With of all that said, here's the case I'm making for an XF native forum app:
If your forum members take photos using their phones, where are they more likely to share those photos these days? The road blocks and extra steps it takes to open a browser on the phone, navigate to your forum, click around and find the right place to post the photo in the forum, and then use the upload feature to click around and locate the photo on the phone takes WAY more time than clicking the Share button after you take that photo and selecting FB or Instagram. And when you have a lot of the people in that forum as friends on your social network, why go through the extra hassle of also sharing that content in a forum?
Social media networks have given the user the ability to make their own networks that they used to depend on forums to access. I don't think this will kill forums, but it will certainly start taking away from a big part of what used to make forums sticky. For some communities - take the car enthusiast communities for example - those photos signify what a member is working on at the moment with their car, and that is an extremely important community-building element that is starting to drop off in forums these days because it's FAR EASIER to share that content on social media via mobile, especially with the upward trend in mobile device usage for interaction. This is not a problem that is/will be exclusive to the automotive community.
I've been talking with members of my site for several months about this, getting their feedback and taking notes. The consistent message coming back is that the forum will always be a great place for finding technical information, but that FB is becoming more preferred for engaging and networking with other car enthusiasts because of how simple it is to use, especially on a mobile device. The problem is, being a technical resource ONLY is not going to keep a forum community thriving.
Over 65% of my traffic views the site on a mobile device these days. I'm using a mobile friendly theme without Tapatalk (for various reasons). And though the site is easy enough to use on a mobile device, I would LOVE to have an app that is native to XF that was build in a way that it coule be extended by some of the talented plugin developers we have in this community (like @Bob who built Showcase and other cool content-centered plugins). If I install an app it has to encompass all areas of the site where I collect content - when that user clicks Share after they take a photo I need to be able to give them quick and easy options to share that content in my forum somewhere so that they don't just share it on FB or IG instead.
The simplicity and ease of sharing content from mobile is becoming more and more expected from the average user. And the traditional way the user has to go about posting in a forum is falling behind in terms of modern day usability. I'm not advocating forums be more like social media. I'm advocating exploring ways to make forums as easy to use as social media on mobile device and doing it in a way that it's extendable - so that plugin developers can tie their plugins into standardized locations.
I'd pay an upfront license fee and a monthly fee for that and I know quite a few other forum owners who run their forum as a business and rely on advertising revenue would invest in this as well. I'd think it's worth exploring and I imagine the XF decision makers probably already have, and probably keep revisiting as mobile usage continues to increase. As someone who didn't used to be too concerned about social media being a competitor a few years back I now see why it's very possible that forums could be used less and less for sharing content and networking among people with similar interests - which could turn forums into obsolete, searchable newsgroups.
We need to keep people engaged and make it extremely easy to have new, quality content posted on our sites. I've always felt XF was forward thinking in the forum space, which is why I moved over from vB last year. I'm hoping the XF devs will seriously consider revolutionizing the way members post content on forums using mobile devices, I like most everything else they've done with the script so far.