Planted tank.net is one of the greatest web site success stories of our hobby. It was started in 2002 by hobbyist Kyle Thielk, a software engineer in Austin Texas, at a time when there was not any internet forums dedicated solely to aquarium plants. During this time, hobbyists discussed plants in general aquarium forums such as Aquaria Central and Age of Aquariums. The only place people could go to discuss nothing but plants at that time was an email listserv club that was rapidly declining in popularity. A year later I started a forum and in 2004 Aquatic Plant Central was founded.
From a very crude beginning, The Planted Tank site grew quickly over its first two or three years and began several facelifts. As the site expanded and grew, various people came and went, but no matter how many people left more people kept coming several times over, and although it always attracted a wide range of hobbyists at all different skill levels, it maintained the look and feel of a hobbyist run web site for hobbyists and without any allegiance to commercial interests. What started as a showcase for Kyle’s aquariums, who nobody in the hobby had ever heard of before, became a showcase for the hobby itself with Kyle taking backseat but always at the reins.
Now things have changed. The site has been sold to Verticalscope, a Canadian company that owns hundreds of community forum web sites, and a division called Petguide.com. As the new management took over the site, Plantedtank.net is just shy of two million posts and 57,000 members, a feat that has no equal in our hobby.
What does the future hold for the now corporate owned web site? The success of a public internet forum rest solely with it’s membership. As long as the people keep coming it will continue to be successful. If it continues to be well managed it is unlikely much will change. Large corporations usually leave sites like this intact with little or no cosmetic change or change in staff. If you did not have a problem with the moderator staff before the sell out, you shouldn’t have any problem with them now. Basically the same people with the same policy will still be in charge.
Don’t expect huge improvements though either. If it ain’t broke, they ain’t gonna fix it.
It will be interesting to see if there is any migration away from the site to the still hobbyist run aquarium plant forums. The most likely to benefit would be Tom Barr’s web site, (The Barr Report) and Orlando’s forum, http://www.aquaticplantenthusiasts.com. APC may have declined sharply after its corporate take over, but I suspect Planted Tank will be around for a very long time.