Watching forums as a method of communication shrink from relevancy has been concerning. Ever since social media began to take over as the more prominent form of interaction online, reliance on boards has spiraled downward. Forums offered much greater control on the content within, though this was obviously a double edged sword in some ways. Mastodon’s emergence was exciting in that it brought back that feeling of, “You own the space, you decide what passes as acceptable here,” in an empowering way. But it still had its drawbacks, tied so closely to Tweetdeck/Twitter’s general interaction model.
Growing up with forums, I valued the open-access nature of them for one main reason - preservation. Even today, I can search for specific topics from the 90s and early 00s and find vestiges of fan-run forums that give us a look at what life was once like online. Digital archeology can be quite enlightening, stumbling across abandoned places that formed their own culture as the community grew into its own. Chat services existed back then as well, but the balance always felt more in favor of the public-facing board software. With a lot of communication happening through private, gated channels like Discord, the potential for so much information and potentially fruitful discussion could be lost with no reliable public back-up.
Not that I don’t value Discord, Slack, etc, for what they are, as I do use them regularly to connect with friends, but forums are undervalued and I was quite pleased to discover that IWG decided a place away from Discord and Bird Hellsite would be nice. The format is much more elegant for long form discussion as well, honestly. I’m far too verbose to be contained by terse character limits, so I find the general expectation that you’ll likely read a few paragraphs at a time per post comforting, and forum software is built to facilitate that in a way that chat programs and social media simply can’t.