Remember floppy disks? Beepers? Friendster? Most technology eventually goes to tech heaven as it is replaced by newer technology that better serves its customers. Forums, however, seem to have had remarkable staying power. Perhaps it’s their simplicity or maybe it’s the way we can connect and converse with peers rather than just talk to our audience. Whatever it is, forums have a long history.
The roots of forums are in the Bulletin Board System, a computer system running software that allows users to connect to the system – typically over an analog phone line – to perform various social and recreational tasks and communicate with others on the system. BBSes were a social technology and were used for meeting people and having discussions on message boards as well as for publishing articles, downloading software, playing games, and many more things using a single application.
While snowed in during the Great Blizzard of 1978 in Chicago, Wade Christensen along with fellow hobbyist Randy Suess, began preliminary work on the Computerized Bulletin Board System, or CBBS. CBBS went online on February 16, 1978.
According to the FidoNet Nodelist, BBSes reached their peak usage around 1996. This, of course, coincides with the rise of the World Wide Web. BBSes rapidly declined in popularity thereafter and were replaced by systems using the Internet for connectivity, called forums, message boards or bulletin boards. Web-based forums began to grow rapidly in popularity from 1996 onwards.
Almost all developed countries have Internet forums. Japan has the largest forums in terms of countable posts, with over two million posts per day on their largest forum, 2Channel. China also has many millions of posts on forums such as Tianya Club. The United States does not have any one large forum, but instead several hundred thousand smaller forums, the largest of which are 4Chan, Gaia Online, IGN and d2jsp. Out of the thousands of forums on the Internet CrowdGather’s General [M]ayhem ranks 31st in terms of number of posts of English-based sites.
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