Finding Communities Online: An Introduction to Web Forums

In recent blogs, we have reviewed social media and how to get started with popular networks. Although social media has been continuously rising in popularity for the past sixteen years, web forums were an early way to communicate online, and they continue to be widely used today.

Web forums are sections of a website that allows users to post messages to an online discussion board. Most web forums can be viewed by anyone anonymously without having to create an account, making it easy to find help online through advice from real people. Although web forums are most commonly used online by random users, they are also becoming a more common mode of communication for work and school as private web forums rise in popularity.

Work and School Web Forums

Private web forums are available only to those invited to the discussion board. For example, a company can start a web forum for its employees, and only those employees can use it. Teachers and professors can also create web forums for students to post to about a class discussion or have an online conversation among the entire class or in smaller groups. This concept is similar to the idea of group texting while keeping things more professional and available for teachers to view the students’ replies to the web forum. Web forums have become especially popular during the COVID-19 pandemic because they allow coworkers and students to have running conversations without needing to be in-person or on a video call.

Customer Support Web Forums

Company websites often have a web forum section, typically called “frequently asked questions” (FAQs) that gives a list of questions asked by other customers and answers provided by the company. Users can refer to those commonly asked questions to resolve an issue or ask a new question if they were unable to find an answer to their question. This version of web forums allows users to receive help without having to wait on hold for copious amounts of time on a phone call to reach a customer service representative.

Public Web Forums

Elderly woman with young man using internet at homeOnline web forums can be focused on any topic that people want to discuss. If you enter any question into an internet search bar, public web forums often show up with questions and answers posted by many users. There are countless web forums websites with the most popular being Reddit, Stack Overflow, Quora, India-Forums, Yahoo Groups, Google Answers, TripAdvisor, and many more. Many of these websites are also available as apps that serve as a form of social media with a feed of web forum discussion links. This offers users the ability to scroll through their feed and see various conversations without having a particular question in mind.

Community Web Forums

facebookWeb forums have expanded in recent years to provide community forums to bring groups together in a more organized manner. One example of a community web forum is Facebook groups. A group can have its own Facebook page that allows the group members to ask questions or provide updates on that community. Popular Facebook groups include parenting groups, college campus groups, job networking groups, dog owner groups, keto diet groups, etc. Although these are some of the more popular Facebook Groups, anyone can make a group. All you need to do is request to join, and once the request is approved, you will be a part of that group. 

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Another popular community web forum is the app Nextdoor, which allows users to enter their neighborhood, and they will be automatically placed in their neighborhood group. Nextdoor is a place for neighbors to post newsletters, recommendations, concerns, local news information, list things for sale, and ask other neighbors questions. This app helps users feel more connected to their community without needing to know all of their neighbors personally.

Web forums have brought people together to engage in online discussions since 1994, but have become more useful as technology advances. With endless options of web forum websites and apps, it is easier than ever for users to find what they are looking for online.