After years of pushing the final nail in the coffin of Internet forums, Discord is resurrecting it with its own style of discussing an organization called Forum Channels. The feature will start rolling out on servers starting today – Discord says “stay tuned” to see when the forums are available on your server.
Forum channels are basically recognizable functions of forums (threads, posts, comments) that have been adapted to Discord’s existing server ecosystem. Server administrators can create forum channels with specific topics (eg “tacos”) that appear on the left-most navigation bar where the text and audio channels are. Click on a forum channel and you will find a list of large, boxy posts with titles in bold type written by users. Click that and you’ll get what is basically an old school forum post: OP with chronological comments.
Discord says that Community Channels are meant to “help your community server have structured, meaningful conversations without overwhelming each other.”
It is true that Discord has become the actual place where a forum-like chat takes place on the internet, despite it being a terrible place to have a structured discussion with a lot of people. Discord tried to stir up controversy over off-topic chatboxes last year by introducing threads, but the feature saw little use on the servers I’ve been frequenting with. If threads are half scale, forum channels are a complete commitment to de-cluttering. Forum channels can be created using specific instructions that guide the discussion topic (so that the post is not removed by the administrator). Discord forums will also be compatible with Automod, a chat app proprietary automated modding tool capable of, among many things, detecting if you’re wrongly posting about burritos in a taco forum.
It’s always been possible for server admins to create text channels using their posting guidelines, but setting up the forum here comes with advantages that any old school forum user already knows:
- Forum topics are front and center, making it easy to stay off topic
- Forum posts are sorted by most active, showing what’s being talked about right now and reducing duplicate discussions
- The post format allows topics to get the grain as desired without further cluttering an already messy Discord server navigation
- Forum posts look better than Discord’s never-ending thread of chat rooms
I think forum channels are a good step towards making the biggest Discord servers truly usable. I keep tabs on a few servers for the games I love, and as now, the text channels are too busy to get a clear word. Having proper and searchable forums should also come in handy when you are trying to find important information that is only on Discord (something the developers have I started doing it for some reason (Opens in a new tab)).
On the other hand, I see some reasons why forum channels are still less useful than traditional forums. First, comments below forum posts seem to work similarly to a standard text channel, meaning users are likely to communicate with many small messages rather than large individual messages. Traditional forums work like email threads, where people write complete thoughts on a topic before hitting submit. Disagreement is more like texting, with consciousness flow reactions being sent as individual messages that can quickly muster a vertically scrolling string. It is more informal, but difficult to analyze.
There is also the fact that nothing can be viewed on the Discord server if you are not a member and nothing written inside can be found on Google. This is a drawback not only for people looking for public information located only on one specific Discord server, but also for historians who want to know what people were talking about in 2022.
I find it interesting that as Discord has grown, it has begun to embrace the complexities of the social platforms that have essentially replaced them. One of Discord’s biggest appeals when it launched was its simplicity – press a few buttons and you’ll have somewhere to write or chat right away. Small servers like the one my friends and I use is still that easy, but immerse yourself in a huge community and you’ll find premium memberships, verification bots, hidden channels, and role-based RPGs in the same server. Hopefully, being familiar with the forums will make all of that less difficult.