Ars OpenForum & Commenting System are getting a big upgrade

By | November 8, 2022
Ars OpenForum & Commenting System are getting a big upgrade
Aurich Lawson | Getty Images

We’ve spent months getting ready, and tonight (around 1 am ET on Wednesday) we’re flipping the switch on a major upgrade to our community platform, which supports both article comments and the OpenForum. We won’t be losing any data, and you won’t need to set up a new account or change your password. You will have to wait a few hours, though, and for that we’re sorry!

We anticipate that both systems will remain offline until around Wednesday afternoon as we process our massive 22 years of comments (that’s 1 million topics and more than 28 million posts). All logins and user registration functions will be unavailable during this time. That means no article comments, no forum browsing, and unfortunately, it also means subscribers will not be able to access their sub benefits for a brief time. We’ll make it as short as possible. When it’s done, just log in again with your old credentials and you’re set.

For more detail on what we’re doing and why, keep reading.

Community is vital to Ars Technica

When longtime Ars readers talk about how long they’ve been around they often point to their forum registration date (mine is June 8, 2001). It can be a badge of pride! The oldest of the old-schoolers have 1999 reg dates on their profiles, which is as far back as our data goes (Ars was founded in 1998, but the WWWThreads data from the very first forum was lost).

Not many communities on the Internet can lay claim to active users who’ve been around for more than two decades. It’s something we hold as our own badge of pride. Thank you for sticking with us for so long! That said, even if you measure your tenure here in years or months instead of decades, we’re still thrilled to have you, and many of our best participants are our most recent recruits, if you will.

In an era where many sites are closing their comment sections, and social media increasingly treats people like a commodity, we’ve chosen to refocus on how we can amplify the great contributions readers make here. To do that, we needed an entirely new forum and commenting system, and we’ve found it in XenForo, a modern forum system with a familiar feel.

Everything you expect from the Ars forums, like flat discussions without threading and normal reverse chronological reading order will be there. Your post count and registration date will remain intact, as well as all of the forum content going all the way back to 1999.

The same BBCode you’re used to using will still work. But you won’t have to hand type tags if you choose to use the convenient editor tools interface. Just about every aspect of our forum will get a similar “still works, but it’s better” touch.

No more running into quote limits or trying to edit a mass of nested tags. Quotes will now default to a single level (you can edit the tags to add more if you truly wish). We’ll have full mobile support, the forum will be easy to read and use on your phones now. You’ll be able to see when someone replies to you easily.

There will be a dark mode.

We are breaking with old Ars forum tradition in one way: There will be avatars. Just about every social platform uses them now, and they’re enormously helpful with a user base as large as ours to help visually identify posters. (No animation, and anyone who abuses the system may find we choose an avatar for them.) Enjoy picking something to further express your forum personality.

As with any big transition like this, we expect some hiccups. We’ve tested everything in a beta forum with our moderation team, but there’s nothing like a live environment with thousands and thousands of users to find the edge cases. We’ll have a thread to report issues and a developer team to help us manage bugs and issues. Please bear with us as we fix anything.

XenForo offers a modern architecture that’s easily extensible, so beyond getting bug fixes sorted you can expect a future with more features, both for all users and upgrades for our subscribers. We have our own plans, but we’re happy to take comments and suggestions for improving your experience.

We hope you enjoy the new forum and comment system. Our commitment to our community remains strong. We’ll have new tools for our moderation team, which we’ll look to expand moving forward. Ars will remain a place for open and respectful discussions, as well as a place to share and enjoy your geeky passions.

Whether you’re a 1999er or thinking this might be the time to sign up for a new account, we look forward to your contributions.