Newsgroups vs. Web-based Forums

My previous entry about web-based forums generated a number of comments from those wanting me to stick with newsgroups (NTTP) for support.

I actually prefer newsgroups to web-based forums, but I’m faced with a couple of problems:

  • More and more of my customers are finding themselves behind corporate firewalls which don’t allow NNTP access, so they can’t reach my newsgroups
  • Some of my customers have never used newsgroups before, and they don’t want to learn another program just to get support

Of these, the firewall problem is the one that I’m most concerned about because it’s happening much more frequently than it used to.

In addition, a web-based forum enables easier archiving and searching, and it also allows me to display obvious links to FAQs – which would cut down on the number of duplicate questions.

The downside is that web-based forums are slower than newsgroups, and attachments are always more cumbersome (or, in many cases, simply unavailable). One obvious solution is a “news-to-web” type of service which creates web forums from my newsgroups, but that leaves me maintaining two services instead of one.

Most likely I’ll continue to use newsgroups simply because I can’t find a web forum package that does what I need, but if I ever do find one I like, chances are I’ll switch over.

13 thoughts on “Newsgroups vs. Web-based Forums

  1. Take a look at the forums/newsgroup setup at (Lego User Group Network)… I’ve always been amazed at their web frontend to NNTP groups. It really adds some value to the web side. You feel both interfaces are first class citizens with their pros and cons where you get to pick your best fit.
    The only problem is that AFAIK their system is not publicly available.

  2. With TopStyle, NNTP might have been acceptable. But with FeedDemon’s less technical audience (correct?), NNTP doesn’t seem appropriate. Frankly, I didn’t know *anyone* still used net news. I certainly don’t as its single-to-noise became unbearable 5+ years ago.

  3. nick, you may want to contact the guys…the next version of the forums may support direct newsgroup links as well and maybe users being able to connect to the forums with news readers (can’t remember if that one is true)…but it may be worth inquiring on…

  4. Funnily enough, I have started using FeedDemon to keep track of many of the web based forums I read which use vBulletin v3 (it’s another PHP forum – you sure we can’t convince you to learn PHP ?) – vB 3 has RSS support, which is nice since it means I can automatically keep track of updates to forums that I wouldn’t normally check on frequently.
    So when will FeedDemon be able to read newsgroups ? ;-)

  5. Before the advent of the world wide web, many Fidonet based BBS systems used forum software in combination with gates to share content with usenet and mailing lists. The site with the forum basically served as the host and gate for message exchanges, allowing bidirectional exchanges of messages with a corresponding news group or mailing list.
    I noticed that the Xaraya CMS project has incorporated a NTTP client api into their current beta (0.914) for admin use only. It allows the various Xaraya news groups to be imported into admin for local reading. Because of the Xaraya database schema design, it should be possible recreate similar functionality with a XML-RPC server module and their SOAP api, allowing Xaraya to provide a forum for remote access by users, as well as bidirectional message exchanges with news groups and mailing lists. Because of the authentication support for third-party applications in Xaraya, it should be possible to use just about any forum software as the host (Invision now, and others later).
    The basic functionality is there in Xaraya, but someone with the necessary skills needs to use the available resources to meld together what you need, most likely as a module and possibly with the assistance of some core helper classes.

  6. The first thing that struck me when reading this post is that maybe people at work should actually be working instead of perusing newsgroups. No wonder corporate America is in such a sorry state. ;)
    I personally tend to not read web forums as often as I do newsgoups, simply because it’s not convenient to go schlepping around the web and logging into who knows how many forums. With usenet I can read all my groups, mailing lists and email from one program. As soon as FeedDemon reads news and has Pop3 functionality, I’ll be down to 2 apps – FeedDemon and Topstyle. =)

  7. Your decision for keeping the newsgroups alive is a good one. Web-based forums may be colored and accesssible for everyone who has no idea what Usenet is but they come with a lot of overhead. Thumbs up for Usenet.

  8. Thumbs up for UseNet, they are easy to go through and read. But enough of that :o) Nick, have you thought about its what Macromedia use and they have a NNTP back end aswell. (i dont know if its offered by Fusetalk though, its more of an something i noted)

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