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What Forum Software should I use?

I'm going to be setting up a few internet forums to test out the software. I was going to be doing this with vBulletin, but they don't let you download a trial version.

Could anyone make any suggestions of any good forum packages and their advantages and disadvantages? (And maybe forum software in general pros and cons.) The forums will be hosted on a Ubuntu Linux virtual machine using Apache.

EDIT: I should also point out that one with better security would be desirable - although if I'm honest my expectations on that front are low :P

  • 1
    it would help if you state what you need instead of just asking a random question
    – yoda
    Dec 21, 2010 at 18:24
  • What specifically do you mean by "better security"?
    – rlb.usa
    Dec 21, 2010 at 19:35

5 Answers 5


Invision Power Board:

Within the past year, I started a successful Invision Power Board (IP.Board). It's the other large contender in premium forum software.

Love IPBoard. Solid software. Contemporary design and coding decisions. After using vBulletin for so long, IPBoard feels like a forum platform made by the guys that created Wordpress. Very useable, solid administration backend, and includes a lot of core functionality that vBullet painfully doesn't have.

Scales very well out of the box. Low performance requirements. Highly recommended.

It's also very easy to skin if you know the basics of CSS.


Pretty much the status quo for free forum software. Massive community. Massive amount of modifications. Every question you have has been asked. Highly recommended

I doubt I'll ever pay for forum software again. It's unnecessary and support isn't that helpful anyways. The only real problem with forum software is, down the road, high load on the server. But that's such a big cross-that-bridge-when-you-get-there issue and there are plenty of resources for all forum platforms.

Runner Up: Simple Machines: Clean. Good performance. But I only did some coding work on it for another forum and didn't get a big look at it beyond what I saw.

Those are the only platforms I have experience with. My basic advice is to try IPBoard out (they have a free trial hosted right on their website) and then give some free options a try. Explore the respective communities and make your decision based on what feels the best to you and what community seems to be able to answer your particular questions the best.


I own an active vBulletin forum (for three years now) that averages 1,100 users logging in each day, and I highly advise against going with vBulletin. Ever since v4.0 and the buyout of the original developer, vBulletin has had an increasing rift in its community. It's been over a year since v4.0 has been out and I, along with many other big board owners, are staying at v3.8.x for the foreseeable future.

I'll change forum software before I upgrade vBulletin. In general, vBulletin feels like you're dealing with sold software, and you really are. It's meticulous and badly designed. vBulletin was great in the mid 2000s, but current vB feels like they just kept monkey-patching their core product rather than renovating it.

HOWEVER, due to vB's entrenched popularity, it has a great modification community with a huge assortment of modifications. But a lot of them are just making up for core functionality that vB lacks, or they're bells and whistles, or they're modules already replicated on other forum softwares.

vBulletin also scales pretty poorly out of the box.


Well, phpBB is one you could try. It seems to be free.

  • In addition, it is extremely popular, and has been for many years, so it offers well-tested solutions to some common webforum-related problems. Dec 22, 2010 at 16:48
  • Some of the disadvantages to phpBB are the slow reaction to security flaws (It is a high-risk application, as it is quite popular) in the past and a hard to skin template system.
    – Paul
    Dec 23, 2010 at 1:06

I'm very much a fan of MyBB. In my experience, it runs faster than phpBB and SMF, and is easier to use than IPB / vBulletin (as well as cheaper).

FluxBB / PunBB are also great light-weight alternatives.

  • I'm adding my vote to MyBB. It's lightweight, very similar to vNulletin in features, is well-maintained and has regular security updates. The latest 1.6 version is extremely well thought out and while there is a general lack of premium themes, it is a very simple forum to skin/theme, unlike phpBB, IPB/etc.
    – Paul
    Dec 22, 2010 at 13:18

Simple Machines (smf) - used to be known as YABB


phpBB is useful for starters but if you want simple platforms you should check bbpress, Mingle and Vanilla Forums.

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