Free Forum Hosting
What Is a Forum?
A forum is an asynchronous discussion—that is, unlike a chat room, in which people communicate in real time, people can follow the forum and respond to postings hours or days later. Forums usually have an overall topic, which may be more or less closely defined. There are forums for people who share a medical or health-related condition (such as forums for people with eating disorders or alopecia areata), forums for people who use a particular technology (such as support forums for people who use free web hosting or Adobe InDesign), and people who share a hobby or interest (such as NFL football or cooking). An individual contribution to the forum is a post, and posts are organized topically in threads. In a long-lasting forum, thread topics may repeat.
Free forums may have rules or guidelines that participants must follow. For example, they may require registration and use of a verifiable email address. Free forums, particularly those on topics with recognized experts (health care professionals and software support professionals, for example) may have provision for these people to control the discussion, for example, editing or deleting postings that are inappropriate, offensive, or otherwise violate free forum rules. The forum controls determine the privileges of users, including who is allowed to post, who is allowed to start a thread, and who is allowed to moderate, edit, and/or delete posts.
Two Types of Free Forum Hosting
There are two quite different types of free forum hosting. The first is free because the software is free, open source software. In this case the person who wants to start the forum can download and customize the free forum software, developing it to suit his or her needs. Web hosting is not included, but someone doing this type of development might be of a mind to host their own forum, in which case, there is no direct hosting charge incurred. Vanilla Forums is an example of this type of free forum that can be used for this type of free forum hosting.
Free forum hosting is also offered as an introductory service provided by web hosts that offer an array of forum hosting options. In this case, the forum may have limitations or advertisements that can only be lifted/removed if the forum runner pays a fee or uses an upgraded service. Limitations may include a small disk space allocation, restriction to use of a sub-domain, rather than one's own domain name, removal of the copyright of the forum provider, and ability to park domain names. In cases like this, it is important to find out how upgrades or exports of forum content work, should you want to increase your level of service: Some sites charge for upgrades of sites that are greater than 5 MB in size.
In both types of forum, assistance with design, development, and other customization issues may be available for purchase.Related article: Free Photo Hosting