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What is an Internet Forum?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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An Internet forum is a discussion area on a website. Website members can post discussions and read and respond to posts by other forum members. A forum can be focused on nearly any subject and a sense of an online community, or virtual community, tends to develop among forum members.

This type of forum may also be called a message board, discussion group, bulletin board, or web forum, but it differs from a blog, the name for a web log, as a blog is usually written by one user and usually only allows for the responses of others to the blog material. A forum usually allows all members to make posts and start new topics.

An Internet forum is also different from a chat room. Members in a chat room usually all chat or communicate at the same time, while members in a discussion group post messages to be read by others whenever they happen to log on. Forums also tend to be more topic-focused than chat rooms.

Before a prospective member joins a group and makes posts to others, he or she is usually required to register. The prospective member must usually agree to follow certain online rules, sometimes called netiquette, such as to respect other members and refrain from using profanity. When a member is approved by the administrator or moderator, the member usually chooses his or her own user name and password, although sometimes, a password is supplied. An avatar, or photograph or picture, supplied by the member might appear under the member's user name in each post.

The separate conversations in a forum are called threads, and they are made up of member-written posts. Members can usually edit their own posts, start new topics, post in their choice of threads, and edit their profile. A profile usually lists optional information about each forum member, such as the city they are located in and their interests.

An Internet forum administrator or monitor may also participate in the forum. An administrator can usually modify threads as well as move or delete threads if necessary. He or she can also usually change software items in the forum. Moderators often help the administrator and monitor and guide the discussion to make sure the forum rules are being followed.

Web forum software packages are written in many different program languages, including Perl, PHP, ASP and Java. Either text files or a database can be used for the configuration and storage of posts.

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Discussion Comments

By tobankeisha — On Dec 14, 2021

Thank you for the article! Unfortunately, the online community has become toxic. This internet source worked well and I hope that measures will be taken soon to change the situation.

By anon998605 — On Jul 14, 2017

Ugh! Many internet forums unfortunately have devolved into strings of mean-spirited, vitriolic, inane rebukes and insults. I've sworn off of most of them for this reason.

By anon998465 — On Jun 15, 2017

Do you have to buy software and know program language to create a forum?

By anon996100 — On Jul 10, 2016

Actually, an internet forum is a place on the internet that is controlled by power hungry, goose-stepping moderators, and features comments from people who, if they moved in next door to me, would prompt a For Sale going up forthwith. It's a fine place to read some of the stupidest and rudest comments known to man, and also serves as a mechanism that allows the website provider to sell this valueless content to the highest bidders. Someone can waste years of their lives on an internet forum and never achieve one meaningful thing beyond typing up their opinions for people who don't want to hear it.

By LinaHarry — On Jan 02, 2015

Yes forums are really powerful tools. I think people often underestimate this form of online communication.

By anon978808 — On Nov 21, 2014

Thank you for the very insightful article. It has certainly broadened my knowledge on the topic. I find the history of internet forums tightly connected with the history of internet itself.

By anon923863 — On Dec 31, 2013

I wish all of them didn't have the requirement of registering and making an account. it should just be a choice.

By tigers88 — On Dec 01, 2012

How do you guys feel about the difference between anonymous and identified posting? Not having to identify yourself leads people to say some really weird, mean, and nasty things.

But at the same time it frees people up to speak their minds. There is a tension there for sure. I always post under a name which links back to me. Do you think all forums should be this way?

By vigilant — On Dec 01, 2012
I have made a number of good friends in internet forums. They are so refined and specific these day that the people you tend to meet in them are a lot like yourself.

I am really in to Argentinian writers, but it is hard to find people in St. Louis with a similar passion. I have found a few forums dedicated to this topic and have met incredibly smart people that have read books that few if any people around me have read. It is a great place to meet, discuss and commiserate in the absence of people around me.

By anon295914 — On Oct 08, 2012

Through the internet forums one can get good help for many of their queries from all sources. It's kind of a open chat, which is beneficial.

By anon284587 — On Aug 10, 2012

Is FaceBook an internet forum?

By anon247300 — On Feb 13, 2012

I don't really have qualms with internet forums or face-to-face dialogue that is of relevant information. However, a "forum" that is a pretext for a witch-hunt is within my boundaries for impeachment. Be aware there are mob-like tribunals that will be a handicap to the discussion in question.

By CrispyFries — On Jul 16, 2010

@Charitable - I know what you mean. Internet discussion forums do often devolve into stupid rants. I believe however, that they are a good public venue for people to discuss their ideas. Think about it. The internet provides ANYONE the opportunity to get their ideas out in public so long as they have a computer and an net connection.

The internet, like any public forum, is bound to be taken for granted and not utilized to its fullest potential by some of the population. That’s just how democratic forums work. But overall, they are an ever-improving place for people to speak their mind.

By Charitable — On Jul 16, 2010

Does anyone else agree that internet forums tend to be used a little stupidly on most websites? The prime example of this is Youtube. Go to any Youtube video and see how long and stupid the rants too often are. Most of the time, they don’t even relate to the actual subject matter and just end up becoming a series of personal insults being tossed between two people or a group berating one person for their comments. It’s just ridiculous.

By StraightLine — On Jul 16, 2010

@Raci570 – You got it. DVD-ROM is a standard operating feature in just about any laptop on the shelves these days. If there is a disk drive, it’s likely that you’ll be able to play DVD’s on it. This wouldn’t necessarily have been the case five years ago, but DVD compatibility has become a standard feature and a necessity for laptops to sell competitively. I hope this helps.

By Raci570 — On Nov 08, 2007

This may seem like an elementary question to a lot of you, but I'm a little confused about the term DVD-ROM as it applies to a movie DVD. I bought a DVD recently that said it had a number of alternate endings, but that you'd need a DVD-ROM equipped computer to try out the possible alternate endings. I was watching the movie on a portable DVD player, so that wasn't an option. My computer is CD compatible, but not DVD compatible. I'm thinking of buying a laptop or notebook computer soon, and I want it to be able to play those alternate endings, but I never see DVD-ROM in the specs or descriptions on the machines I've looked at. Is it just an automatic thing they all have now -- so it's not even listed?

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