Comparison of Internet forum software

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This article outlines the general features commonly found in various Internet forum software packages. It highlights major features that the manager of a forum might want and should expect to be commonly available in different forum software. These comparisons do not include remotely hosted services (such as ProBoards, ZetaBoards, ...) which use their own proprietary software, rather than offering a package for download which webmasters can host by themselves.

General information[edit]

Basic general information about the forums: creator/company, license/price etc.

Creator Latest release date Current stable version Programming language License
bbPress [1] WordPress Foundation 2014-06-06 2.5.4 PHP GPL
Beehive Forum [2] Project Beehive Forum Developers 2014-08-04 1.4.4 PHP GPL
Boardsolution [3] Script-Solution 2014-01-06 1.45 PHP GPL2
CipherPixel [4] CipherPixel.net 2014-08-19 1.0 PHP, Ajax
Dinette [5] Agiliq 2010-10-22 1.2a Python BSD License
Discourse [6] Civilized Discourse Construction Kit, Inc. 2014-11-06 1.1.0 Ruby, Javascript GPL
Discuz! [7] Comsenz Inc. 2013-09-23 X3.1 PHP Discuz! EULA (proprietary, gratis for non-commercial use)
ElkArte[8] ElkArte Forum Contributors 2014-10-05 1.01 PHP BSD License
esoTalk [9] Toby Zerner 2014-05-17 1.0.0g4 PHP GPL
eXo Platform [10] eXo Platform SAS 2014-01-25 4.0.4 Java LGPL
FlaskBB [11] FlaskBB Team 2014-06-23 Alpha Python BSD License
FluxBB [12] FluxBB.org Developers 2014-01-09 1.5.6 PHP GPL
ForumFive [13] David Pennington 2013-03-11 Alpha PHP MIT
Forum Monster [14] Mike Kelley 2013-07-03 Alpha Ruby MIT
FUDforum[15] Ilia Alshanetsky and community 2013-10-06 3.0.5 PHP GPL
GitRap [16] Codebox 2013-12-21 Alpha JavaScript Apache License
Iko [17] Codetana 2014-06-02 1.3.4 PHP MIT
Ikonboard [18] Matt Mecham (original creator) Joshua Johnson 2011-11-01 3.1.5A Perl Proprietary
Invision Power Board [19] Invision Power Services Inc. 2014-10-16 3.4.7 PHP Proprietary
Helprace [20] Helprace 2014-11-14 5.21 PHP Proprietary
Luna [21] Luna Group 2014-12-04 0.1.3361 PHP GPL
MVCForum [22] Aptitude 2014-09-06 1.5 ASP.NET MVCForum Public License
Misago [23] Rafał Pitoń 2014-10-29 0.5.5 Python GPL
ModernBB [24] Luna Group 2014-12-06 3.6.1 PHP GPL
MyBB [25] MyBB Group 2014-11-20 1.8.3 PHP LGPL
NodeBB [26] NodeBB Inc. 2014-09-17 0.5.0 Node.js GPL
NoNonsense Forum [27] Kroc Camen 2013-02-26 v25 PHP CC BY 3.0
Phorum [28] Brian Moon 2012-08-24 5.2.19 PHP Phorum License 2 (BSD like)
Phosphorum 2 [29] Phalcon 2014-03-14 Alpha PHP BSD License
PHPWind [30] Hangzhou Detian Information Technology Co. Ltd 2013-04-11 9.0 PHP PHPWind EULA (proprietary, gratis for non-commercial use)
phpBB [31] phpBB Ltd. 2014-11-25 3.1.2 PHP GPL
PlushForums [32] Plush Content Ltd. 2014-08-01 1.30 PHP Proprietary
PunBB [33] PunBB 2012-02-10 1.4.2 PHP GPL
pyForum [34] Julio Flores-Schwarzbeck 2011-08-17 1.1.1 Python BSD License
Saito [35] Schlaefer 2014-09-28 4.3.1 PHP MIT
Simple Machines Forum [36] Simple Machines 2014-10-02 2.0.9 PHP BSD License
Snitz Forums 2000 [37] Snitz Communications 2009-03-16 3.4.07 ASP GPL
Spirit [38] Esteban Castro Borsani 2014-08-18 0.1.3 Python MIT License
Syndie [39] Anonymous (related to I2P) 2014-01-20 1.105b Java Open source, multiple licenses
Zimbra Community [40] Zimbra, Inc 2014-03-31 8.0 ASP.NET Proprietary
UBB.classic [41] Social Strata 2005-09-16 6.7.3 Perl Proprietary
UBB.threads [42] UBB Systems, LLC 2013-12-15 7.5.8 PHP Proprietary
Vanilla Forums [43] Vanilla Forums 2014-10-31 2.1.5 PHP GPL
vBulletin [44] vBulletin Solutions Inc. 2014-09-08 5.1.3 PHP Proprietary
Webkosa [45] Elliptics, Ltd. 2013-06-19 1.0 C, Javascript MIT Licence
Wedge [46] René-Gilles Deberdt 2014-04-15 Alpha PHP BSD License
XenForo [47] XenForo Ltd. 2014-10-14 1.4.2 PHP Proprietary
XMB Forum [48] XMB Group. 2012-02-04 1.9.11 PHP GPL
YAF.NET [49] YetAnotherForum.NET & Ingo Herbote 2014-06-02 2.1.2 ASP.NET Apache License
Creator Latest release date Current stable version Programming language License

Features[edit]

Flat Threaded User-selectable themes Calendar Image attachment Unread message tracking WYSIWYG Editor
bbPress Yes Yes No No Plugin Plugin Yes (using TinyMCE)
Beehive Forum Yes Yes Yes No Yes Full Yes (using TinyMCE)
Boardsolution Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Full Yes
Discourse Yes Yes No No Yes Full No
Discuz! Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ElkArte Yes No Yes Yes Yes Full Yes
eXo Platform Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
FluxBB Yes No Yes No Plugin Session No
FUDforum Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Full Yes
Helprace Yes Yes No No Yes Full Yes
Iko Yes No Yes No Planned Yes Yes
Ikonboard Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Session No
Invision Power Board Yes Yes Yes Plugin Yes Full Yes
ModernBB Yes No Yes No No Session Yes
MyBB Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Full Yes
NodeBB Yes No No No Yes Yes No
Phorum Yes Yes Yes No Yes Full Yes
phpBB Yes No Yes Plugin Yes Full Planned
PunBB Yes Plugin Yes Plugin Plugin Session Plugin
Saito No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Preview
Simple Machines 1 Yes No Yes Yes Yes Full No
Simple Machines 2 Yes No Yes Yes Yes Full Yes
Snitz Forums 2000 Yes No No No No Yes No
Syndie Yes Yes No No Yes Full Yes
Zimbra Social Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
UBB.classic Yes No No No No Session No
UBB.threads Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Full Planned (Version 8.0)
Vanilla Forums Yes No Yes No Plugin Yes Plugin
vBulletin Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Full Yes
Webcrossing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Webkosa Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
XenForo Yes Yes Yes No Yes Full Yes
XMB Forum Yes Yes Yes No Yes Full No
Flat Threaded User-selectable themes Calendar Image attachment Unread message tracking WYSIWYG Editor

Data storage[edit]

Information about what data storage system can be used.

MySQL PostgreSQL MSSQL Oracle SQLite NoSQL Firebird Flat file
bbPress Yes No No No No No No No
Beehive Forum Yes No No No No No No No
Boardsolution Yes No No No No No No No
Discourse No Yes No No No No No No
Discuz! Yes Yes No No No No No No
ElkArte Yes Yes No No No No No No
eXo Platform Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No
FluxBB Yes Yes No No Yes (SQLite 2)[50] No No No
FUDforum Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No
Helrpace Yes No No No No No No No
Iko Yes No No No No No No No
Ikonboard Yes Yes No Yes No No No Yes
Invision Power Board Yes No Yes No No No No No
kusaba Yes No No No No No No No
ModernBB Yes No No No Yes (SQLite 2)[51] No No No
MyBB Yes Yes No No Yes No No No
NodeBB No No No No No Yes (Redis, MongoDB, LevelDB)[52] No No
Phorum Yes Yes No No No No No No
phpBB Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes (SQLite 2)[53] No Yes No
PunBB Yes Yes No No Yes No No No
Simple Machines 1 Yes No No No No No No No
Simple Machines 2 Yes Yes No No Yes No No No
Snitz Forums 2000 Yes No Yes No Yes No No No
Syndie Yes (HSQLDB) No No No No No No No
Zimbra Social No No Yes No No No No No
UBB.classic No No No No No No No Yes
UBB.threads Yes No No No No No No No
Vanilla Forums Yes No No No No No No No
vBulletin Yes No No No No No No No
XenForo Yes No No No No No No No
XMB Forum Yes No No No No No No No
MySQL PostgreSQL MSSQL Oracle SQLite NoSQL Firebird Flat file

Feature explanation[edit]

Below is a brief explanation for each of the features compared in the subarticles. For a forum to qualify for a feature, the functionality must be available out of the box, not as an add-on, plugin, etc.

Flat vs. threaded[edit]

  • A flat forum is one where each message is added onto the end of the discussion, with no set relation to any prior messages (other than being on the same discussion topic — except in case of Off-Topic posting). But, there is normally a feature to 'quote' another user's post, to allow referencing back to other posts.
  • A threaded forum is one where users can specify their message is a reply to an existing message. Threaded forums can display relationships between message topics and associated replies, such as by indenting replies and placing them below the post they reference. Threaded forums are most commonly used for discussions where individual messages tend to be short, such as on social news sites (e.g. Slashdot or reddit), or in commenting systems like Disqus.

Duplicate thread prevention[edit]

Many users do not bother to search a forum and directly create new threads to seek an answer to a question. On some forums, when the user types a new thread subject, the forum software brings up similar threads automatically on the side. This helps keep the number of redundant threads (or the overall forum pollution) to a lower level as users who neglect to search for a topic and are posting a thread may find the answer to their question as they are creating the new thread. Instead of having to search the forum, and then creating a thread if there is no satisfying answer, duplicate thread prevention allows the user to go and seek the answer to a topic. An example is Stack Overflow.

User-selectable themes[edit]

Most forums provide an option for the forum owner to customize the look and feel. Some forums also allow the administrator to create multiple styles or themes, and allow the user to choose which one they wish to view. Themes may simply be a different set of colors and graphics, or they may involve a different layout to the forum, such as one optimized for small-screen devices.

Calendar[edit]

Some forums provide calendar functionality for storing events and appointments, either per-user or as a forum-wide shared calendar.

Image attachments[edit]

Most forums provide the option for a user to upload an image along with a message posting. This is usually accompanied by a space limit (e.g. 1MB per user) to prevent users from filling up the forum host's webspace. Some forums also allow other types of files to be uploaded. Some allow inline linking to images hosted on image hosting services.

One major usability issue is whether images can be uploaded to a forum and displayed inline in message postings easily (or at all). The presence of "image attachment uploading" does not imply that in-message display of images within the flow of message text is possible (or if possible, easy to achieve).

Unread message tracking[edit]

Unread message tracking refers to the way that is used by forum software to track and display messages that have not yet been read by the current user. This can be one of the following:

  • Session — when a user's session starts, this method relies on the user's "last visit time" to display all messages created since that date as unread. Everything that was posted before "last visit time" is considered "read" regardless of whether the user has actually seen it or not. Until the user's session expires, this method properly tracks read/unread messages, starting with messages that were selected as "unread" when the user's session started. This method is broadly used, due to the simplicity and speed benefits of only storing and checking against a single database value.
  • Full — forum software which properly tracks what messages have been read or unread by each user, regardless of user session expiration. Some forum software also allows the user to 'mark as unread', so that they can come back to a message later.

Forum spam defenses[edit]

Most forums are at risk of continuous attack by forum spammers, largely promoting websites with no relevance to the forum's niche. Systems vary in how they are geared to defense, and checking the offering is an important consideration before selection. A forum cannot succeed unless there is an effective system of defense, and an efficient set of tools for spam removal.

CAPTCHAs are a common feature used among most internet forum software and are often used to prevent automated registrations.

Banning or deleting membership should come as standard, with the ability to blacklist the username, email address or IP address for variable time spans.

Reference to an anti-forum spam database can be built into the forum software, or offered as add-ons for specific databases.

User-friendly URLs[edit]

Main article: Semantic URL

Human-friendly forum URLs do not have a query string and instead contain only the path of the topic. A user-unfriendly URL may contain cryptic parameters, numeric IDs, or file type extensions (e.g. .php) that do not matter to the user and could change if the forum is reimplemented using a different programming language. User-friendly URLs are easy to remember and to type, and may enhance search engine optimization (SEO).

  • user-unfriendly URL example: http://example.com/forum/index.php?t=rview&th=120029
  • user-friendly URL example: http://example.com/usability-issues/user-friendly-urls

In most forum software packages, human-friendly URLs are an afterthought implemented via web server rewrite rules, and URLs often contain a numeric ID which represents the thread, while the remainder of the URL can in reality be any string: http://example.com/forum/12345/lets-use-friendly-urls and http://example.com/forum/12345/bogus-path-actually point to the same thread, http://example.com/forum/12345/.

The only non-controversial counter-argument to using user-friendly URLs is that they would be leaked in the HTTP referrer header field when a user clicks on an external link from a post, which is undesirable for private (sub)forums, since a URL derived from the topic title could convey sensitive information.[54] This issue can be resolved by rewriting external links to point to a redirection page that performs referer hiding.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://bbpress.org/
  2. ^ http://beehiveforum.net/
  3. ^ http://www.boardsolution.de
  4. ^ http://cipherpixel.net
  5. ^ https://github.com/agiliq/Dinette
  6. ^ http://www.discourse.org/
  7. ^ http://discuz.eu/
  8. ^ http://www.elkarte.net
  9. ^ http://esotalk.org/
  10. ^ http://sourceforge.net/projects/exo/
  11. ^ http://flaskbb.org/
  12. ^ http://fluxbb.org/
  13. ^ https://github.com/Xeoncross/forumfive
  14. ^ https://github.com/codezomb/forum_monster
  15. ^ http://fudforum.org/
  16. ^ https://github.com/FriendCode/gitrap
  17. ^ http://iko.im
  18. ^ http://ikonboard.net/
  19. ^ http://www.invisionpower.com/
  20. ^ http://helprace.com/
  21. ^ http://modernbb.be/luna.php
  22. ^ http://www.mvcforum.com/
  23. ^ http://misago-project.org/
  24. ^ http://modernbb.be/
  25. ^ http://www.mybb.com/
  26. ^ http://nodebb.org/
  27. ^ http://camendesign.co.uk/code/nononsense_forum
  28. ^ http://www.phorum.org/
  29. ^ http://forum.phalconphp.com/discussion/1675/welcome-to-phosphorum-2
  30. ^ http://www.phpwind.net/
  31. ^ https://www.phpbb.com/
  32. ^ https://plushforums.com/
  33. ^ http://punbb.informer.com/
  34. ^ http://pyforum.org/
  35. ^ http://saito.siezi.com
  36. ^ http://www.simplemachines.org
  37. ^ http://forum.snitz.com/
  38. ^ http://spirit-project.com/
  39. ^ https://www.syndie.de/
  40. ^ http://community.zimbra.com/
  41. ^ https://www.ubbcentral.com/
  42. ^ https://www.ubbcentral.com/
  43. ^ http://vanillaforums.org/
  44. ^ http://www.vbulletin.com/
  45. ^ http://sourceforge.net/projects/webkosa/
  46. ^ http://wedge.org/
  47. ^ https://xenforo.com/
  48. ^ http://www.xmbforum2.com/
  49. ^ http://yetanotherforum.net/
  50. ^ https://github.com/punbb/punbb#requirements
  51. ^ https://github.com/ModernBB/ModernBB#requirements
  52. ^ https://docs.nodebb.org/en/latest/configuring/databases.html
  53. ^ http://tracker.phpbb.com/browse/PHPBB3-9728
  54. ^ Frèrejean, Erik. "SEO URLs". phpBB "Arsia" 3.2 Development. Area51 phpBB. Retrieved 2011-06-25.