With the wildfire proliferation of social media icons Facebook, Twitter and the ever present blog, the popularity of “old school” text based discussion groups or, message boards as we have known them, appeared to be fading.
On the contrary: In fact, the editors of Forum-Software.org, a popular product review website, began hosting the “Community Choice” Forum Awards in 2006 and have watched a steady increase in submissions and voter participation every year since.
With the results tallied from their most recent year-end contest polling, it’s apparent “message boards” are alive and well. Moreover, due to sharp increases in forum activity and the potential to monetize high traffic discussion groups, forum hosting start-ups have become more prevalent across the web in recent years.
Consequently, award competition was stiff this year for the top slots in each of three Forum related categories; “Best Free Forum Software”, “Best Commercial Forum Software” and, the most competitive of the categories, “Best Hosted Service”. With this years voter participation up 285% over last year, online forums do indeed seem to be resurgent in the social media universe.
While similar at first glance to Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels, online discussion forums are unique in that they foster online communities based solely on topical, shared personal interests or, hobbies.
Having evolved dramatically to meet the needs of tech-savvy members, top discussion forums now incorporate rich feature sets that rival the most advanced social media sites. Forum owners or, “administrators” as they are known, can build groups of unlimited size, discuss unlimited topics, share on-the-go with smart phone apps, access free tech support, crunch traffic analytics and much more…all for free!
These aren’t your dad’s message boards anymore!
Probably the most notable contributor to the rekindled popularity of discussion forums is the stalwart free forum host, ProBoards. Also the 2011 runaway winner for “Best Hosted Service”, ProBoards has served a reliable service, brimming with features, to an eclectic constituency that has steadily grown since it set up shop twelve long years ago.
Since the beginning, ProBoards has pushed the evolutionary envelope to provide more services, more features and more functionality to its members. Subsequently, as the most visited free forum service on the internet, ProBoards boasts…