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What Forum Software should I use?

What are the best (and most widely used) Linux-based message board softwares, and the pros and cons of each. e.g. Security Vulnerabilities, Performance on a cheap server, comes pre-packaged [RPM or DEB].

I am looking for the best message board software for my website. A VPS can run almost any software, so the sky is the limit!

  1. Free, doesn't require unreasonable number of hyperlinks to their website
  2. Security focused / Widely Used, vulnerabilities are found and fixed quick
  3. Easy to keep up-to-date, i.e. prepackaged / auto-update in some way
  4. Moderator features [like pinning / message preamble], account management
  5. Themeable, customize appearance a bit

The contenders appear to be

  • phpBB - Undeniably popular, modular.
  • MyBB - Used to be commercial, great features. LGPL
  • 2
    You might want to try this on webapps.stackexchange.com instead.
    – squillman
    Feb 23, 2011 at 17:23
  • Made this community wiki since it ultimately makes a list of free forums. Also, "the best" is subjective and unless it is CW means it would otherwise get closed.
    – John Conde
    Feb 23, 2011 at 18:58
  • 1
    This is more ranking and polling than a Q&A
    – Eight Days of Malaise
    Feb 24, 2011 at 2:31
  • Identical questions merged
    – John Conde
    Feb 25, 2011 at 5:29
  • What is "1998" about phpBB? It's the most popular forum app, which makes it a huge target for spammers and hackers (but if you stay up-to-date you should be fine), but it's very full-featured and is extensible as well. MyBB looks pretty much the same as phpBB, just with an uglier default skin and interface. And Twitter isn't a forum of any kind. Hosted forums are services like Hoop.la/Eve (used by the Discovery channel), Proboards and Lefora. Though most of these hosted forum sites look terrible. Feb 25, 2011 at 8:07

7 Answers 7


8 Resources for Message Boards (Web 2.0)

phpBB and VBulletin are the most widely used by far.

I found phpBB easy to setup, maintain and easy to modify as well Never used vBulletin , but I have seen it in use with many hi-traffic sites

Alternative to administering your own BB is to use a hosted version. Trust me the pain in managing a BB will change your mind. ProBoards seems to be popular.

I guess you need to consider what type of traffic you are going to get in to which features you may need in your BB. BB are always going to be targets for security issues, due to there makeup.

  • vBulletin is no good, he wanted a freeware solution. Feb 23, 2011 at 22:05
  • I would give +1 for that link. It is useful
    – unixman83
    Feb 25, 2011 at 4:45

MyBB all the way. It used to be commercial but now is LGPL and open developed. Compared to vBulliten, as a free alternative. Has extensive moderation features and a reputation (warning) system. The module system is great and useful.

  • This is a really great looking software!
    – unixman83
    Feb 25, 2011 at 5:07

You should look into bbPress Its the fastest one available and easily customisable and can be extended with plugins. A lot like WordPress. And you can tightly integrate user tables, login, theme with your WordPress installation.

  • Dropbox forums use bbPress, too.
    – Uwe Keim
    Feb 25, 2011 at 18:29
  • 1
    @Uwe WordPress support forums too. And some really large forums with 1 million+ posts too. It has a very good architecture.
    – Ashfame
    Feb 25, 2011 at 18:48

We are using an installation of the (commercial) forum software from Woltlab.

We have chosen Woltlab because it provided the best end-user experience in our evaluation. It has a WYSIWYG editor for postings.

While the end user GUI is rather high-quality, I discovered that customizing the forum software was rather ugly; I ended up doing a mix of manual file modifications and changing administration settings in the GUI.

So from an end-user perspective I would still recommend Woltlab; for customizing it, I would not recommend it.

  • You shouldn't do any code hacking in WBB3. Almost everything can be achieved using plugins and/or template patches. Mar 10, 2011 at 11:15
  • @ThiefMaster That "almost" unfortunately does not include replacing the Windows-XP-style icons with more modern ones. So basically this was all I wanted to achieve and it was a real nightmare since there seems to be no logic in which folder which icons are stored. (This is the result BTW, which is still far from perfect, but good enough for our needs.)
    – Uwe Keim
    Mar 11, 2011 at 6:53

Try Vanilla. I don't want to list any arguments against phpBB nor do I want to share good and bad experience, just my favorite under-appreciated suggestion.

  • Too... Vanilla... it looks like a pale version of the twitter site
    – unixman83
    Feb 25, 2011 at 5:15

When I was running my own forums, I found Simple Machines Forum (SMF) to be an excellent forum. There was good security for blocking users and the administration section would always "dial home" to make sure your site was up to date.

There is also a good skinning environment for SMF, with a wide variety of skins out there, both free and premium. The mods/plugin model is well established as well, which allows you to transform your forum into a mini CMS (for hosting files/articles) if you need to go that route.

SMF is free and typically the only "linking" you need is a small text or banner link at the bottom of your site.

  • Simple Machines Forum has been mentioned. They do not allow any redistribution, even of unmodified copies without written consent. This makes it hard to install on other people's websites!
    – unixman83
    Feb 25, 2011 at 17:43

Checkout the similar question and responses here.... https://webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/11901/recommendations-needed-for-forum-software/11907#11907

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