Archiving The Orange Belt Forums

edited July 28 in General

Summary up front: The Orange Belt Forums are closing and will switch to a read-only archival mode by August 12th, 2023. But the community lives on in a Discord server, and we’d love to see you there!

Now, a proper opening: hello friends! It’s Mario, your friendly Orange Belt administrator. I hope the intervening years have been treating you well, and that you’re all on good trajectories in your lives. For some of us, it’s been a very long time since we’ve last spoken, and I imagine you’ve all grown and changed a lot since then. I like to think I have! Through it all, I’ve been hosting The Orange Belt Forums, originally a vBulletin install and later migrated to Vanilla. Your account is probably still here!

The forums haven’t been all that active in the past decade or so. Please note that this isn’t a bad thing; this community has always been one of ongoing flux and transition, moving from Top Web Comics to Inksandwich to our latest little corner of the Internet, with newcomers joining and the old guard stepping away as life necessitated. The webcomics and other projects that originally stood as the foundation of our community’s discussions gradually phased out over time (as any artistic effort ultimately should), and they left a hole that never really got filled. All that, combined with a general Internet-wide shift away from forums as centers of discussion, meant our posting frequency eventually fizzled to nothing.

Even with all that, the forums could theoretically continue to exist indefinitely, collecting dust while remaining usable, but after all this time I’ve run into unavoidable issues of technical debt and financial barriers. The version of PHP that the forum’s Vanilla install requires (7.4) is end-of-life, and DreamHost is dropping support for it on August 12th, 2023. I’ve made several efforts to update PHP and Vanilla to address this, but Higher Logic also stopped providing meaningful support for their open-source build of Vanilla long ago (moving their customers to paid solutions hosted on their own servers), and the OSS build isn’t playing nice with PHP 8.x. DreamHost is allowing PHP 7.4 to stick around if a given customer requires it, but similarly will require a paid support tier for the convenience. Ultimately, I no longer possess the technical means to upgrade these aging forums, and with their years of inactivity I also lack the financial incentive to maintain them.

As a result, I’ve decided to retire our forum installation. However, I couldn’t bring myself to delete it entirely.

Though it was a narrow slice of Internet in the broad scheme, we were a community that grew together over the course of around 20 years. People matured, friendships and relationships were forged and lost and found, and identities were discovered, all under the banner of a few bulletin board applications and a steadily growing database of silly GIFs. The Orange Belt members have given birth, moved around the world and back, and even had some in-person meetups. It wouldn’t feel right to cast that all into the ether like so many other abandoned relics of Web 2.0. I feel an immense sense of responsibility as a caretaker for this community over the years, and I don’t want to dismiss what was a formative period for many people, including myself. I can’t do that to all of you.

So I’m keeping it. The jokes, the holiday celebrations, the spambot apocalypses, the well-wishes, the cries for help, names and identities and pronouns old and new. It’s all going to stay on The Orange Belt dot org, frozen in time from the final post (which could well be this message), a lasting testament to a community of webcomic geeks who found each other and decided that each other was pretty good. I’m freezing the forums, removing all the broken software dependencies, and turning it all into good ol’-fashioned static HTML and CSS, where it will remain in perpetuity. As long as I have the ability to host files on the Internet, this site will stay up (I’ll also keep offline copies and backups of the database). I can’t save everything (poll posts sadly didn’t survive the Vanilla migration, and any remaining posts from TWC, Inksandwich, and the first year of The Orange Belt only exist in the Internet Archive at this point), but whatever I’ve got, it’s here for you all.

What, then, becomes of the community? Though the early bus routes will be gone, our adventure continues on Discord! It’s a small group at the moment, but The Orange Belt server ( has been running on Discord since 2017, posting is much more active than the forum has been for years, and it’s open for all community members past and present to join (DM me on Discord @ wavebirddash or another server member for an invite, or check your email if the one you had on file still works). Discord is free to sign up, and we’d love to see you again! Whatever happens with The Orange Belt in the future, we’ll figure that next chapter out together on Discord.

The forums had a good run, probably longer than most such bulletin boards could have ever hoped for. I’m grateful for the time we all spent together there, and I’m glad to have gotten to know you in that unique mid-2000s way of posting our thoughts on a wall and feeling the thrill of a response from a kindred spirit. We all shared a special connection; when you move through the world, you send ripples that touch everyone you meet, and those ripples persist in you and in them. I hope to talk to you all again soon, maybe on Discord, maybe an email or a text or a phone call, maybe in person. In any case, please know that I will carry and cherish those ripples wherever I go, for the rest of my days.

I love you all,
Mario Panighetti (he/they)