Is It Time to Give Website Forums Their Last Rites?

Most websites used to operate basically the same. There was a main index, categories containing the individual articles, ads, maybe a few widgets on the side, and a forum. Readers could either comment directly on posts, or they could head to a forum area that discussed all topics covered on the website. But with the onset of social networking, use of the old website forums has definitely waned. A new startup, Moot, wants to make forums useful again, but is it too late, and is there even a need anymore?

Moot isn’t taking this job lightly, having spent over three years in development. The developers were rebuilding the Flowplayer site and couldn’t find the right forum for that site, so they decided to build their own.

Moot allows for more flexibility and combinations between commenting and forums and types of comments and forums. Additionally, to add it into your site, you only need to copy and paste a code. Anyone familiar with adding a phpBB forum to their site knows how much of a benefit that is. What really seems to make a difference with Moot, though, is in the way it emulates the social networking discussions. You can create your own feed of just the conversations you’re following, whether it be from article comments or forum discussions.

Forums-Feed

However, the question remains if this is too little, too late for the idea of forums. There was a time when friendships were born amidst the setting of a forum among people with common interests. Those people seem to have moved on, though, and have moved their relationships to Facebook, setting up groups there. Forums aren’t a necessity for users. They don’t need a forum anymore.

It’s the websites that need the forum. Not for people to have somewhere to post, as that can be done with a Facebook page dedicated to the site. But once you send readers to Facebook to enjoy discussion, they’ve already left your site. Once they’re on Facebook and commenting there, they stay on Facebook checking out their news feed and messages. You’ve lost them from your site, at least from that session. To run a successful site, you need to keep readers there as long as you can.

Forums-Comments

Taking forums to the next level and adding some social network benefits into them is a great idea for a website. If they can add in the same benefits of a Facebook or Twitter, there’s a chance that maybe there will be a new evolution of forums on the horizon.

Do you still use website forums? Or is it enough to just have me ask you to comment below? How would all of this change your user experience?

4 comments

  1. I’m currently testing Moot and except for a few bugs and minor issues it works great! But I’m not quite sure that this type of forum is going to be usefull on a large scale. When a forum receives thousands of posts each hour this is going to be one huge mess and software like SMF or vBulletin (and many others of course) are better organised. But for handling a small community Moot does the job the way it should be.

  2. Thanks for offering up your firsthand experience. Perhaps it won’t be useful for using on a large scale, but maybe there is techology there that another company can exploit to create something similar that will work on a large scale.

  3. Thank you for the comments. Moot is currently still in beta, but has been built to scale from ground up. The infrastructure can handle massive traffic; thousands of posts per minute — or per second if required, there are no limits. The categories will also be more customizable, so you can have however many categories, subcategories or sub-subcategories etc. you want; the unique “paths” concept allows very exotic organizing schemes. The search also works extremely efficiently, even on huge sites.

    Janne
    Moot

  4. Thank you, Janne, for clearing that up. I’m glad to hear it will handle all sizes of sites and all amounts of traffic.

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