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 often longer than one line of text, and 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 publicly visible.
Forums have a specific set of jargon associated with them; for example, a single conversation is called a "thread", or topic.
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 they so wish.
Depending on the forum's settings, users can be anonymous or have to register with the forum and then subsequently login to post messages. On most forums, users do not have to log in to read existing messages.
Early Internet forums could be described as a web version of an electronic mailing list or Usenet newsgroup (such as those that exist on Usenet), 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, 2channel. China also has millions of posts on forums such as Tianya Club.
Some of the first forum systems were the Planet-Forum system, developed at the beginning of the 1970s; the EIES system, first operational in 1976; and the KOM system, first operational in 1977.
One of the first forum sites (which is still active today) is Delphi Forums, once called Delphi. The service, with four million members, dates to 1983.
Forums perform a function similar to that of dial-up bulletin board systems and Usenet networks that were first created in the late 1970s. Early web-based forums date back as far as 1994, with the WIT project from the W3 Consortium, and starting at this time, many alternatives were created. A sense of virtual community often develops around forums that have regular users. Technology, , , music, fashion, religion, and politics are popular areas for forum themes, but there are forums for a huge number of topics. Internet slang and 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 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.
Several other web applications, such as blog software, also incorporate forum features. WordPress comments at the bottom of a blog post allow for a single-threaded discussion of any given blog post. Slashcode, on the other hand, is far more complicated, allowing fully threaded discussions and incorporating a robust moderation and meta-moderation system as well as many of the profile features available to forum users.
Some stand-alone threads on forums have reached fame and notability, such as the "I am lonely will anyone speak to me" thread on MovieCodec.com's forums, which was described as the "web's top hangout for lonely folk" by Wired magazine.
An unregistered user of the site is commonly known as a guest or visitor. Guests are typically granted access to all functions that do not require database alterations or breach privacy. A guest can usually view the contents of the forum or use such features as read marking, but occasionally an administrator will disallow visitors to read their forum as an incentive to become a registered member. read marking is the process through which a thread, post, or forum that has been viewed is distinguished from those that have not. The function is usually automatic with the addition of controls, like Mark All etc. A person who is a very frequent visitor of the forum, a section, or even a thread is referred to as a lurker, and the habit is referred to as lurking. Registered members often will refer to themselves as lurking in a particular location, which is to say they have no intention of participating in that section but enjoy reading the contributions to it.
Essentially, it is the duty of the moderator to manage the day-to-day affairs of a forum or board as it applies to the stream of user contributions and interactions. The relative effectiveness of this user management directly impacts the quality of a forum in general, its appeal, and its usefulness as a community of interrelated users.
Moderators act as unpaid volunteers on many websites, which has sparked controversies and community tensions. On Reddit, some moderators have prominently expressed dissatisfaction with their unpaid labor being underappreciated, while other site users have accused moderators of abusing special access privileges to act as a "cabal" of "petty tyrants". On 4chan, moderators are subject to notable levels of mockery and contempt. There, they are often referred to as janitors (or, more pejoratively, "jannies") given their job, which is tantamount to cleaning up the imageboards' infamous shitposting.
On Western forums, the classic way to show a member's own details (such as name and avatar) has been on the left side of the post, in a narrow column of fixed width, with the post controls located on the right, at the bottom of the main body, above the signature block. In more recent forum software implementations, the Asian style of displaying the members' details above the post has been copied.
Posts have an internal limit, usually measured in characters. Often, one is required to have a message with a minimum length of 10 characters. There is always an upper limit, but it is rarely reached – most boards have it at either 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, or 50,000 characters.
Most forums keep track of a user's postcount. The postcount is a measurement of how many posts a certain user has made. Users with higher postcounts are often considered more reputable than users with lower postcounts, but not always. For instance, some forums have disabled postcounts with the hopes that doing so will emphasize the quality of information over quantity.
On some messageboards, users can choose to sage (correctly pronounced though often confused as ) a post if they wish to make a post but not "bump" it. The word "sage" derives from the 2channel terminology 下げる sageru, meaning "to lower".
A thread's popularity is measured on forums in reply (total posts minus one, the opening post, in most default forum settings) counts. Some forums also track Pageview. Threads meeting a set number of posts or a set number of views may receive a designation such as "hot thread" and be displayed with a different icon compared to other threads. This icon may stand out more to emphasize the thread. If the forum's users have lost interest in a particular thread, it becomes a dead thread.
For the most part, though, forum owners and moderators in the United States are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
In a tripcode system, a secret password is added to the user's name following a separator character (often a number sign). This password, or tripcode, is Hash function into a special key, or trip, distinguishable from the name by HTML styles. Tripcodes cannot be faked, but on some types of forum software, they are insecure and can be guessed. On other types, they can be brute-forced with software designed to search for tripcodes, such as Tripcode Explorer.
Moderators and administrators will frequently assign themselves capcodes or tripcodes where the guessable trip is replaced with a special notice (such as "# Administrator") or cap.
Private messages are generally used for personal conversations. They can also be used with tripcodes—a message is addressed to a public trip and can be picked up by typing in the tripcode.
The following example BBCode: [b]This[/b] is [i]clever[/i] [b] [i]text[/i] [/b]. When the post is viewed, the code is rendered to HTML and will appear as: This is clever text.
Many forums allow users to give themselves an avatar. An avatar is an image that appears beside all of a user's posts in order to make the user more recognizable. The user may upload the image to the forum database or provide a link to an image on a separate website. Each forum has limits on the height, width, and data size of avatars that may be used; if the user tries to use an avatar that is too big, it may be scaled down or rejected.
Similarly, most forums allow users to define a signature (sometimes called a sig), which is a block of text, possibly with BBCode, that appears at the bottom of all of the user's posts. There is a character limit on signatures, though it may be so high that it is rarely hit. Often, the forum's moderators impose manual rules on signatures to prevent them from being obnoxious (for example, being extremely long or having flashing images) and issue warnings or bans to users who break these rules. Like avatars, signatures may improve the recognizability of a poster. They may also allow the user to attach information to all of their posts, such as proclaiming support for a cause, noting facts about themselves, or quoting humorous things that have previously been said on the forum.
A subscription is a form of automated notification integrated into the software of most forums. It usually notifies the member either by email or on the site when the member returns. The option to subscribe is available for every thread while logged in. Subscriptions work with read marking, namely the property of unread, which is given to the content never served to the user by the software.
Recent developments in some popular implementations of forum software have brought social network features and functionality. Such features include personal galleries and pages, as well as social networks like Online chat systems. Most forum software is now fully customizable, with "hacks" or "modifications" readily available to customize a person's forum to theirs and their members' needs.
Often forums use "HTTP cookie", or information about the user's behavior on the site sent to a user's browser and used upon re-entry into the site. This is done to facilitate automatic login and to show a user whether a thread or forum has received new posts since his or her last visit. These may be disabled or cleared at any time.
Rules on forums usually apply to the entire user body and often have preset exceptions, most commonly designating a section as an exception. For example, in an IT forum any discussion regarding anything but computer programming languages may be against the rules, with the exception of a general chat section.
Forum rules are maintained and enforced by the moderation team, but users are allowed to help out via what is known as a report system. Most Western forum platforms automatically provide such a system. It consists of a small function applicable to each post (including one's own). Using it will notify all currently available moderators of its location, and subsequent action or judgment can be carried out immediately, which is particularly desirable in large or very developed boards. Generally, moderators encourage members to also use the private message system if they wish to report behavior. Moderators will generally frown upon attempts of moderation by non-moderators, especially when the would-be moderators do not even issue a report. Messages from non-moderators acting as moderators generally declare a post as against the rules or predict punishment. While not harmful, statements that attempt to enforce the rules are discouraged.
When rules are broken several steps are commonly taken. First, a warning is usually given; this is commonly in the form of a private message but recent development has made it possible for it to be integrated into the software. Subsequent to this, if the act is ignored and warnings do not work, the member is – usually – first exiled from the forum for a number of days. Denying someone access to the site is called a ban. Bans can mean the person can no longer log in or even view the site anymore. If the offender, after the warning sentence, repeats the offense, another ban is given, usually this time a longer one. Continuous harassment of the site eventually leads to a permanent ban. In most cases, this means simply that the account is locked. In extreme cases where the offender – after being permanently banned – creates another account and continues to harass the site, administrators will apply an IP address ban or block (this can also be applied at the server level): If the IP address is static, the machine of the offender is prevented from accessing the site. In some extreme circumstances, IP address range bans or country bans can be applied; this is usually for political, licensing, or other reasons. See also: Block (Internet), IP address blocking, and Internet censorship.
Offending content is usually deleted. Sometimes if the topic is considered the source of the problem, it is locked; often a poster may request a topic expected to draw problems to be locked as well, although the moderators decide whether to grant it. In a locked thread, members cannot post anymore. In cases where the topic is considered a breach of rules it – with all of its posts – may be deleted.
Some forums consider concise, comment-oriented posts spam, for example Thank you, Cool or I love it.
When a topic that has degenerated into a flame war is considered akin to that of the forum (be it a section or the entire board), spam and flames have a chance of spreading outside the topic and causing trouble, usually in the form of vandalism. Some forums (commonly game forums) have suffered from forum-wide flame wars almost immediately after their conception, because of a pre-existing flame war element in the online community. Many forums have created devoted areas strictly for discussion of potential flame war topics that are moderated like normal.
While simply completing the registration web form is in general enough to generate an account,an account is a space on the site identified by the chosen username through which a member carries out activities and contributes. the status label Inactive is commonly provided by default until the registered user confirms the email address given while registering indeed belongs to the user. Until that time, the registered user can log into the new account but may not post, reply, or send private messages in the forum.
Sometimes a referrer system is implemented. A referrer is someone who introduced or otherwise "helped someone" with the decision to join the site (likewise, how a HTTP referrer is the site who linked one to another site). Usually, referrers are other forum members and members are usually rewarded for referrals. The referrer system is also sometimes implemented so that, if a visitor visits the forum through a link such as referrerid=300, the user with the id number (in this example, 300) would receive referral credit if the visitor registers. The purpose is commonly just to give credit (sometimes rewards are implied) to those who help the community grow.
In areas such as Japan, registration is frequently optional and anonymity is sometimes even encouraged. On these forums, a tripcode system may be used to allow verification of an identity without the need for formal registration. People who regularly read the forum discussions but do not register or do not post are often referred to as "lurkers".
News client: The main difference between newsgroups and forums is that additional software, a News client, is required to participate in newsgroups whereas using a forum requires no additional software beyond the web browser.
Shoutboxes: Unlike Internet forums, most shoutboxes do not require registration, only requiring an email address from the user. Additionally, shoutboxes are not heavily moderated, unlike most message boards.
Wiki: Unlike conventional forums, the original wikis allowed all users to edit all content (including each other's messages). This level of content manipulation is reserved for moderators or administrators on most forums. Wikis also allow the creation of other content outside the . On the other hand, Blog and generic content management systems tend to be locked down to the point where only a few select users can post blog entries, although many allow other users to comment upon them. The Wiki hosting site known as Wikia has two features in operation, known as the Forum and Message Wall. The forum is used solely for discussion and works through editing, while the message wall works through posted messages more similar to a traditional forum.
and instant messaging: Forums differ from chats and instant messaging in that forum participants do not have to be online simultaneously to receive or send messages. Messages posted to a forum are publicly available for some time even if the forum or thread is closed, which is uncommon in chat rooms that maintain frequent activity.
One rarity among forums is the ability to create a picture album. Forum participants may upload personal pictures onto the site and add descriptions to the pictures. Pictures may be in the same format as posting threads, and contain the same options such as "Report Post" and "Reply to Post".