Thanks to the policies of Facebook, Reddit, and other giant online social networks and forums, smaller social networks and forums appear to be making a comeback. Whether due to political pressure, or as a result of efforts to maximize advertising profits, many large platforms silence users and refuse to acknowledge their desires for privacy or anonymity. Seemingly every month, new embarrassing revelations about Facebook's user-unfriendly policies feature prominently on major news organizations' websites. The result seems to be that some people are beginning to relocate to smaller, more relaxed platforms, where money and politics are less influential and a sense of community is more apparent. This is something akin to moving from the big city with it's crowds, high housing costs, and freeway congestion to a small town where the neighbors all know each other and don't worry about locking their doors at night.
Having had a few of my own eyebrow-raising experiences this year, I've been scouring the clearnet (the regular Internet) and decentralized networks like ZeroNet and I2P looking for engaging social networks and online forums. This week, I have decided to share some of the forums I've found with readers who may also be looking for platforms on which to socialize, learn, or advertise. Since cheapskatesguide.org is concerned with saving its readers money on computers and Internet services, the information I have gathered is weighted toward these topics. However, I have also included many unrelated forums. I have focused on forums that are more conducive to expressing and discussing in-depth thoughts, not mere picture-and-video-posting sites with a few comments attached. For this reason, I have not included what I think of as "bulletin board" websites like Gab, 4Chan, Minds, and Mix.
The information I have compiled is summarized in the table of forum listings below. For completeness, I have included a mixture of large and small platforms. The table will be updated from time to time as I find more noteworthy forums. Those looking for a larger list of social networking websites may wish to peruse the Wikipedia list.
If you have a favorite or know of a noteworthy forum that has not been included in the table, please share it via the comment form at the bottom of the page. If I like it, I'll update the table. Please also comment if you feel the table has errors.
I have chosen to display the information that I have gathered in table form for two reasons. First, a table allows a large amount of information to be displayed in a small amount of space. Second, a table allows readers to quickly see which forums support features that interest them. For example, as explained in the Table Column Headings section, below, Column "S" gives the size of each forum in terms of the number of active members. So, for example, readers who are looking for smaller forums can find them quickly.
Hypertext links to forums' addresses (IP, or otherwise) are provided in the table, even when the sites are not on the clearnet. This allows a reader to see the address of a site, even one not on the clearnet, by moving his mouse over its link. Some forums on distributed networks may have multiple addresses. In such cases, particular addresses have been chosen for links. The addresses of the ZeroNet sites in the table were not included, because they are easy to find for anyone who has the ZeroNet software.
Unfortunately, nothing can be done about the fact that the table is too wide to render well on mobile phones.
Please forgive me for including the Cheapskate's Guide Forum in the table, even though no one ever goes there. I couldn't resist.
|Black Hat World Forum||x||b||x||c||l||d/t||x|
|Cheapskate's Guide Forum||x||x||c||t||d||x|
|Gaia Online Forum||x||b||c||x||c||v||s/t||x|
|Major Geeks Forum||x||x||c||l||d/t||?|
|Something Awful Forum||x||d||d||k||c||l||t||?|
|The I2P Garden||x||x||i||t||d/t||?|
As I am still gathering data, I have left some blank spaces in the Forum Table. In other spaces, where either an "x" or a blank space is called for, a question mark means I don't know. Perhaps you can help me fill in some blanks by leaving a comment.
A forum is designated as "dedicated" when it is primarily designed to discuss a particular topic or narrow range of topics. Here are the dedicated forums that have been included in the Forum Table.
I happened to stumble across the Hidden Answers Forum on the I2P network a few weeks before I began writing this article. Unfortunately, it has been unreachable the entire time that I have been writing. Many active I2P websites are at times unreachable due to the nature of I2P. I was unable to fill in some details on Hidden Answers from memory, but if my memory is accurate, it is a diverse and interesting I2P forum. I will fill in the details when I can.
Dancing Elephant is the largest forum on the I2P network. Even so, it only has a little over 5600 registered users who have posted over 166,000 messages on over 66,000 topics ranging from I2P, Linux, and security to news, social, and general interest. All of the forums of which I am aware which are not on the clearnet are smaller and have all of the advantages and disadvantages associated with smaller forums.
Although I've not spent much time there, Hubski seems to be a small, friendly forum with people who just like to socialize with each other. They seem to know each other fairly well. I gave it a civility rating of "a", because it seems to have that little something extra--kindness, perhaps. In my opinion, we need more of this type of online forum. If this is the type of forum you are looking for, you may want to try it.
For those readers who are into role-playing games like "Dungeons and Dragons", Aelyria is a forum you should look into. Since I felt one site like this would be more than enough for most readers, I didn't include two others in the table: Oddworld Forums and The Interactive Fiction Archive.
Finding a place on line where one can feel included and free to discuss issues and ask questions seems to be becoming increasingly important to a growing number of people. Unfortunately, the needs of many go significantly unmet by the very large forums and social networks. Hopefully, I have provided information regarding at lease one or two places that can meet more of the needs of each reader of this article. As I continue to find new forums, I will update the table. So, if you have not found any that appeal to you, you may want to check back in a few months.
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