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The forum offers a set of discussion sections. The work of the forum is to create topics by users in the sections and the subsequent discussion within these topics. A separate topic, in fact, is a thematic guestbook.

Departure from the initial topic of discussion (so-called offtopic, like flooding) (English Off-topic) is often prohibited by forum rules. Compliance with the rules is monitored by moderators and administrators – participants endowed with the ability to edit, move and delete other people’s messages in a specific section or topic, as well as control access to them for individual registered participants, sometimes unregistered guests.

The forums can be used extremely flexible delimitation of access to messages. So, on some forums, reading and creating new messages is available to any random visitors (guests), on others, preliminary registration is required (the most common option) – both forums are called open. A mixed version is also used – when certain topics can be available for recording to all visitors, and others – only to registered participants. In addition to open ones, there are closed forums, access to which is determined personally for each participant by the forum administrators. In practice, it is also quite common that some sections of the forum are publicly available, and the rest is available only to a narrow circle of participants.

When registering, forum members can create profiles – pages with information about this member. In his profile, a forum member can provide information about himself, customize his avatar or a signature automatically added to his messages – depending on his preferences. The signature can be static text or contain graphic pictures, including the so-called. userbars.

Most forums have a private messaging system that allows registered users to communicate individually, similar to e-mail.

Many forums when creating a new topic have the ability to join it polls or polls. At the same time, other forum members can vote or answer the question asked in the topic header without creating a new message in the forum topic.

Each specific forum has its own topic – wide enough to allow lead a multidimensional discussion. Often, several forums are also brought together in one place, which is also called a forum (in a broad sense).

According to the method of forming a set of topics, forums come with a dynamic list of topics and with a constant list of topics. In forums with a dynamic list of topics, ordinary members can create a new topic within the topic of the forum.

Usually the forum has the ability to search its message base.

The forum is different from chat separation of discussed topics and the ability to communicate in non-real time. This is conducive to more serious discussion, as it gives the respondents more time to think about the answer. Forums are often used for various kinds of consultations, in the work of technical support services.