. If you want meaningful discussions than the relative popularity of Facebook and forums does not matter, Facebook is simply not an option.