Are all the forums dead?

  • When I started my forum in 2005 it grew at an alarming rate -- before long the server started crashing and we had to move to VPS hosting.


    At the height of its popularity it was getting over 3 million unique hits per month, with so many people logging in we needed a good ten moderators to take care of them. If anyone bailed, caused trouble or started a break away forum, well it hardly affected us at all.


    Move forward to now -- fewer than 60 people log in every day, I moderate it alone, struggle to make enough money to pay the hosting costs and (at the time of posting this) the last post was two hours ago.


    I have to admit that moving to Woltlab seems to have had a negative effect on traffic for some reason -- in spite of its cool look, quite a few people seemed to dislike the interface and have jumped ship as a result. It's being picked up by search bots, so SEO doesn't seem to be an issue.


    While I know there are still niche forums that people enjoy, they all largely seem to have taken a hit with the rise of Facebook Groups etc.

    The question is, how long can forums be sustained before we need a complete rethink of how we run independent discussion boards?

  • I agree with you, forums are dying. I don't know whether it's Facebook & Co., which "steal" our users or whether there is no interest in forums in general anymore (or no need for them), but I see a permanent decrease in forum activity — not only in my own two forums.

  • TBH I'm on the verge of pulling the plug for good.


    The site has so far been funded by donations, with a little bit of money from Adsense and the Ebay Partner Network - During the good times I could afford every addon and upgrade going, but this month I'm having to pay for the hosting out of my own pocket.

    After nearly 13 years it's not an easy decision to make, and there's this hope I'll find the missing secret to resurrect its popularity - but closure has been on my mind a while now.


  • Moonclamp


    Keep it alive by asking for donations.


    I fully agree with you: In times of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and co Forums have a hard live.

    The easiness of posting in social media compared with a forum is appealing for many people.


    However I strongly believe, that there is a good opportunity to keep forums alive.

    They are a much better storage of information you can search for!

  • What's the topic of the forum?

    Alternative lifestyles - offgrid living, festivals, self-sufficiency, living on the road, alternative spirituality, vegetarianism/veganism and so on.


    Basically, hippy stuff.


    I won't post a link because I don't want any trackbacks and like a degree of anonymity.

  • Alternative lifestyles - offgrid living, festivals, self-sufficiency, living on the road, alternative spirituality, vegetarianism/veganism and so on.


    Basically, hippy stuff.


    I won't post a link because I don't want any trackbacks and like a degree of anonymity.

    Too bad you wont post a link, my wife and I are kind of into those things.


    You should keep your forum open and use the WoltLab CMS for writing articles (as a blog), make the forum secondary to the articles.


    I personally hate Facebook (it's mindless B/S) and look forward to its demise.

  • Alternative lifestyles - offgrid living, festivals, self-sufficiency, living on the road, alternative spirituality, vegetarianism/veganism and so on.

    That's a topic typically covered by social networks. If you are registered on social networks like facebook you don't need another community. This forums are indeed dead. That applies to webdesign forums too, but for a other reason, you don't create your website from scratch nowadays, instead you use a cms. And there you ask for help.

  • That applies to webdesign forums too, but for a other reason, you don't create your website from scratch nowadays, instead you use a cms. And there you ask for help.

    This is one of the only support forums I use for my dev work - I use Wordpress extensively for other projects and typically use Facebook for theme and coding support.


    The only forums I know that are really thriving are of a more adult nature where they're not subject to the FB rules of conduct, and the users get more anonymity.

  • Back in 2005, real time communication software was limited. Today we have programs like Discord which allow you to have real time conversations and categorize those conversations into channels.


    A site needs more than just a message board. For us, our forums compliment the websites additional features but we expect the forums to be rarely used because our live community on discord is so active.

  • A forum, especially if it looks back to more than a decade of content gathering, is a pool of information stored therein. To the contrary of FB and the like, informations can be found in a forum at any time easily. The real value of a forum these days therefor lies in that storage. Not the communication and diskussion on the topics. That has shiftet to other real-time social media.


    I say: keep it online. For reasons of costs, maybe switch back to a cheaper server or to a webspace. Those who are searching for informations, will find it and read in it as they did in the old days using a library filled with real books.


    (My own little forum shares this fate. And I don't have the heart to wipe out all it's content)

  • Well, my community is actually booming - slowly, not as big as your is, but we feel the competition from Facebook and Reddit as well.

    In our case, that's okay, since we have a really specific niche that keeps people to our site.


    Social media has taken over a huge chunk, but not everything. Niche forums will keep on going, perhaps smaller, for years.

  • I think this is the key - finding a niche that people want and need, and something that won't fit with the FB terms and conditions.


    That makes me think of adult subjects, which could be any number of things from drugs and health to sex and relationships.

  • Sounds, you still want to give up the alternative lifestyle topic?


    Hmmm, starting up a new forum these days is much more time comsuming than 10 years earlier. First, to find such a niche topic that by-the-way should attract you too to lead that forum. Then, to check it up against the laws of your country (especially sexually content could be an issue). Then, to find users who are not already satisfied with existing contents. And finally, hoping that this will flourish. All against Social Media and maybe existing contents on similar topics (in public or in closed circles).


    What I mean: killing old content is done very quickly. Building and rising new content in classic forum formats on the other side is very hard - if it ever succeeds. To run a forum simply because it must be a forum, ist not really the right starting point.

  • The easiness of posting in social media compared with a forum is appealing for many people.

    This is the answer. Make it easy for the members. Both on Google and their devices.

    Smile , it's good for health

  • Too bad you wont post a link, my wife and I are kind of into those things.


    You should keep your forum open and use the WoltLab CMS for writing articles (as a blog), make the forum secondary to the articles.


    I personally hate Facebook (it's mindless B/S) and look forward to its demise.

    Your last sentence above - priceless! I am so glad someone besides me hates Facebook!


    In the past not so long ago - either while posting on forums other than my own, or engaged in personal "conversations" with friends(?) - I felt as though at any minute I would be roped (hog tied) and dragged through burning embers if I ever dared again to say anything "bad" about

    Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg and gang.


    Having said that however - coming back to the "main theme" of this thread - there was one Woltlab Member on this Woltlab Forum

    who said it best:

    [NOT an exact quote]: As for "forums", there needs to be an "over-haul" with regards to the basics of forums to meet head-on the changes in how people at large feel and react to social media expression; e.g., how the majority of people use, and are influenced by, the social media "giants".


    Additionally I would hasten to add this:

    Making it "easier" for people to use a Forum is only part of what needs to be done!

    IF forums are "dying" - as some here in this thread seem to believe - it is primarily for one reason:

    The world is changing; and how people react and participate within that changing world, has and will continue to be,

    learning to change with the world.


    People who love to create, design, and present forums must somehow learn to adapt to those "changes and attitudes".

    It won't be easy, but it can be accomplished!

    But like anything else in this world, if it is concluded on the part of an individual, group, or company that pursuing a particular goal -

    (of "something" worthwhile is merited) - then it will only be realized by a continued commitment and persistence in the face of all obstacles.


    And one last important ingredient:

    Supplementing the above stated with the willingness to support "ability" (knowledge) with "opportunity":

    e.g., sporting a hell of a big monetary budget!

  • I like Facebook but I see it as a different entity that some people use in the same way as forums - which is a shame but it speaks volumes about people's attention spans. Couple that with smartphones and it appeals to the people who no longer bother with real computers; it's all part of the general dumbing down of humanity.


    Anyway I've decided to introduce some niche ideas that won't work with Facebook's privacy structure or even their terms and conditions -- that's the only way I can see it changing. To offer something that the giants don't offer.


    Therefore I'm going to rebrand and change my forum - instead of general "alternative lifestyles" I'm going to gear it more towards nomadic people (travellers, van dwellers, boat dwellers etc.) and focus on their love for privacy and discretion and general hatred of rules.


    Also, I'm done with donations and instead am going to charge people to use it -- I've worked out that 60 people could cover the cost for a year, and that's out of a membership base currently standing at 12 thousand (after some hefty pruning of the database).


    (I announced this two days ago and have already had twenty subscription sign ups)

    Edited 2 times, last by Moonclamp ().