What is an Internet Forum?

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An Internet forum is a discussion area on a website. Website members can post discussions and read and respond to posts by other forum members. A forum can be focused on nearly any subject and a sense of an online community, or virtual community, tends to develop among forum members.

Internet forums allow members to respond to posts by others.
Internet forums allow members to respond to posts by others.

This type of forum may also be called a message board, discussion group, bulletin board, or web forum, but it differs from a blog, the name for a web log, as a blog is usually written by one user and usually only allows for the responses of others to the blog material. A forum usually allows all members to make posts and start new topics.

A sign in interface for an Internet forum.
A sign in interface for an Internet forum.

An Internet forum is also different from a chat room. Members in a chat room usually all chat or communicate at the same time, while members in a discussion group post messages to be read by others whenever they happen to log on. Forums also tend to be more topic-focused than chat rooms.

Avatars may be used in an internet forum.
Avatars may be used in an internet forum.

Before a prospective member joins a group and makes posts to others, he or she is usually required to register. The prospective member must usually agree to follow certain online rules, sometimes called netiquette, such as to respect other members and refrain from using profanity. When a member is approved by the administrator or moderator, the member usually chooses his or her own user name and password, although sometimes, a password is supplied. An avatar, or photograph or picture, supplied by the member might appear under the member’s user name in each post.

Internet forums might provide useful feedback for people researching a topic.
Internet forums might provide useful feedback for people researching a topic.

The separate conversations in a forum are called threads, and they are made up of member-written posts. Members can usually edit their own posts, start new topics, post in their choice of threads, and edit their profile. A profile usually lists optional information about each forum member, such as the city they are located in and their interests.

An Internet forum administrator or monitor may also participate in the forum. An administrator can usually modify threads as well as move or delete threads if necessary. He or she can also usually change software items in the forum. Moderators often help the administrator and monitor and guide the discussion to make sure the forum rules are being followed.

Web forum software packages are written in many different program languages, including Perl, PHP, ASP and Java. Either text files or a database can be used for the configuration and storage of posts.

Some Internet forums are used as discussion boards where frustrations can be vented.
Some Internet forums are used as discussion boards where frustrations can be vented.

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