Most of you will have noticed: Shmukh, easily the most important Jihadist internet forum, has been down for a week or so by now. They are now running a banner saying they will be back up "in the shortest time possible". That may mean another couple of days, judging by experience.
What we are seeing here is by no means unique or new. Over the past years, this has happened roughly every 12 - 18 months or so. The interesting thing is, that we rarely learn for certain what the reasons were. Sometimes the outage seemed to have been related to arrests of administrators or people close to them. Sometimes it appeared as though the sites were brought down by crude force. And in at least one case it was fairly clear that while there was an arrest first, the folks who arrested the administrator (and who were state actors) chose to ran the site themselves for a few days. (Not a bad idea, from there point of view, I'd argue.)
Over time, a pattern emerged: Every major outage is an occasion for newer or second tier forums to grow large(r) and (more) important. Some of you might remember the names of the top tier forums of earlier times like falluja, ekhlaas, firdaws, hikma or even ma'sada... all gone for good. (Does anyone of you still remember what was there before forums grew important? Anyone? I am referring to Abu Banan's mailing list of course, but that's just an aside..)
However, every time a major forum goes down for a while, users start wondering whether it is still trustworthy once it re-emerges. Judging from the chatter on the forums, I would dare say that generally speaking many users in fact don't really trust the forums that much anymore. Or to be more precise: they trust the terrorist content that they find there, like AQ-C videos or claims of responsibly by the AQ branches, etc. But they are, in not so few cases, not really sure anymore, who runs the forums and does exactly what with them.
They still come back though, because they "need" the "stuff" and want to be part of the scene and because they experience teaches them that it s not really dangerous to visit the forums and read or even post. But in my opinion the degree of easiness with which people used to chat and comment and discuss on the forums has gone down a fair deal over the years.
Maybe I am wrong, or I read too selectively. Maybe not. I can't be sure. Only of one thing, of course: Forums will be back, in one form or another. And they will keep fulfilling the same function they have now. Give them a couple of days...