Why build forum software in <current year>?
With a convergeance on large platforms like Reddit and Discord, the main question I've had asked when discussing Storyden is why bother?
Most of the time, that question occurs on Discord, and is asked by a friend who, like me, grew up on internet forums.
And while I'm a lover of Discord (it's my community platform of choice) I'm still bullish on independent and niche-specific bulletin board style sites having a place in the current and next eras of internet culture.
So here it is, Storyden is forum software for the modern age. Inspired by traditional boards like SMF and Discourse but with a focus on the needs and desires of a modern web.
If that piques your interest, please read on...
You can't talk about forums without mentioning Discourse, the current dominant player in the market. While a great piece of software, its main use-case in the wild appears to be customer support forums. That's a great niche and probably quite a profitable B2B market.
I've tried all of these, either to evaluate or use in production for a community of my own. They're all great in their own way and have skilled teams of contributors behind them.
However, some common themes arose:
- complicated to deploy
- difficult to containerise
- ageing technologies/languages
- lacking accessibility features for those with visual impairments
Which, aren't on their own issues at all and I'm definitely not the one to shun software just because it's "old". I've often said I'd be happy if some apps I use never received another new feature and I'm perfectly happy with declaring products "finished" (constantly moving forward can be exhausting!)
But, at the same time, there's a lot of cruft in older software, dated terminology, unused features cluttering up settings pages and generally bits of technical debt that make adopting new ideas more difficult.
Some great friends (who I of course knew from online forums!) decided there was a big enough gap to build something interesting in the open source world.
And after lots of discussion, some hacking around and lots of coffee, issue #1 (opens in a new tab) was created with a rough plan of action.
I, and many others would argue that the world doesn't need yet another xyzBB. Another threads-posts-comments feed sorted by most recent reply. Another place to sign up, forget your password and never use because you're more active in Discord anyway.
I would be also very happy to be proven wrong about this biased assumption! Feedback is massively appreciated. (opens in a new tab)
Most folks I know who are active in "communities" are on either Discord, Slack or WhatsApp. And there's rarely a reason for those people to close one of those apps and open up another just to share a link or ask a question. "You can't replace email" is the adage that comes to mind.
While there's definitely a market for using bulletin boards which Storyden aims to fill with its own unique take, there must be more to it than just threads and posts.
Storyden's north star is facilitating the aggregation of communal knowledge. That may look like a bulletin board to some and a Slack bot to another, but what's most important is that whatever the solution is, it must be:
- Extremely easy to deploy anywhere
- Built for the next decade(s) of technology
- Accessible to all, regardless of device specs or ability
- Cheap to run, energy-efficient and fast
- Infinitely extensible with plugins or bring-your-own-frontend
In no particular order, caffeinated and opinionated, this is my shortlist of how we get there:
- Single static binary: Golang wins hands down here
- Container by default: it's how myself and everyone I know deploys nowadays
- No complicated dependenies: the bare minimum production setup runs on SQLite
- Progressively enhanced: the basics should work whether you're connecting from a city, a forest or a ship
- Accessible to anyone: doesn't just mean the odd aria-role but ensuring things work for everyone
- API driven: extensions, automations and building your own frontend are easier this way
- Next.js for the default frontend: it's popular, well supported and I know it well!
In summary, I'm aiming to build something that's small, simple but scales well. It's a big task but I'm confident it'll be a rewarding journey! I hope that being a fully open source project not only encourages contributions but also provides a quality codebase for others to learn from.
More posts to come detailing the inner workings and some decisions behind the project!