I'd love to let you in on the next step of what I hope will be all of our collective journey together.
Nearly two years ago, DEV went open source. It was a big step for a nascent organization and a decision based on the observation that the more we empowered our wonderful community to be a part of the journey, the better things turned out. However, what we open sourced that day was just the first step of a bigger idea. Our aspiration has always been to offer up our community platform for others to use as well.
Over the last few years, we’ve honed our values and principles, and have strengthened our resolve that while we want to support a healthy ecosystem, we do not want to unilaterally become the ecosystem. We don’t want to just power community software, we want to empower community. That means we want to own a meaningful, but relatively small, part of a bigger idea. And with that introduction, I want to describe the next part of our open source evolution.
Our platform — the one that powers DEV — is built for empowering community, and it's called Forem.
What is Forem?
Forem is open source software for building communities. Communities for your peers, customers, fanbases, families, friends, and any other time and space where people need to come together to be part of a collective. Being part of a community serves so many different purposes depending on context, and we hope the idea of what constitutes a community will expand as creators like you get creating.
Each Forem will live online as its own independent web application with its own standalone databases, authentication mechanisms, configuration, dedicated URL, etc. Alongside this independence, our vision is for Forems to be highly compatible with one another in order to build a cohesive ecosystem where members of multiple Forems can move seamlessly between community apps — even if those apps do not share any data about the individual.
This is where ideals around privacy, inclusion, and an open and equal web need to meet with a passion for product development and excellence in user experience — we expect we are only at the beginning of this journey. We don't intend to build niche open source software that only appeals to a technical crowd; we resolve, along with you, to build universally accessible, delightful, and enriching software for everyone.
A new day one
We're not here to immediately bestow perfect software on the world, we're here to bring you along on a shared journey. A journey to unbundle the power dynamic of social networks, to take some old ideas about the web and make them new again, to heighten the focus on protecting our society's most vulnerable, and to empower a diversity of cultures and ideas.
We have a never-ending list of issues, both technical and organizational, to address along the way, and we hope there will be enough ideological and technical buy-in from the community to effectively step from today to tomorrow in terms of our capacity to serve the mission.
What does Forem do?
A fresh Forem comes equipped with basically all the features of DEV:
Join the community, fill out your profile, write posts, read posts, leave comments, react to posts and comments, follow users, follow tags, search the site, receive notifications, create classified listings, listen to podcasts, embed rich content, ingest an RSS feed, report users, block users, become moderators, moderate, send direct messages, participate in group chats, receive achievement badges, configure fonts and themes, export your data, and the list goes on and on depending on what you'd consider a "feature".
If you're reading that list and saying to yourself "holy cow that's a lot", I can assure you that I felt the same way writing it. We have methodically built certain important features while also rushing some things and throwing some things at the wall to see if they stick. That's the nature of building a software project, a community, and a company all at the same time.
As an organization and open source community that works in a distributed, asynchronous style, it's only natural to be somewhat sprawling. But as we take on a big new challenge, it will be important for us to hone in on the kernel of the value and to architect software which serves the community in the most elegant possible way. I am really excited about what that will look like.
If DEV is the first Forem, ThisMMALife is the second. Community member Lee Wynne was the first to take our early indications that this was in the pipeline and to go through a lot of pain to stand up their own community instance. Lee has been a tremendous partner in helping lead the way. You might say the third community is community.benhalpern.com, and there are a few other prototypes and WIP projects in the ether.
We are not yet ready
This is important to say: While I'm glad we're finally putting a name to this next phase of the journey, and reiterating what’s on the horizon, we're still not quite ready for your community.... Getting to “ready” will be a gradual process. As we work out the details of how hosting, deployment, versioning, and compatibility will work, we will initially only support public instances that we host. It's the only practical way to get these spun up effectively right now, and we're not even 100% ready for that... but we're getting closer every single day.
To that end, we want to hear from you if you’re interested in the idea of spinning up a community. It can be for a passion project, a new commercial venture, as an extension to your existing business, or any other reason between and beyond. If that’s you, please get in touch with us by filling out this form. No commitment necessary, just tell us what you’re thinking about building.
Join us as we build
If you are looking to contribute to the software side of things, we have plenty of open issues, but we also ask that you be patient with us as we continuously relearn what it means to manage the code contributions as our platform evolves. As much as we are excited by contributions from folks building with a personal stake in this game, we’ll need to learn together how best to handle this all.
Our repo is still entitled
dev.to but we will be migrating to
forem soon, as that is the name of the software itself — dev.to is simply an instance (albeit an important one).
Some of the first Forems we launch will be meta-forems designed to help facilitate the software development process as well as the administration, moderation and promotion of individual communities.
A taste of the Forem ecosystem
If each Forem is its own web application with its own configuration and plugins, we foresee bridge apps within the ecosystem that help tie things together. Native wrappers, specialized browsers, extensions, etc.
For example, I have been running this browser extension locally as a proof of concept, and I have been pleased with the user experience, especially how it works with the service-worker-driven approach of how our pages are rendered. Speed moving between apps is almost as speedy as changing pages within an app.
We have also been conceiving of the experience for a community creator setting up a new Forem. Here is a taste of what to expect from our most recent design critique...
For Empowering Community
It’s a privilege to work on software with purpose — If we get this right over the next few years it will have a really special impact on a lot of lives.
If you’re interested in joining us by building a community of your very own, let us know by filling out this form. Please keep up with our open source project and contribute if you care to. And keep an eye out for entrepreneurial opportunities within the Forem ecosystem.
Happy coding 🌱
Top comments (107)
One major reason why I enjoy working for DEV so much is the company's commitment to transparency, integrity, authenticity and community. I cannot describe how EXCITED I am for Forem! I believe it will be a major game-changer in the online-communities space.
I totally feel the same way — I feel so lucky to be working here.
Ok y'all are making ME want to work there! Sounds like an awesome place!
I grew up spending a lot of time in independent online communities hosted on vBulletin, phpBB, and other forum software. I went to some communities for entertainment, others to learn entrepreneurial and technical skills, and some just for a sense of belonging. I could find my place in these dynamic and culturally rich online spaces.
These communities have largely faded away over the last decade or so, as larger platforms offered a more modern consumer experience (that they're eager to offer in exchange for user data).
Many of the new communities being started these days are forced to build directly on the backs of these giants. They exist as a Group or a sub-space, but they lack the same character and sense of community of their earlier-internet ancestors.
I hope that Forem is able to level the playing field. That now community leaders of all have backgrounds and perspectives are able to build a space that is modern, safe, and independent. That community members can enjoy an engaging and delightful experience, while also knowing that their privacy and safety is being protected.
It's a very big task and it will be a long journey, but I can think of few challenges more worthwhile than working to build software for empowering community.
Exactly! It seems exciting that we get to work on us returning to the way that online communities used to be without the profitizing of people's data.
I've seen a number of small communities crop up lately outside of the major social media bubble. Many are Mastodon instances, but a few are old-style forums.
It's hard to run a community. Really hard. You have to have a mix of technical knowledge, social clout, and pure energy. It's that that is the blocker for creating ecosystems outside of major social media, not the software.
This is very true. Community building is a very special skill, but there's a lot of help an ecosystem can provide. The success of popular Facebook groups, subreddits, etc. is not entirely dependent on the generating buzz and banking on social clout, there's a discovery mechanism and network affect of the platform. Same applies to Slack and Discord.
Just like the web itself is buoyed by browsers and search engines and the native ecosystem runs through app stores etc. there's a lot the ecosystem can do to empower builders. Our hope is that we can provide ecosystem mechanics without necessitating that the ecosystem entirely runs through us.
Being a part of this journey, and working through the challenges to see the DEV codebase take shape for Forem has been absolutely phenomenal. I look forward to this phase where Forem helps to bridge the gaps between people and empower diverse communities. Let's continue writing good software that bring people together! 💜
I'm really excited about this. As someone who started out as a DEV community member years ago who now helps build the platform itself, the technical challenges of extracting and constructing software that works for everyone is really thrilling. I love the idea of taking the great foundation of DEV and extracting it into something that is a delightful experience for any—and maybe one day, every—user of the web who is on the search for a community where they feel like they truly belong. 💖
that is such a great mission! Specially now, I think being a part of a community, whether it is to share your thoughts on a particular book, music taste or simply software stuff 😄. It helps someone to fit in and brings happiness to their lives, at least that's how I feel about it.
This is the coolest thing ever and I'm so excited to see where it goes.
Our learnings from DEV have shaped and help us understand exactly what we’re working towards with Forem. Thank you all for being part of the community, and continuing to build alongside us in the open. We hope you’re as excited about Forem as we are.
Like Ben mentioned, if you’re a community leader with ideals around privacy, inclusion, and an open and equal web, please don’t hesitate to reach out through this form. We’d love to hear from you. ❤️
As a new member of the DEV team (week two!) I can't help but feel that I've joined at the perfect time. I'm really pumped to help serve a community that really is by and for developers, which Forem will reinforce all the more. Being able to communicate a message that is true, through and through, makes my job as content manager enjoyable — and personally sustainable. This is gonna be an awesome journey to witness and participate in. Onward!
It's so exciting to be apart of a team / product / business who wants to tip the "control" of the web back to the people to empower community. I feel like these days — especially most pronounced during the quarantine — we're seeing the importance of people coming together in communities to find and offer support, to find a common ground, to learn something or enrich others. These days though, we also see the stratification of power in who moderates & polices these platforms, so it feels really cool that we can give people the tools to build the webbed communities they want to see.
It's been really neat to see this project grow and unfold. It was also really amazing how each DEV team member, even the much, much less technical ones like me, were given the opportunity to really collaborate on what this thing would look like, and not just from an aesthetics and functionality level, but from a values and ethics standpoint. I couldn't be more proud of the DEV team, and am excited to see what communities y'all build in the future. Hit me up if you make anything related to banjos, podcasts, art/sculpture, biking, or cocktails 😊
Uhhhhh YES I would like an invite to the cocktail community
Let's get the party going
Levi, you could totally start those communities :)
True, I could make it for me and for 'em.
netflix, get this person a special
I’m stoked for Forem. Although I’ve only been working at DEV since January, I’ve been a contributor to the codebase for three years now, so even before the code was public! I’ve seen DEV evolve over these past three years as a code contributor, community member and moderator.
We still have lots of work to do, but seeing an instance up and running like Lee’s is really cool. So to future community administrators and community members, we're giving you the power to make awesome inclusive communities! ⚡
I still think you've been a DEV team member since forever :D
I feel like I hit the Jackpot being the Lead SRE for DEV at a time like this while we roll out this new project. Not only do I get to instill good SRE practices for our DEV community, but I get the challenge of reproducing it so that it applies to many different communities.
We all know that creating a single software application is challenging. Creating one that can be reproduced with a click of a button hundreds of times, even more so. I look forward to tackling that challenge and coming up with new and innovative solutions along the way. I think it's safe to say once our world opens back up and conferences resume there will be plenty of new talk material coming from this girl 😉
I am so grateful that the Dev team enabled me to build our Mixed Martial Arts community, it mirrors the same ethics. 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽
Forever grateful. Amazing platform, love the name, love everything about it 🌈
It's been so awesome working with you, Lee. Very excited to see ThisMMALife continue to grow in the coming weeks, months, and years.
THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH UNICORNS FOR THIS!
hahaha awesome comment :D
I strongly believe in truly owning the data you put online and this is why I joined DEV! Being able to self-host your Forem gives the control back to the end users so their data doesn't get abused by large corporations.
I want to help enable people to build and grow online communities with Free Open Source Software. My systems engineering work here is focused on building a secure, stable, and reproducible platform for Forems to thrive. I am so excited to get to work on such a project with not only my awesome coworkers but our FOSS contributors.
Let's do this!
Awesome news! Good luck on the road ahead and getting it launched.
I love this line and DEV's continued commitment to that vision, keep it up!
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