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Page history last edited by wmlb79@mst.edu 9 years, 11 months ago

Internet forums as we know them today originated from the Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) that saw their heyday in the late 1970s all the way up to the middle of the 1990s. These systems were actually just servers setup where a user could log in and post messages either in the forum of electronic mail or on public message boards. These systems were often accessed using a phone line and it was because of this that they often were populated by people from the same region. Almost all information found on these BBS’s were in text form due to the bandwidth limits of the day. Some BBS servers also offered many other services to go along with their message boards and e-mail such as FTP and IRC services.


The BBS ecosystem reached its peak in 1996, then saw a rapid decline as the Internet in its current form became more and more prevalent. BBS servers still exist today, and there are a few still actively participated in by users, but most have went offline. This led Jason Scott to create the website textfiles.com which has the sole purpose of preserving as much information found on BBS’s as possible. The site features both information from the servers and also first-hand accounts from users. There is an amazingly large amount of information on the site and it provides a great window into the past of our networked world. A great example would be the collection of postings about the Internet found here Text Files


The Internet gave rise to forums in a form that would be familiar to about any Internet user today. On the web you can find forums on just about any topic. Forums have developed their own slang that has found its way into common Internet usage with concepts such as “Trolling.”


One of the current uses of forums is in the business world, especially by software and gaming companies. Often companies will use forums for two functions, first of all a way to interact with the community (really just a form of marketing) and providing a way for users to interact with each other. Many software companies also use their forums as a way of providing tech support to their users, it can be a powerful way for storing information and also letting users help each other instead of constantly leaning on company tech support.


Some very basic examples of companies using forums are

MSDN (highly technical) - Microsoft Developer Network Forum

Adobe (tech support oriented) - Adobe Forums

Steam (gaming support and discussion) - Steam Forums


Of those examples you can kind of see how those three companies use forums as a way to get users together to let them really solve their own problems. On MSDN you will constantly see members answering other users’ questions. This is the same on the other two forums as well. The Steam forum also tries to be a place where people can just “hang out” with like-minded people. A good marketing strategy since it keeps people around their product.


Here are two very basic tutorials on how companies can use forums as a method of marketing:

Forum Participation - Internet Marketing Pillar Number 9

Forum Marketing for Your Internet Business


I personally find it quite annoying when a company is constantly posting on a forum that isn’t ran by the company. I would consider it spam. However many other users have different opinions about it.



Have you ever used a company’s forum as a way of solving a problem you had with their product? If so why did you chose this method over calling their support department? Also, what do you feel are the pros and cons of the forum based structure from a tech support perspective?


Examine some of the files found on Textfiles.com and discuss your reaction to the information that you find (for instance the Hitchhiker's Guide Parody ).  



Wikipedia - Internet Forum

Text Files

Wikipedia - Bulletin Board Systems

Also, the sites linked to within the commentary were used for specific examples.


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