If you were to ask me this question a few years ago, I would probably give you a spiel about pros and cons of each and recommend one based on your circumstances and requirements. However, today, my answer to the question “Newsfeed or Discussion Board” will be short. Don’t use either of these. Let me explain.
What is a Newsfeed (Site Feed)?
Site Feed is a default web part that you get by default, embedded on a page from the out of the box Team Site template in SharePoint. It consists of a text box, and as users add text, it presents content in Twitter-style format.
Moreover, you can use Twitter characters like @ for mentions and # (hashtags) for topics, as well as include images in the discussion.
When you mention someone in the discussion using @ character, those users will be notified by email.
All the individual feeds from the various sites are aggregated in one Newsfeed location accessible via Newsfeed tile.
You can participate in the discussions from either the sites themselves or from that single Newsfeed location.
There is also an area that gives you a summary of sites followed + an area to access hashtags (#)/topics.
What is a Discussion Board?
Discussion Board is an out of the box web part which can be added to the site, just like any other web part. Unlike built-in Site Feed, it is a SharePoint list dressed up as a forum-style discussion.
Just like web forums out there, users can start discussions/topics and then others can respond.
Unlike Site Feed, @ mentions and # hashtags are not compatible. Also, individual discussions from separate sites are not aggregated in a single spot.
Since this is a SharePoint list, users can view discussions in other views, which can be grouped and filtered accordingly.
Moreover, since, once again it is a SharePoint list, users can do same operations as with any other list – set up alerts for example.
The list also has Management/Moderation section which allows featuring of certain discussions.
Once featured, the discussions are displayed under Featured section (view).
So, why neither one? Well, both the Newsfeed and Discussion Board were early attempts by Microsoft to make SharePoint more dynamic and social. However, both are limited in terms of functionality and are not user-friendly. In reality, both lack the true social aspect you would expect from such tools. Especially, if you start comparing to the modern experiences on mainstream social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
With that being said, in the last few years, a series of tools released by Microsoft gave Office 365 users an edge in terms of social features. Yammer, Office 365 Groups, Microsoft Teams, Planner provide much more extensive social features which integrate well not just with SharePoint sites, but also other Office 365 properties. So in case you are looking to bring a social aspect to your Intranet or project teams sites – I suggest you consider these new modern tools in place of Newsfeed and the Discussion Board.
An example of Microsoft Teams User Interface.