The internet as we know it didn’t begin for the public until the early 90s, though it’s actually been around since the 1960s. This means there are sites and of course forums, message boards, and communities older than the world wide web itself.
Once you’ve scooped up your senses after that mindblowing fact, let’s take a step back in time to some of the oldest Internet forums you can still visit today – some of which are, inevitably, no longer active.
While you’re here, check out some of the oldest websites on the Internet. Some even predate the world wide web.
Most people consider Usenet the original and oldest Internet forum. It started long before the web, when access wasn’t as simple as just opening your browser and typing in a URL. In fact, it came about in 1980 and allowed users from all over the world to post text, images, and more. It was kind of a free-for-all!
You can still access Usenet, but you need to subscribe to a provider in to do. Eweka, Newshosting, and UsenetServer are three great options.
If you’d rather explore for free, you can check out millions of messages being archived on UsenetArchives. Search for a topic or choose a topic to see messages. I picked comp.infosystems at random and saw messages dating back to 1989. You can also learn more about Usenet through the r/Usenet subreddit.
2. The Straight Dope
The Straight Dope’s motto is “Fighting ignorance since 1973 (It’s taking longer than we thought),” so that should give you some idea of just how old this Internet community really is. It’s mainly a political site. While the latest stories on the site have a date of 2018, there are posts on the message board from December 2021.
But you’re here for the oldest Internet forums, not some new-fangled fancypants posts. While not the oldest on the site, there’s a fun thread about music CDs from 1999. Some of the oldest posts have long been archived, but it’s amazing to see how much has changed since the 90s.
3. The WELL
The WELL, which stands for the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, launched back in 1985 and is still thriving today. It was founded by Larry Brilliant and Stewart Brand after discussions with readers and writers of Whole Earth Review. This online community was so well loved that members banded together to buy it in 2012. It’s the home of intellectual and fun conversations.
Some of the long-time members went on to create other organizations and communities, such as Craigslist and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It’s become a creative place discussing evolving culture and discovering or creating the next big thing, such as the iconic Craiglist. Conversations date back to the 1980s, though you have to be a member to view any of them or most current posts.
Yes, it costs $15/month to join, but it’s completely ad-free and no anonymous trolls posting. It’s a nice change from most forums and online communities.
What started as a fanzine for the Neo Geo games console turned into Newgrounds, a massively popular place to share and enjoy Flash animations and games. In fact, in 2000, automated submissions were added, creating the first Flash Portal. Tom Fulp, who created popular and controversial Flash games like Club a Seal, Assassin, and Pico’s School, has kept the Newgrounds community alive for decades.
The site first launched in 1995, but didn’t turn into a real community until around 2000 when users could upload animations easier and vote on content. The site is still active today. Fulp actually participated in a Reddit AMA (ask me anything), which is perfect if you want to learn a little more about Newgrounds. While Flash isn’t supported anymore in most browsers, Newgrounds’ games still work (shhh, don’t tell your browser!).
AnandTech is one of the most active communities where you can discuss building your own PC. However, it started up long ago, back in 1997, when 14-year-old Anand Shampi started the site on Geocities. It was originally a motherboard review site, but quickly turned into a place filled with PC component reviews.
Some of the oldest content has been archived, but the Wayback Machine thankfully has some posts from 1998 still listed for you to check out, including posts about a DEC Alpha 533 System and IBM Deskstart 5 Review.
7. Delphi Forums
Delphi has had a lot of ups and downs since the company originally launched back in 1981, when it was created by Wes Kussmaul as Kussmaul Encyclopedia. Chat and bulletin board features were added in 1982. In 1992, Delphi started offering Internet services, such as email, Usenet, and more. To help with funding, the company partnered with various companies throughout the years, almost falling apart in 1995.
In 1996, Delphi Forums launched an ad-supported model, spurring new growth and keeping the site alive. It’s been home to numerous individual forums for decades. For instance, Politics: The Bully Pulpit has existed since 1994. Simply search for topics/communities to find forums on most any topic, from baseball to politics. The site designs themselves show just how old these forums are.
Reddit, which launched in 2005, has to be an honorable mention here. If you happen to be a Reddit fan or just feel Reddit-curious, check out some of the weirdest subreddits. Or, just spend some time with a variety of fun geeky social networks and forums.