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Social media has influenced our lives in a way that we couldn’t have imagined only two decades ago. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other mainstream social media website, billions of people spend large proportions of their day browsing them.
They not only connect people, but have also become the home ground of political, personal, and social campaigns. However, before the popularity of mainstream social media, back in the late 90s and early 00s when the internet was newly commercialized, how did people link over the world wide web?
Well, that was the time of internet forums and blogs. However, can you categorize internet forums and message boards as modern-day social media? Keep reading as we explore the answer to this question.
Are Forums Categorized As Social Media?
Many forums and message boards on the internet, some still active today, pre-date almost all of the social media apps you have installed on your smartphone today. Would it be right to call those forums social media as well?
Simply put, internet forums can be categorized as social media. In fact, if you want to be more precise, current social media platforms are a natural evolution of the internet forums and message boards from the early days of the internet.
Social media is a virtual space where people share content, opinions, and communicate with each other. Forums, message boards, and image boards serve the same purpose but in a more simplistic and minimalistic way.
To better understand how internet forums evolved into the social media platforms that we know and love today, we need the magic of time travel. So, buckle up as we take a trip down memory lane, all the way back to the early days of the internet.
Internet Forums In The 70s and 80s
The revolution of forums to share content and information from one computer to another started in the 70s, well before the internet was commercialized.
The very first form of message sharing was seen with the establishment of Community Memory, a computerized system developed with the intent of allowing users to send and retrieve messages via a printer.
- Revolution of The Bulletin Board System In The 70s
As the 70s and 80s went on, the Community Memory evolved into a fully-functional Bulletin Board System (BBS). BBS became the largest online community that could be accessed via a dial-up modem, Telnet, or public internet. The tool could be installed on computers in the form of software that allowed for sharing of messages and other files on a network.
- Usenet Takes The Stage In The 80s
With BBS, the biggest internet community that emerged in the 80s was Usenet. It was a worldwide discussion system that could run on any dial-up network.
Usenet also expanded the discussion topics between online communities into 9 major categories: computer, humanities, news, alternative, music recommendation, science, social, messaging, and miscellaneous.
Internet Forums In The 90s
BBS and its extension, Usenet, were the only known form of online communities till the early 90s. However, with the commercialization of the internet in 1995, we saw a boom in communities primarily hosted on the web. While the popularity of BBS and Usenet declined, many discussion boards specific to certain topics started to emerge in the 90s.
- IMDb And Newgrounds Stem Into Commercial Internet
Internet Movie Database (IMDb) was launched as a small project of Usenet in 1990, and in no time, it became the biggest discussion board for movies and television. To share the news about games, films, audio, and artworks, Newgrounds was launched in 1995, where users could host their own content.
- WIT Project In The Early 90s
The 90s was also the time when message boards became popular on the internet. People would participate in long discussion threads on various message boards and share their opinions about everyday topics. The software WIT Project developed by W3 Consortium was dedicated to the forum protocol and had a message board format.
- Whirlpool And Something Awful Make Comedy And Entertainment Forums Accessible
As the array of discussion topics widened on the internet, we also saw the launch of Whirlpool and Something Awful. Whirlpool is an American discussion forum where people would participate in discussion threads related to jobs, finances, life, technology, and entertainment. Something Awful hosted forums, boards, and other content related to comedic topics.
How Forums Have Evolved In the 21st Century?
As the 20th century ended, we saw a complete transformation of blogs and forums with the dawn of the 21st century. With the launch of tools and software like WordPress, internet forums became much more like fully-fledged global information-sharing platforms.
- Gaming Related Forums Became Mainstream
Since the gaming revolution was still underway during that time, gaming discussion boards like Steampowered Forums, GameFAQs, and GameSpot saw a massive boom in traffic. GameSpot and GameFAQs were released in the 90s but only rose to popularity during the early 2000s.
- Steampowered And Deviantart Popularize Artworks And Media
The Steampowered Forums generated discussion on various gaming topics, including video game reviews, guides, and news. Deviantart art became everyone’s go-to spot for discussing every kind of artwork and posting their original content.
- The Revolution Of Imageboards Through 4chan
Arguably, the biggest leap made in the discussion board community was the release of 4chan in 2003. It quickly became the biggest imageboard and discussion board of its time, where people could post anonymously.
The discussion topics revolved around anime, manga, video games, cooking, weapons, television, music, literature, history, fitness, politics, and sports among several others.
Popular Internet Forums Active Today
Now that in 2022, the internet has stemmed itself into every aspect of its life, the majority of the population has moved to mainstream social media platforms. However, the usability of discussion boards and forums has still not died yet. People still get on various forums today that are popular for several discussion topics.
- Popularity Of 4chan Continues To Persist
Although they may not be considered social media in the popular sense, the information sharing on them is still top-notch. For example, the aforementioned imageboard 4chan is still active today, where millions of users share their thoughts and opinions on a wide variety of topics.
- Quora And Stack Overflow In The Present Internet Age
Similarly, forums like Quora and Stack Overflow are two of the most popular question answers websites. You can get on Quora and ask any question related to any topic under the sun, and it will generate a healthy discussion. Stack Overflow is where the biggest computer geeks hang out, answering millions of questions related to computer programming.
- The King Of Modern-Day Forums – Reddit
Today, the most popular discussion and content-sharing platform on the internet is Reddit. It is a hybrid of modern social media and the traditional forums and blogs which laid its foundation. Every day, billions of users post links, images, and text posts on Reddit, while others can interact with them in the form of votes and comments.
This concludes our discussion on whether internet forums are social media. At its core, the key purpose of social media is information and content sharing, which internet users have been doing for decades on various forums. Therefore, it’s not an exaggeration to say that mainstream social media is a spiritual child of forums, messages, and image boards.