It's a plugin, and you can use more than one.
nodebb forum vs Mobile Messaging (WeChat, whatsApp, etc)
In my opinion NodeBB and any other forum system is building a bigger community then just having a small chat group in WhatsApp. When we're speaking about a forum software, we are mostly speaking of a organized place for discussion while any other instant messaging app or program is more for discussing the current activity of said group.
(1)bigger community: I think they have much bigger user base/community than any forums; WeChat can have a group of 500 people to discuss/chat (a cool feature i used is that people can easily talk and record voice as a presentation so group members can listen, etc) and i believe they can make the group size unlimited if they want.
(2) as of orgnized place - they can search / list /tags groups users, etc.
I can already see where this is going, This is going to be a X Vs Y situation. Both things have there differences and so on. The primary feature of a forum is still to build a OPEN community where any user can join and contribute by posting. programs like WhatsApp and WeChat are generally more closed with there access to new users.
If you want a private community and don't want a backlog in the sense of you can read trough your old topics then those programs will do. If you want to build something that's more open and inviting then a good forum software will do the trick 9 out of the 10 times.
@Kowlin i worried in a few years forums will disappear and move to WeChat or WahtsApp. since it's not hard technically for them to make it like a forum (1) let user create open community (actually WeChat allows the creation of public accounts that anyone can follow, but limits posts to one a day.); (2) even today user can can search comments/posts in a group easily, even it's stored in local phone, not in server. (storing in server side is just technical decision).
I doubt we will ever see forum software completely disappear, there just more demographics on the market now, And in the end they all do the same thing. Communicate to other people across the world. And if anything, the market for forum software is only getting better like projects such as NodeBB and Disqus. (And more I will surely have missed)
From a professional standpoint people who have there own business and want open community action are more likely to choose for a forum due the fact that they can control what and how its posted there. For a community that doesn't want to be 100% professional with domains and all the good stuff. they will easily choose the easy route with WeChat. (No way that WhatsApp will dominate that spot ) Recently another program that wanted to combat VoIP programs like TeamSpeak appeared under the name of DiscordApp.
So the TL;DR of this topic is, Forum's wont die off any time soon. And the rise of less technical programs like WeChat will only make the market a better place.
@Kowlin Thanks for the great insight! another diff: forums software is web-based, while WeChat/WahtsApp is native mobile app which has better user experience.
@miluo I can see that someone might believe that forums is like for the 1998 to the 2004 area. But those are easily proven wrong with the advancements of Bootstrap, Font awesome and other development tools. These tools are designed with mobile in mind and if you take a look at NobeBB and this topic on mobile. You can see how all the lines blend together. Taking this in mind a App developer can simply embed the forums into the app he/she is developing.
About the fact that the user experience is better on mobile, it somewhat is. Apps are build to work offline while the forums communicate online. Like you said in your previous posts Apps have all there data stored locally, and the only thing that they do is communicate with the servers to;
- See if any new chats have arrived
- Send a chat message if required
While everything on a forum is stored on there server and the data has to be fetched every time a user logs in with a considerable amount of time between it. This means that it is slower, by 1 second with a reasonable connection. This can impact user experience. The tradeoff for a slower connection is still that a forum still holds all the data and the data cannot be lost by user error.
here's the article about whatsapp app development, hope it helps