As an Admin of the once mighty and since long-gone Cre8asite Forums, the forum where John Mu started out before joining Google, alongside fellow Googler Pierre Far, and where our members included almost every famous name in SEO back in those times (along with thousands of others you wouldn’t know), I think I have a few insights.
What made people abandon forums to start their own blogs and walled gardens was the issue of ownership. More than a few SEOs questioned ‘giving away’ their knowledge ‘for nothing’ when instead they might leverage the content and the views it got for links and ad impressions, and newsletter sign-ups.
Meanwhile, the forums that created exclusive subscriber only areas were more about excluding those who just stole. It had long, long been an issue for many that not everyone came to a forum to learn. Some came merely to steal. They’d copy entire posts and threads and post it to some other forum or blog as their own. They’d take ideas and articles and attempt to pass them off as their own, even to clients, and what is worse, they often didn’t even really understand the posts they stole.
Even for folks like me, who are entirely happy to help others for free, with no expectation of anything in return, often without credit or even thanks, there was something really, really distasteful about finding our words used in spam emails and attached to things that were basically scams - people knowing nothing about SEO but how to find and steal posts, using them to fool clients out of their money and drag down the reputation of the entire industry.