John James Jacoby announced that bbPress 2.6 was released to the public after a six-year wait. The announcement pass under the radar as WordPress 5.3 was released on the same day.
bbPress is an official WordPress project for powering forums. It was initially launched on December 28, 2004, by Matt Mullenweg as a standalone project. During the first iteration’s heyday, it was popular within the WordPress community as a simple forum solution. In 2011, bbPress 2.0 relaunched as a WordPress plugin with Jacoby as the lead developer.
The bbPress team is primarily comprised of four part-time contributors with nearly no volunteers available for user testing. Stephen Edgar, Brandon Allen, and Sergey Biryukov were the primary developers other than Jacoby behind version 2.6.
“Jennifer M. Dodd deserves a mention for her contributions to 2.6 early on; she’s largely moved on but is wonderful,” said Jacoby. “Behind the scenes in the meta and forums, teams are Samuel ‘Otto’ Wood, Dion Hulse, Mika Epstein, Marius Jensen, and countless others who provide feedback and feature requests upstream based on how WordPress.org uses bbPress.”
bbPress New Engagements API
The new Engagements API connects user IDs to the various types of content in bbPress, such as forums, topics, replies, and topic tags. This works as a sort of relationship system between users and any content they interact with on the forums. In previous versions of bbPress, all of this data was saved in the user metadata table.
Per-forum moderation is a key feature for forums, but it has been one of the missing elements in bbPress. The new feature takes advantage of the Engagements API to connect user IDs to forum IDs. In turn, this allows site owners to create moderators for individual forums. This feature works in contrast to the existing “moderator” role in bbPress, which provides users global moderation powers.
Six years between major releases is a lifetime in technological years, plenty enough time for another company to claim the WordPress forum market share. However, bbPress managed to keep its crown as the most-used WordPress forum plugin during the wait. It does beg the question of whether companies or developers see a future for forums.
Forums are dying?
With so many alternative options for user engagement, are forums a dying breed of software?
“If forums are dying, it’s a slow death, according to the numbers anyway,” said Jacoby. “Chat apps like Slack and Discord (or Twitch and YouTube) are where people do forum-type stuff these days. Moderating your own community takes dedication and work, and if you’re going to do work, why not build an audience someplace else instead?”
Jacoby has hope for the future, however. “I can imagine a bunch of reasons why forums seem unattractive,” he said, “but to me, they are still what everyone circles back around to, just like having their own blogs!”