Is it still possible to do something new with online forums? The answer is yes, according to Patrick Clinger, founder of ProBoards – today he is releasing a new version of the company’s forum builder software.
Clinger told me that today’s launch is the company’s first major update since 2008. The company was founded in 2000, and at the start he said that ProBoards “actually had the best software. “, but he said that over the years he has been overtaken. by other companies (one of the latest competitors is the recently announced startup Discourse).
“It’s been a bit of a catch-up game,” Clinger said – and he argued that with ProBoards version 5 (which was already in public beta testing), the company has taken the lead again.
On a recent trip to San Francisco, Clinger demonstrated the main novelties to me. He seemed most proud of a new “live search” feature, which shows search results as you type. It might not sound like much more than a good fit, but Clinger said, “One of the biggest issues with forums right now is searching” – a clunky search experience makes it difficult for users to find conversations that concern them.
There is also a dashboard that allows users to track their activity across multiple forum accounts, a new theme system that allows admins to customize the look of their forums, a WYSIWYG editor that makes it easier for anyone to view what a post will look like before posting, and notifications to follow any thread someone has participated in – users can grab someone’s attention via notifications using the same “@USERNAME” tag we’re so used to on social networks.
Speaking of social media, I asked Clinger if they’ve taken the place of forums in some way. He said yes, but “it’s for the best” as most general conversation between friends has moved to Facebook and Twitter, allowing the forums to focus more on “very thematic discussions”.
ProBoards was used to create 3.5 million forums, Clinger added, and he estimated that about 1.2 million of them are still active, in the sense that they still get “a pageviews every now and then.” time “.
Regarding today’s update, Clinger said that all new forums created on ProBoards will be on version 5, and administrators of existing forums can also register to be queued for. awaiting upgrade.