Like many others I have seen many things come and go.
In recent years we have the whole Social media thing that has threatened the existence of Forums and now many of the forum sites I once knew have closed down and just provide links to their Social Media existence.
When comparing Social Media to Forums the difference is there however the convenience of Social Media and world wide acceptance is what has impacted forums. Sure Social Media doesn't have many of the benefits of a strictly forum only site but with busy lifestyles and the way that Social Media has become a way of life with family and friends whilst at the same time tuning in to specific subject matter, which was the heart of forums, all on the same platform.
My opinion is that Forums have to change from being a Forum site to discuss a subject to being a complete overwhelming Resource on that specific subject. In other words Forum sites need and must depend heavily on all the different addons to build their site up to being a complete resource, sure with discussions but also Photos, Videos, Classifieds, Events, News, Documents, subject resources, tutorials, lookup lists, even a shop etc etc etc. Once you have created a full, overwhelming complete single repository of every single piece of information and tools on a specific subject would you have any chance of competing against the likes of Social Media.
I tried an experiment a while back by creating a Forum ONLY site on a side subject to my main site. It was somewhat well used. I then fully integrated it with Facebook with forum posts going to Facebook etc. After a while the forums died to almost no new posts however the Facebook Page for that site was growing stronger and stronger. Today that forum only site no longer exists but the Facebook page is stronger than ever with new posts being continually added all day every day.
If I look at my main site, it has grown and continues to grow because it is NOT just a Forum site, it has many different addons all providing a greater dimension for the user than Social Media can provide. The one thing the users say it has compared to the various Social Media groups on the same subject is that my site is a complete resource for them, a one stop shop, it has everything!
Now for this to happen we come to the question of Addons. There are really only two main Forum Software choices out there now if one was going for the big names. If XF is to remain one of them they need to, no they must, look at protecting their market by helping to protect their customers. Addons here at XF are dying at a rapid pace and I just don't mean new addons. Many existing addons are not supported, buggy, developers are fleecing customers then disappearing etc etc etc. If we as site owners are to create incredible resources for our users based on the foundations of XF and compete against Social Media then something needs to be done.
I am rebuilding my site and as an example I need an Event Calendar. One addon that has been around for ages is not supported, buggy however that developer has released a paid version which is full of comments made that it is very buggy and basically non-existent support. So I looked for another one and found the only other addon that does the same and low and behold, that developer seems to not be around as well. Classifieds is another example so to was all the addons from that developer called Michael who took your money at vBulletin and then shot through only to come here and do the same.
Naturally there is a handful of responsible and very professional addon developers but as I said, a handful.
If we are to build our sites into complete resources for our users then something needs to be done before XF is ruined and more and more Forum sites fade away into oblivion, threatening the existence or the need for such entities as XF.
Here is a quick thought, all addons submitted to XF that have a $ cost do so with XF holding the code in escrow and if the developer stops supporting the Addon, the code can be given to another developer to support and derived income from...just a thought!!!