Web forums may seem like an unexciting idea given the increasingly public and real-time nature of Web discourse. But the aging medium still has some tricks up its sleeve.
Unlike Lefora, Talki is not a forum system designed to be integrated into just your site. Instead, it's a distributed chatter box that can be placed in on a single page or post, as well as on the site of anyone else who embeds it. In other words, the discussion is not limited to one community or content creator.
"With Talki we're targeting a different demographic," Talki's co-founder Paul Bragiel told CNET on Thursday. "We're not going after super hard-core forum users that want to mod the hell out of everything. It's for the 'hey I have a blog, and it's a very big audience, and I'd like to have my users talking to each other,' or 'hey I'm a large media entity and I want to have a couple big sites and put them up very quickly.'"
Bragiel says the company was contemplating creating a "lite" version of Lefora but what came out of development was too different of a product to have in the same brand or category. "Working on Lefora we realized that there are these two types of users that want forums. These hard-core users who wanted to tweak every single option...and then we saw these people who have Web sites or commerce sites and who wanted something clean and simple, but not necessarily with all those features."
The result is a stripped-down version of a forum that's still quite similar to Lefora but one that requires less set-up. For instance, Talki can be set to automatically detect the look of your site and change its coloring to match. And on the user end, people don't even need a Lefora account--they can use Facebook or Twitter to log-in instead.
The one challenge it faces though is competing with existing commenting systems, something Bragiel said he thinks Talki can peacefully coexist with. "Comments still thrive off of a stub--the main page. Somebody reads an article and it's always the editor of a site. And then comments kind of come off it," Bragiel said. "Here, this is a purely main-to-main discussion. So anyone can go out there and create their own discussion...and everyone has control to do this."
As for the moderation of these discussions, that's still something needs to be managed by the creator of the Talki widget--at least for now. Bragiel said that Lefora users and customers have been asking the company to offer a moderation service, especially on the enterprise side. "We've thought about it," Bragiel said, "I've never been a big enterprise guy myself. Every single company I've done has been consumer-oriented."
On the business side of things, Talki is free to use but caps off the number of forum topics that can be created, as well as how many recent topics can be seen. Forum creators can pay for one of several premium service tiers that allow for unlimited topics and replies, as well as things like custom branding and live customer service.
Update at 10:25 p.m. PST: I've removed the embedded Talki widget from this post, as it was causing some users to experience problems reading the post. If you want to give it a spin, you can tool around with one of the company's example forums here.
Update at 10:50 a.m. PST on April 25: The embedded widget is back and after the page jump. It wasn't playing nice with one of the widgets on our site, but it works now.