What Is An Internet Forum?

Also known as discussion groups & message boards, Internet forums are the original "social media" sites. Do you know proper forum "netiquette"?
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Written by Staff Writer • Posted on Mar 16, 2015

The Internet is a great place to find new information. One of the most common places for people to have conversations, ask questions, and provide answers is Internet forums. Also known as discussion boards, discussion groups, discussion forums and message boards, Internet forums are the original "social media" sites.

Started in the 1980s, Internet forums are community websites dedicated to the online exchange of information about virtually any subject you can imagine. It provides a venue where people with similar interests can discuss and debate various topics.

How Forums Work

In a standard Internet forum, a user creates a post. That post can be accessed by other users at any time. Posts can contain questions, opinions, images, videos, links, and more. Users can respond to the post, which creates a dialogue other users can participate in, also called a thread. They can start a new thread of conversation by creating a post on a different topic. All of these threads combine to make what's called a message board.

Internet forums can be anonymous, or they can require registration. Typically, a comment made by a registered member holds more influence than an anonymous user. While registration with most Internet forums is free, they do require a valid email address. Registering in a forum lets you create a username and password, and you can add a small picture (called an avatar) to be displayed next to your comments and posts. You also have to agree to follow certain rules laid out by the forum's administrators, and each forum can be different.

Following Proper Netiquette

Netiquette is a portmanteau meaning "Internet etiquette." It's a list of polite discussion behaviors that participants in an online forum expect from one another. Netiquette is enforced by the forum's administrator or moderators, who have the power to approve/remove members and to modify/delete posts. Basic netiquette includes these 10 rules:

  1. Read the forum's rules before posting for the first time.
  2. When commenting, stay on topic or start a new thread.
  3. Do not use an Internet forum simply to promote your own business or products.
  4. Be respectful of others.
  5. Use correct spelling and grammar; avoid slang and profanity. (However, some forums encourage their own jargon, terms and abbreviations.)
  6. Report abuse to an administrator or moderator, and don't respond to abusive comments (a futile effort commonly known as "feeding the trolls.")
  7. Do not post personal information that could be used to impersonate or endanger you or your loved ones.
  8. Do not use ALL CAPS in a post, as it is interpreted as shouting.
  9. Do not use a public thread to conduct a private conversation.
  10. Do not start a new post on a subject that's already been covered.

There are thousands of Internet forums out there, about any topic you can think of. They are a great way for Internet users to get information and to have fun. Forums give you a place to share your knowledge and meet other people with similar hobbies. Go out and look for a forum, and join the conversation today!

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