The internet is in a constant state of upheaval. Shifting from day to day, it’s an amorphous mass, continually evolving, introducing new ideas and leaving old ones behind.
A few hours ago the team at Resident Advisor announced they were locking off their comments section, the last remaining link to the site’s popular forums.
“RA's comments have roots in the '00s heyday of message boards,” they wrote. “Our message boards, and later our comments section, were a place for people obsessed with electronic music to share knowledge, recommendations and general chat. Many comments were thoughtful in a way that elevated our content and created a sense of community around RA and the global electronic music community we cover.”
Largely superseded by social media, they argue, messageboards have become out-dated and outmoded, now populated by stubborn, angry white males hailing from the web’s darker corners. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that the building blocks of the web environment aren’t made from HTML but disagreement, rage, and vexation.
Except it wasn’t always like that. As RA rightly point out, the message board was once a thing of beauty, helping to build virtual communities, providing a gathering point for outsider voices, and act as a spur for musical innovation itself.
The once almighty Grimeforum was a place where reputations were built and shattered. Of course, it helped that MCs and producers posted there themselves - with some of the scene’s most vital figures giving it a co-sign, fans would gather to watch some unholy arguments unfurl.
P Money dedicated bars to the haters on Grimeforum, while the likes of M.I.K. and Griminal issued notable takedowns. Indeed, during the long day years of 2008, 2009, and 2010 there was very little other outlets for grime’s core currency of rumour, speculation, and braggadocio.
Now virtually derelict, Grimeforum’s fate is in contrast to its cousin, Dubstepforum. Sure, post rates have slowed – the genre itself can scarcely be considered in the rude health of old – but the forum remains a space for new ideas, production tips, and sharing mixes. An intensely localised scene, Dubstepforum helped a South London located sound conquer the world, while connecting it to like-minded scenes in Bristol, Glasgow, and beyond.
Not that it was entirely innocent. Zomby’s sporadic posting always made for riveting entertainment, as the producer embarked on a series of rows, beefs, and arguments, perhaps the most notorious of which being his attempt to lay down the difference between niche and bassline. Truth be told we’re still confused about the whole thing, but his vehement rhetoric exploded from the screen and wore out our F5 key.
Indeed, the splintering of bass culture even allowed for new forums to spring up. The short-lived future garage sound quickly spawned a messageboard of its own, dedicated to defining and furthering the viscous realm of future garage. Much like the sound it revered, though, the forum was short-lived.
Of course, these arguments still take place but exist largely out-with forums. Social media has allowed for instant interaction, and its relentless flow has steered fans away from messageboards, with Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat allowing unique up-front access to your favourite artist in a way clunky Web 1.0 coding could never allow.
It’s wrong, though, to assume that the messageboard is simply about to slip over the horizon. The universe that is the Reddit community provides space for many of those abandoned forums, such as former Grimeforum posters upping sticks and heading to the r/grime sub-reddit.
Furthermore, some of those former stalwarts are still going strong. Drownedinsound remains a go-to for indie fans who want to chat, moan, and meet up – some have even got married after first debating the best Eels B-side, or ranking Radiohead albums from worst to best. Popjustice, meanwhile, was a spawning ground for juicy chart titbits, as well as putting the world to rights while discussing your faves. Recently gaining a site-wide overhaul, it remains one of the funniest, most knowledgeable (and most scabrous) places for pop gossip on the web.
It’s a sign of the relentless pace of the web environment that the messageboard can already seem out-dated, but that affords it fresh meaning. This sense of nostalgic perspective runs through patten’s 555-5555 forum project, a means of re-capturing the community feel of Web 1.0 and slowing down the velocity of online communication.
Remarkably, it seems to be thriving. With topics ranging from mixes and radio shows through to Bandcamp recommendations – itself a messageboard-inclined form of music community – the 555-5555 forums have touched on something missing in the often-cynical world of social media. Perhaps it’s time to dust off a few of those log ins, after all…
Special shout out: Slam forums, Optimo messageboard, Undergroundscene
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