Thanks for your thoughts Tux.
As for using Docker, it's not actually a *requirement* of using Discourse as far as I know, it's just the easiest way to deploy. For me use of Linux for hosting is *the* right way to do it anyway, so it's not a concern. But if it's a worry for you (and you're actually still interested in Discourse
), it looks like Docker will be Windows compatible in the future: http://thenewstack.i...ndows-is-on-its-way/
Meanwhile, I'm not quite sure where I stand on the argument that these different systems are for different audiences, different types of communities interacting. Technically it is true right now, but I would be quite surprised if many of the current forum communities had not migrated from newsgroups previously, and surprised as well if the trend I'm seeing in some of my communities - to move onto Facebook (Groups), etc. - is not reflective of a greater overall trend. Which means that *the same users and communities* are migrating from one system to another (and have done so before).
Systems *do* often replace other systems, and the same people who used an older system may switch to a different, newer one for various reasons. The fact that some percentage stays behind and becomes a "hardcore" community still using some older technology may indeed actually mean that for those people the newer system is *not* an adequate replacement, much less upgrade, but they are often in the minority in my experience. The question for me is not "where are the hardcore hanging out?", it's "what is the best system to use to serve a modern community that will best be able to gain and maintain popularity, offer smooth and enjoyable interaction for the users, and be capable of long-term maintainability?".
I never liked IPB myself, but I'll have to take another look at it on your recommendation. I suppose part of what put me off is the cost, hehe. vB is IMO atrocious, which just goes to show that popularity isn't the sole and best metric on which to judge a system.
I'm a bit confused about your comment on "lack of structure". Discourse definitely has categories. The default UI may not do the best job of showing them, but it's easily configurable, and there are themes out there that better mimic (and IMO improve on) more traditional designs. There is a "Material Design" Discourse theme I mentioned above that I quite like, for example.
Final point, consolidation is a sign both of a maturing technology landscape, but also sometimes of one in decline. Again I'd be surprised if it were true that forums are anywhere near as popular now as they were 10 years ago, at least in English speaking countries (I say that because I know e.g. many Asian countries seem to have really different online interaction preferences than those in the US, and I just don't have familiarity with what they're doing or why).
Curious to hear more from those who may have tested any of these systems. But recommendations for more up-to-date and well maintained "traditional" forums (like IPB) are welcome too.