Are forums dying?

Are forums dying?

  • No

    Votes: 97 45.8%
  • Yes

    Votes: 115 54.2%

  • Total voters
    212

Yappi

Enthusiast
Joined
Aug 4, 2016
Messages
112
My experience is that while many forums appear to be in decline, the number of people visiting forums in general terms remains the same. That of course is my perception of the way things are for me although the one and only survey I've seen recently (European based, published by https://www.statista.com/) seems to reinforce that to some extent.
Absolutely agree with this. My site is 15 years old. It's had it's ups and downs over time. Right now, we are up about 10% on daily registered members logging in. Our overall number of daily posts is only up about 5% over last year. More people are reading the forums but they aren't sharing as much as I would like.
 

eva2000

Habitué
Joined
Jan 11, 2004
Messages
1,755
Forums are not suitable for smartphones. Those damn small sized screens are the most important enemies of forums. Because of them you can't compete, even if you provide content. The small screens make it very uncomfortable.
Depends on the forum topic and target audience too. My forum/site have <10% phone + tablet audience visitor traffic while 90% is laptop/desktop. It has grown though use to be <2-4% phone + tablet. For my forum, most visitors would want to be on laptop/desktop for it anyway :)

I have a feeling that this hits the nail on the head. Most people are looking for information. They tend to not want to get involved in a discussion once they find it. It's like "Gimme my answer now dammit, and no, I don't want to talk about it".
Instead of a community of sharer's, it's becoming more of a community of takers that are dependent upon a very few number of contributors.
indeed that is probably the real underlying reason though smartphones are part of that do as it's alot harder to do indepth discussion on a smartphone vs desktop for forums.

Maybe the overall reason comes down to just convenience and attention spans getting shorter. Smartphones for simple conversation that maybe one way or limited two way for digesting news/update feeds and folks not wanting to get into deep detailed conversations at all. That's why Q&A like sites like stackexchange and short text conversation like reddit, facebook, twitter etc are preferred.

You have young folks who can push out 100s of text messages per day. That takes up alot of time which isn't available anymore for deeper indepth forum discussions heh
 

GTB

Tazmanian
Joined
Nov 24, 2005
Messages
4,038
Forums are quite complicated things to use on a smart phone when you think about it. If forums are ever truly going to suit mobile use, then they need change into being less complicated things for using... more basic by design. But that is never really going to happen with forums. The other side has been mentioned before already, how can you compete against sites like FB, Twitter and Reddit which have millions of users. It's obvious people will flock to sites where most users are present.

So even if a new forum software did come along that suited mobiles far better. It would still face the huge issue that people are going where most other users are. It's also a change in trend thing now, that forums are just not what new younger people coming on web today are looking to use any more.

Looking at voting cast more people now think forums are dying. If this same topic had of been started lets say a year-half ago - it would easy have won on "forum are not dying" votes. Even that shows a big shift in people realizing it is happening.
 
Last edited:

sbjsbj

Fan
Joined
Feb 9, 2015
Messages
585
Depends on the forum topic and target audience too. My forum/site have <10% phone + tablet audience visitor traffic while 90% is laptop/desktop. It has grown though use to be <2-4% phone + tablet. For my forum, most visitors would want to be on laptop/desktop for it anyway :)
True. But exceptions are exceptions. Your site is about a special case of a server setup. Not sure if people can use ssh connection via phones, but it is very unlikely that people do so. And because people come to your great site by trying to setup their servers, it is almost a given that they do so on their desktops or laptops.
 

Yappi

Enthusiast
Joined
Aug 4, 2016
Messages
112
Looking at voting cast more people now think forums are dying. If this same topic had of been started lets say a year-half ago - it would easy have won on "forum are not dying" votes. Even that shows a big shift in people realizing it is happening.
This question was posed 12 years ago when MySpace was on the rise. It was posed 8 years ago when Facebook was taking off. It was posed 4 years ago when Twitter was the rising star. The gloom and doomers were saying the end was near for forums all those years.
 

Yappi

Enthusiast
Joined
Aug 4, 2016
Messages
112
True. But exceptions are exceptions. Your site is about a special case of a server setup. Not sure if people can use ssh connection via phones, but it is very unlikely that people do so. And because people come to your great site by trying to setup their servers, it is almost a given that they do so on their desktops or laptops.
I think this is part of the problem for some people on here who can't get their forums off the ground. Find a niche that benefits from greater, in-depth discussion. Those sites seem to be doing well. Just last night, I had to search for a specific football rule. On the first page of Google were several different sites. The only sites that had the correct information were two different officiating forums. Great information that could never be found on Facebook, Twitter, or a static website.
 

darnoldy

Curmudgeon
Joined
Dec 20, 2004
Messages
1,730
I have been involved in forums for a little over 30 years now (as have some others here). I have a few observations...

Forums have always been overshadowed in the popular press by easier-to-explain vehicles: first, it was "chat rooms," then "blogs," then "like us on Facebook." Even people who like and use forums regularly have trouble articulating why they like them.

People come for the information, but stay for the community. If information was really king, wikis would rule.

It is easier to build a forum if you can tie into an existing IRL community or network.

Forum owners tend to measure "success" by total post count or total members—gotta have a million post to be successful, wanna be a "big board," etc. Better (but harder) is to measure the degree of engagement, the quality of the interactions.

There probably is (if Dunbar is to be believed) and optimal size for a forum community— I think that it is between 50 and 200 active users.
 

Kelloggs

Internet Vagrant
Joined
Feb 23, 2011
Messages
429
Forums, in general are dying. However, I think that there is a chance that, as society becomes more divided (which I personally believe it is) more and more people will seek refuge in online communities. Whether that is a good thing or not is another question entirely.
 

sdev

Aspirant
Joined
Mar 2, 2015
Messages
34
After reading the other thread on this subject and thinking about it, it's pretty clear to me why forum popularity has declined the last 10 years or so: Smart phones.

Look at the graph below from Google Trends. Forums topped nearly exactly the month Iphone was released, went flat then down.
forum trend vs smart phones.PNG
(ref: https://www.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&q=forum)

And I don't think this problem is permanent. More people use the web now for information more often, if forums can improve broadly I think the trend can be turned. Many forums today (I would say most?) are still not mobile friendly.
 

pierce

Habitué
Joined
Apr 10, 2016
Messages
1,171
Maybe the harsh reality is that forum was never a popular search term.

Screenshot_20161107-105332.png

I always find a forum when googling for an android issue or windows issue. We've all been on apple user forums, android forums and seven forums....

But I don't Google for forum, then look for a windows forum for support.

I know my own forum is far more effective for long tail than its name, or even it's main purpose.
 

sdev

Aspirant
Joined
Mar 2, 2015
Messages
34
Yes but you still get an idea of the trend. Where it's going. I think they got enough data to show accurate trend, and many on this forum is seeing decline too... And btw, Google trends include all search queries with forum in it. Like "Windows support forum".
 

Mesca

Aspirant
Joined
Oct 31, 2016
Messages
14
The problem with these kind of discussions is that the majority of what people believe comes from their experience of interacting with forums and not from verifiable data. That's understandable because from what I've seen, decent surveys on the subject are very few and far between and those that might provide any real insight tend to be costly to access.

My experience is that while many forums appear to be in decline, the number of people visiting forums in general terms remains the same. That of course is my perception of the way things are for me although the one and only survey I've seen recently (European based, published by https://www.statista.com/) seems to reinforce that to some extent.

What interests me more than the dying forum question is whether there has been a shift in the balance between forum contributors and consumers. Reliable data on that is even harder to find.
I check number of posts on big French and american forums monthly since 2008, and I see there is a decline on almost all of them :)

The number of visits is the same (or in expansion because of the multi devices), but the number of page views is declining.
 

Mesca

Aspirant
Joined
Oct 31, 2016
Messages
14
After reading the other thread on this subject and thinking about it, it's pretty clear to me why forum popularity has declined the last 10 years or so: Smart phones.

Look at the graph below from Google Trends. Forums topped nearly exactly the month Iphone was released, went flat then down.
View attachment 44659
(ref: https://www.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&q=forum)

And I don't think this problem is permanent. More people use the web now for information more often, if forums can improve broadly I think the trend can be turned. Many forums today (I would say most?) are still not mobile friendly.
September 2007 is the month where facebook goes over forum on google trends ;)
 

Mesca

Aspirant
Joined
Oct 31, 2016
Messages
14
I will not say "forum are dying" but I will say they are challenged by social media and because they are not mobile friendly, and they have to change to survive.
 

Maddox

Habitué
Joined
Jul 29, 2016
Messages
1,253
Rather than looking over statistics why not just ask the admins on here if their forums are thriving or have become a grave marker in the great forum cemetery?

Are their forums old and established, or are they new? If old and established how many members are actually active? If new, are new members registering at a rate that you are happy with and, more importantly, are they actively contributing?

Statistics will most likely take into account business based forums which often serve as a customer services portal; people will join up to ask a question or raise a complaint, it's unlikely that they are looking for meaningful everyday discussions. More businesses are using forums for gathering information, taking stock of complaints and probably basing future product releases based on the questions asked. Remove these from the analytics and get back to the grassroots forums that the people here on TAZ have built and a clearer picture may emerge as to how well forums are faring in the face of the social media monoliths.

Google may state that many forums are springing up, but what they don't tell you is how active, if at all, they are; just that they exist.

;)
 

arabicpoint

Participant
Joined
Sep 1, 2012
Messages
61
It does`t get enough attention from people and user interface is not known to most of all.
 

msimplay

Aspirant
Joined
Jan 20, 2006
Messages
25
I think forums aren't as popular as they once were but those that are popular are hugely popular and other ones that are up are indispensable for the communities they serve.
I personally love retrogaming and health and fitness communities and the information that you can obtain there is not available anywhere else.
 

sdev

Aspirant
Joined
Mar 2, 2015
Messages
34
An interesting question is has anyone here managed to turn a negative visitor / posting trend with a mobile friendly forum software?

I have a forum that kind of exploded visitor wise after vbulletin 3->Xenforo conversion. But the market I'm in has increased also, so it's hard to know exactly why those new visitors came.
 

Jayjay

Neophyte
Joined
Aug 22, 2016
Messages
4
Declining seems more fitting to me
I agree but it depends upon the forum.
There's more quality, less quantity.
You got it, my friend!
on big French and American forums monthly
How can you differentiate? My forum has it's HQ in California and I, the senior admin, am UK based. I frequently get new members saying "I'm in the UK so I don't know if my question can be answered here" or "I see this forum is a UK one!" (from the US!) shrug2.gif
I will not say "forum are dying" but I will say they are challenged by social media and because they are not mobile friendly, and they have to change to survive.
Indeed they are! I'm a bit of a Luddite and dread the time when we shall all be forced to adapt and become more 'mobile friendly'. We already have an optional mobile skin but it's not quite 'there', the members tell me. It works through Tapatalk. And those who are inveterate Facebookers often have difficulties trying to learn how to the navigate a forum, which ever skin they use. I have been known to phone new members (yes, even US members!) to talk them through things when they couldn't even understand the "How To" articles. sigh.gif
 
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