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Why haven't web forums evolved over the past 10 years?

Edit
I'm exaggerating, but only slightly. Most forums are partying like it's 1999.
 
Sanjay Sabnani, I run a public company that owns, acq... (more)
Forums have not evolved mainly because the financiers have ignored them.  Without money there is no incentive to invest in development.  Also, forum members go apeshit when you make changes.  This scares most forum owners from doing anything to disturb the status quo.
  
Comment    Embed  Thank  7 Oct, 2010
Sanjay Sabnani
I think there are three main reasons:
  1. Forums basically work. Sure, they could work better, but for most of the people using them they do what they want them to do (allow for many-to-many conversations).
  2. Lack of financing
  3. Perhaps most importantly a lot of forums are run by people who have "real" jobs and they are not in it to create a new product. They are running them because they actually just want to talk about whatever subject they have created the forum about. So upgrading for them is probably not first and foremost ...
  
Comment    Embed  Thank  7 Jan, 2011
Joanna Schneier
Patrick O'Keefe, Author, "Managing Online Forums" - Fo... (more)
I would suggest that they have evolved in the ways that they should.

Forum, or community software, has greatly, greatly evolved since 1999. Install a version of UBB that was released in 1999. Now, install the latest versions of vBulletin, phpBB, bbPress, Vanilla and Invision Power Board. You should see a startling difference and a wealth of evolution.

That is where forums have, can and will innovate - in their software, in their options and features. What will not change - and what should not change - is what forums are and that is threaded, text-based conversation. Forums are everywhere in the social web. 

It's like asking "Why hasn't the telephone evolved?" or "Why hasn't the television evolved?" They both have evolved - a lot. But, what will not change is that the primary function of a telephone is to speak, verbally, to someone. And the primary function of a television is to view some sort of visual.

But, that doesn't mean they haven't evolved. With the television, for example. We have more channels, clearer, more vibrant pictures, bigger pictures, more attractive displays, a wealth of configuration settings and options. What has evolved is the quality of the core, but what is new is not the core - what is new is the complements to the core, the additional features and options.

Sometimes, we think of evolution in a way that is not fair, in a way that would mean that the thing we are thinking of would no longer be itself. For example, if the television evolves into a computer, it is no longer a television - it is a computer. In other words, it's not really evolution if it turns into something else - it's a new and different thing.

Even new and different things retain many of the characteristics of other things. Let me add to the comparison overload by comparing forums to bread. Why hasn't bread evolved? Well, it has. We have more flavors, we have better ingredients and we know more about the construction of bread. However, bread will always be bread.

That said, bread is a flexible medium. People eat bread plain, they make an open face sandwich, a closed sandwich, they toast it, they chop it up, they put it in bread pudding and they add any number of ingredients to it.

Similarly, if you look at Facebook, you'll see forums or forum-like functionality. If you look at your favorite "social network," you'll see forums or forum-like functionality. If you look at YouTube, Flickr and many blogs, you'll see the same. 

Quora is a forum. Questions are threads, answers are 
replies. It's very much the same. Some forums have employed the 
opportunity to vote posts up or down (in one way or another) for a very 
long time. 

Forums are bread. They are flexible. That is why there are such rich hack 
and customization communities that arise around popular pieces of 
software, especially open source software. Because there are a thousand 
different ways to do a forum. Or a social network. Or whatever you want 
to call it.

The direction that you take forums, your evolution of them, is on you.
  
Comment    Embed  Thank  10 Jan, 2011
Patrick O'Keefe
Harvey Kandola, Founder & CEO, Countersoft
Organizations in particular just simply dump forums online and tell the community: help your self.  There has been a total lack of innovation in this space. 

So community users end up asking all sorts of questions in the hope of finding solutions to their problems. It's usually problems that drive us to visit forum sites.

The future is around making it even quicker to find solutions to problems that people may face by PROVIDING RELEVANT REPLIES. Because people are busy.

And this is why there has been hardly any innovation in this space. Forum software vendors are busy thinking about 'what other bells and whistles can we add?'. Instead, stop and think about 'how can we improve forums software to provide mechanisms for the community to provide quicker, relevant replies to people's questions?'.

Take an example: you are struggling to install/configure XYZ software. You visit the vendors site and are directed to their forum. You search and ask a question in the hope of finding a solution. You then go over to look at the FAQ's and hope to find a solution. You then take a look at their documentation.

So you jump around disparate forums, FAQs and documentation hoping to stumble upon an answer.

So, when it comes to organizations wanting to deploy 'forums' for providing community support, then the future is providing a single 'joined up support' platform that allows different types of replies to questions (e.g. Faqs, Docs, Tickets, Videos) and where all content types that help people find answers is consistently tagged.  Think of it as CMS for forums.
  
Comment    Embed  Thank  18 Mar, 2011
Harvey Kandola
Pratibha Rai, Community & Product Person
There have been a few products that have tried to address this. One aspect of the broader issue is that it is hard for forums and forum software to gain traction. It's not easy to port an existing community to a new platform - as Sanjay says forum owners and members tend to be very protective of their online spaces. And starting a new forum without an existing community means it takes a lot of time and effort to get growth. A very chicken and egg issue.
  
Comment    Embed  Thank  7 Oct, 2010
Pratibha Rai
Nabanita Roy, Community Developer @ forums.com
2 votes by Jon Pincus and Rohitha Dassanayake
The evolution was not an overnight show. It has evolved slowly yet steadily shifting its prominence from just discussion boards to features that can cater to all communication needs.  With tags, file upload, image categorizing, channels, social share plugging options and many more to come, forums is definitely going to be a bigger thing in the world of group communication!
  
Comment    Embed  Thank  16 Mar, 2011
Nabanita Roy
Nitesh Ambuj, Entrepreneur, Poet, Author, Speaker.
1 vote by Rohitha Dassanayake
I believe forums have already evolved. There are further developments as well. There are many companies which are trying to aggregate different 'group communication' features to the existing forums. And, I believe this is going to be more exciting in future. 

Check out this question for more answers on this - Will internet forums become obsolete or evolve?
  
Comment    Embed  Thank  16 Mar, 2011
Nitesh Ambuj
Joerg Korner, serial entrepreneur from Switzerland
1 vote by Rohitha Dassanayake
Isn't Quora a novel type of a forum? Sometimes you don't see the forest due to all the trees...
 

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