It occurs to me that the ideal forum probably would have these three attributes.
Compare some real conversation platforms.
(I don't at all understand the popularity of Discord.)
Replies and references are separate types of links. Very often, a user wants to reply to one comment (and implicitly request a response from its author by sending an alert to that person) but merely reference another comment (without seeking to include its author in the conversation).
According to section 3.6.4 of RFC 5322, an email message can have multiple parents (i. e., multiple message IDs in the in-reply-to header field). At least one email client (Mutt) allows the user to manually type multiple message IDs into the in-reply-to field of a message. Unfortunately, however, it seems that no email client has embraced this functionality to completely supplant forum software; the universal focus is on showing merely a linear thread.