|Synonyms:||Discussion Board, Forum, Bulletin Board|
|See also:||Mailing List, Usenet, Internet Relay Chat, Livejournal, ProBoards|
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Message boards, discussion boards, or web forums (sometimes shortened to just "forums") are a type of text-based website that enables asynchronous discussion between multiple users. Messageboards, and their precursor, bulletin boards, have been used by many different fandoms since the nineties.
Fannish Use of Bulletin Board Systems
Before the World Wide Web, a precursor to modern web forums existed called bulletin board systems. The name "bulletin board" carried over to some web forums, but the technology is quite different. "A bulletin board system, or BBS, is a computer server running custom software that allows users to connect to the system using a terminal program. Once logged in, the user can perform functions such as uploading and downloading software and data, reading news and bulletins, and exchanging messages with other users through email, public message boards, and sometimes via direct chatting.... Bulletin board systems were in many ways a precursor to the modern form of the World Wide Web, social networks and other aspects of the Internet." 
While the first dial-up BBSs was invented in 1978, BBSs, as most fans know them, began in the early 1990s. It has been estimated that there were 60,000 BBS systems serving 17 million users in the US alone in 1994. Many people put these BBSs to use for fannish reasons.
- SF-LOVERS@RUTGERS.EDU, Archived version by Karen Yost (June/July 1993)
- The Man Behind SF-LOVERS Science Fiction Discussion List by Karen Yost (October/November 1993)
Fannish Use of Web Forums
Despite being an important site of fan discussion and interpersonal connection, they were often considered a poor mechanism for sharing and archiving fanfiction. Yet, for example, the main Willow/Tara (BtVS) archive Different Colored Pens is hosted on a The Kitten Board message board. Alternatively, message boards were frequently used for Round Robins and roleplaying; there are still some forum-based RPGs ongoing.
The use of fan-run message boards for hosting fanworks lessened greatly with the dispersal of fandom to social networking and archiving sites such as Livejournal and Fanfiction.net, and with the loss of free services such as Inside The Web. But as television and production companies became more internet savvy, discussion forums began appearing on official television show sites. Fan-run sites like Gateworld often have close ties to the producers of the source program. Their discussion forums often host vibrant discussion of the source, fandom and fanworks and, in the case of shows like SGU that never took off in media fandom, these forums have a lot more traffic than their counterparts on journaling sites.
The popularity of the format also varies widely between different parts of fandom. Some fandoms with only a small presence on sites like Livejournal may have large, active forums. This is often cited as a major difference between anime fandom and media fandom.
There have been many notable fandom message boards. Here are some examples:
- Trek Net
- CBR Community
- Official X-Files Message Board and Idealists Haven board
- The Bronze Posting Board (official Buffy the Vampire Slayer message board)
- Roswell Underground
- Television Without Pity