This work is licensed under a Attribution Creative Commons license
Translator's note: The following article is written by Beida Professor Hu Yong in Southern Metropolis Daily 2010-06-01.
Abstract: China's emerging media market analyst Sage Brennan said, "With the popularity of blog and online game, it is easy to overlook the fact that the BBS network is the real active centre of China’s internet culture. For various reasons, BBS network continues to grow with increasing dynamic. Many network companies, University campus, and even a large number individuals, have already established their BBS community. "
■ Frenetic talk on the net - Hu Yong column
BBS and online forum have been very popular among the Chinese netizens for a long period of time. China's BBS and online forum are basically communities built for the purpose of discussion. The discussions can be on topics such as entertainment, emotions, sports, politics and technology etc. The popularity of these communities has marked the distinctive character between the Chinese Internet sector and its foreign counterparts. China's emerging media market analyst Sage Brennan said, "With the increasing popularity of blog and online game, it is easy to overlook the fact that the BBS network is the most active center of China's Internet culture. For a variety of reasons, BBS network continues to grow with increasing dynamic. Many network companies, University campus, and even a large number of individuals, have already established their BBS community. "
China's first online forum, the most famous Shui Mu Tsinghua (“水木清華”) was established in 1995. It was the most popular BBS among colleges and represented the culture of internet communities in Chinese colleges. While outside the University circle, in the society, "Tung Li Fang Sport Salon" (“通利方體育沙龍”) took the lead and made famous in November 1997 with one user post, "Dalian Jinzhou has no tears" on the forum. The period 1998 – 2000 gave birth to "Xici Hutong" ("西祠胡同"), "Tianya Community" ("天涯社區"), "BBS People" ("強國論壇"), "KDnet" ("凱迪網絡”), all trying to attract users with their unique characteristic of community service. Owing to the convergence of popularity, online forums continue to develop and maturate. They open up a simple and interactive communication environment, especially suitable for public dissemination and discussion of current affairs. Although blog as a rising star has attracted more users later on, political and social issues involved in blog is relatively small and less interactive. Online forum remains well-accepted for those who are interested in reading and commenting on current affairs.
The emergence of Micro-blogging further polarizes users’ interest in forum and in blog. The reason is not merely a lack of readership, but in fact, some bloggers find themselves juggling 101 things at a time: too many things in real life and in work are waiting for them to deal with. Time for forum and blog is becoming a luxury. Some have turned their heads to more simple social media, while a few withdrew from the forum and blog life realizing they cannot bear the attack on integrity or the loss of privacy.
However, according to the China Internet report from CNNIC, the number of users in forum is still increasing annually. Although BBS's energy to certain extent has been affected by the impact of the Web2.0 service for bloggers and micro bloggers, the long time favor online media of the Chinese netizens still has a solid foundation and development potential in a long run. It has retained its unique position and importance in China's network ecosystem.
Strictly speaking, the forum is a product between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, playing an irreplaceable role in the internet with China’s characteristics. Tianya, Mop, KDnet, Tiexue.net and etc. have combined forum feature with traditional editorial control; while BBS in people.com, 163.com, Sina, Sohu, Ifeng, Baidu Tieba and etc. have become significant component in news portal websites. They have huge contributions to the public domain of China’s internet, often becoming public doorway to breaking news, sources of public opinions and discussions, platforms for communications and exposing corruption practices. In recent years, numerous cases such as the South China tiger incident, has shown how online forum serves to enhance political civilization and social development in China. If forum users didn’t persist on digging out issues, the outcome would have been totally different today.
However, the global trend shows that no matter how the future development of online forum is, it will never be remarkable as it was before. The internet landscape has changed permanently due to the arrival of Web 2.0. Online forum itself has transformed from a small circle of enthusiasts to a venue for mass participation. In the past, people used to log in the BBS with the once very precious computer (it was then a luxury), modems, terminal software and a BBS number! They created commands by beats under the DOS system for communication. That was not only clumsy, but also difficult. Today, network development has made all of the above history. Browser and RSS readers can now take us anywhere. The only thing remain unchanged is people’s desire for communication. Popular sites in recent years, from MySpace, Twitter to Facebook, have shown how people want to maintain contact with others. These new paths have the advantages that online forum does not possess.
Thus, in my opinion, the future of online forum ought to become a hybrid creature - have space for like-minded to build their "network corner” on the one hand, and massive simultaneous communication, on the other. The glorious age of online forum has past, but it will not completely die out. To survive, the future of online forum will have to possess the following characteristics: easy to use for everyone with better and friendlier interface, and to allow real-time chat and gaming applications. Information does not have to be stored in a central server, but in a decentralized network that never goes offline.
We can’t foresee the future of online forum through the crystal ball, but one thing is certain: the future online forum users will become more dependent on simultaneous interaction. BBS must learn from micro blog and the SNS, or it may become a minority product, leaving its influence gradually diminish in time.
The history of online forum is the history of the China’s Internet. Even in today’s flourishing network, with blog, micro blog, and SNS each leading the trend, online forum still has its unique charm, and we look forward to its next 10 years.
This work is licensed under a Attribution Creative Commons license