An Internet forum, or message board, is an online discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. They differ from chat rooms in that messages are at least temporarily archived. Also, depending on the access level of a user or the forum set-up, a posted message might need to be approved by a moderator before it becomes visible.
Forums have a specific set of jargon associated with them; e.g. a single conversation is called a “thread”.
A discussion forum is hierarchical or tree-like in structure: a forum can contain a number of subforums, each of which may have several topics. Within a forum’s topic, each new discussion started is called a thread, and can be replied to by as many people as so wish.
Depending on the forum’s settings, users can be anonymous or have to register with the forum and then subsequently log in in order to post messages. On most forums, users do not have to log in to read existing messages.
The modern forum originated from bulletin boards, and are a technological evolution of the dialup bulletin board system. From a technological standpoint, forums or boards are web applications managing user-generated content.
Early Internet forums could be described as a web version of an electronic mailing list or newsgroup; allowing people to post messages and comment on other messages. Later developments emulated the different newsgroups or individual lists, providing more than one forum, dedicated to a particular topic.
Internet forums are prevalent in several developed countries. Japan posts the most with over two million per day on their largest forum. China also has many millions of posts on forums.
Forums perform a function similar to that of dial-up bulletin board systems and networks that were first created starting in the late 1970s. Early web-based forums date back as far as 1994, with the WIT project from W3 Consortium and starting from this time, many alternatives were created. A sense of virtual community often develops around forums that have regular users. Technology, video games, sports, music, fashion, religion, and politics are popular areas for forum themes, but there are forums for a huge number of topics. Internet slang and image macros popular across the Internet are abundant and widely used in Internet forums.
Forum software packages are widely available on the Internet and are written in a variety of programming languages, such as PHP, Perl, Java and ASP. The configuration and records of posts can be stored in text files or in a database. Each package offers different features, from the most basic, providing text-only postings, to more advanced packages, offering multimedia support and formatting code (usually known as BBCode). Many packages can be integrated easily into an existing website to allow visitors to post comments on articles.
Some stand alone threads on forums have reached fame and notability such as the “I am lonely will anyone speak to me” thread on Plinxo.com’s forums, which was described as the “web’s top hangout for lonely folk.
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