How Discourse is the Best Forum Software? (The rise 📈)

Discourse is an open-source forum software started by the Founders of StackOverflow. We see the strategy taken by Discourse to become the Best Forum Software and conquer this market. This is the rise of Discourse 📈.

Table of content:

  1. How Discourse started?
  2. How Discourse conquered Forum Software Market?
  3. Current state of Discourse

1. How Discourse started?

Discourse started in 2nd half of 2013 so it is relatively new. This makes it interesting on how it grew to be a significant player in the Forum Software Market.

It was started by Jeff Atwood, Robin Ward and Sam Saffron.

Jeff Atwood is a Founder of StackOverflow which is the largest question and answer site for Programmers. It has over 14 Million registered users.

Having the experience of finetuning discussions of StackOverflow, Jeff saw the discussion on the web to be broken. Jeff said the design of StackOverflow is good for a QnA site but the design is not suited for general discussion but for getting a question answered.

Other solutions for Discussion forum that were powering most of the web were seen to be broken. Jeff took the challenge to fix this by putting his ideas of creating one of the most visited sites on the web.

One challenge was to design a solution and the second challenge is to get users and fix a strong web presence. The steps taken by Discourse proved to be effective.

The competitors of Discourse are:

  • Disqus
  • Slack
  • MyBB, phpBB
    and many more.

Discourse is an open-source forum discussion software and a mailing list. It earns by providing paid hosting and maintenance of an Discourse instance for companies.

2. How Discourse conquered Forum Software Market?

In just 6 years, Discourse have started to conquer a majority of the Forum Software Market. The main reasons for the growth of Discourse are:

  1. Discourse is open-source software so you can use it for free
  2. It gives complete power and freedom to the community owner
  3. It supports other open-source communities
  4. Multiple purpose and use-cases
  5. It allows other developers to earn over it
  6. Boost from Founder Reputation

We will go over each point in depth:

  1. Discourse is open-source software so you can use it for free

Yes, Discourse is open-source so you are free to self-host an instance for your community if you cannot afford to go for the paid plan. Self-hosting is a cheap option as cheap hosting plans exist.

The paid plan not only hosts an instance for you but also, keeps your instance to the latest version and maintains it. This takes the stress from you so that you can focus on growing your community.

Being open-source, you can develop custom features for your instance easily. You can hire developers to work on your required features as well.

You can suggest features to the Discourse team and other users can vote. Features are, eventually, picked by the Team as the development focus for the next release.

  1. It gives complete power and freedom to the community owner

This seems to be a trivial point but this is the main driving force. Other options like Disqus provides you the support for growing a community but the control remains in the hand of Disqus. This keeps the future of your community uncertain. You cannot migrate to other options and this makes it inflexible.

On the other hand, Discourse keeps the full control in your hands. The process to migrate from other options or move to other options by downloading all discussions and users is simple.

You are not forced to use the user authorization feature. You can use your existing authentication system (maybe from your other platform) and link it as SSO. This allows you to keep the same login across different platforms.

  1. It supports other open-source communities

Supporting established and rising open-source projects and communities is the most effective way of organic marketing. Successful projects/ companies like Ghost blog and DigitalOcean follow this path and have proved to be a success.

Discourse follows this path as well and is a strong open-source project.

  1. Multiple purpose and use-cases

Unlike other alternatives, Discourse is not only a forum and mailing list. It is often used in the following ways:

  • Open Help/ Support forum on a service and product (alternative to contact form)
  • Comment system on a blog (alternative to Disqus)
  • Mailing list
  • Internal discussion forum for companies and teams within companies (alternative to Slack)
  • Issue tracker for projects (alternative to GitHub issues)

The use of Discourse on multiple fronts is a strong reason for its success. It allows to become a single solution to multiple needs.

  1. It allows other developers to earn over it

Several developers earn over the success of Discourse and this, in turn, makes the Developer community more tightly coupled resulting in more success.

There is one company that is providing hosting for Discourse instances. This is the same way Discourse earns but it lets it exist and let the customers decide which path to take.

Some developers work on freelancers and develop features that are needed by a Company in exchange for a fee. These features include the ones that are not in the near plan of Discourse's open-source development.

Some developers sell custom themes for Discourse instances as well.

  1. Boost from Founder Reputation

Discourse, also, benefited from the strong reputation of its Founder Jeff Atwood in the Developer community.

Jeff was the founder of StackOverflow, the largest community of Developers and hence, marketing was organic and getting funding might be relatively easy. This comes at the vast experience of the Founding team in creating excelent products for the web.

3. Current state of Discourse

In terms of individual users, other competitors like Disqus is ahead of Discourse at the moment. Gradually, strong projects are moving to Discourse as the platform to interact with the public.

Discourse is being used by some of the biggest companies like CERN, Ghost blog and much more. You should use it too for your project.

With this article at OpenGenus, you have decoded the success of Discourse in the Forum Software market.