Vanilla Forums

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Vanilla Forums.png
Original author(s)Mark O'Sullivan
Developer(s)Todd Burry, Tim Gunter, Matt Lincoln Russell, Klaus Burton
Initial release1 July 2006 (2006-07-01)
Stable release
2.6.0 / 14 May 2018; 8 months ago (2018-05-14)
Repository Edit this at Wikidata
Written inPHP
PlatformPHP, MySQL
Size3.8 MB
TypeForum software
LicenseGNU GPL[1]

Vanilla is a Canadian software company founded in 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is both a cloud-based (SaaS) community forum software and an open source community supported software. The company’s main product is Vanilla Cloud.

Its open source product, Vanilla OSS, is a lightweight Internet forum package written in the PHP scripting language using the Garden framework. The software is released under the GNU GPL.[1] Vanilla Forums is free software, standards-compliant, customizable discussion forums. Since 2009 there is also a cloud-hosted version (offered by Vanilla).

Vanilla's open source project was released on 1 July 2006, and has since undergone many changes, the most notable being the complete rewrite between Vanilla OSS and Vanilla Cloud, the latter of the two became the primary product and Vanilla 1 was passed into the hands of other developers.[2]. Vanilla 2, open source is still maintained and supported by the core team.

Vanilla is designed to bring forums back to their roots, providing core functionality with additional features such as emoticons available as plugins.[3]

Business model[edit]

Vanilla Cloud is funded in part by a custom, non-distributed hosted implementation of the software run as a commercial SaaS, by Vanilla Forums, Inc. offering various plans with support options.[4][5][6]

Hosted plans offer many features from the open source version with additional premium add-ons supported by the core team.[7]

Vanilla OSS is supported by the original core team with help by the community.


Vanilla OSS is a free,[8] FOSS, extensable and multi-lingual forum system. The following items describe the open source version:

  • Users can easily set up and maintain a full-featured discussion forum with unlimited categories
  • A variety of community made themes and add-ons are available.[9][10]
  • Single-Sign On[11][12]
  • Social media login[13]
  • Embeddable forums[14]
  • Import from other forums[14]
  • Commenting system for a site[15]
  • Integrates with other FOSS projects, like WordPress[16]


Mark O'Sullivan created an early version of Vanilla to support his own online graphic design and programming community.[17] Between 2002 and 2005, this alpha version of the forum went through many revisions, and the core theming and plugin engines were built, culminating in the release of Vanilla OSS.[18]

Vanilla increased in popularity and was invited to TechStars 2009 in Boulder.[19] At the start of 2010 Vanilla received 500,000 CAD in series A funding.[20] In July 2010, Vanilla Cloud was released, which was a complete rewrite of Vanilla OSS.[21]

Vanilla OSS[edit]

Vanilla OSS has a very lightweight core with a number of optional plugins, including chat, private messages, "Who's Online", and attachments.

The most recent version (2.6.3) was released on September 23, 2018.

Vanilla OSS is still maintained by the Vanilla team with help of the user community.

Vanilla Cloud[edit]

Vanilla Cloud is a complete rewrite of Vanilla using the Garden Framework, an MVC, object oriented, modular, extendable framework.[22]

New core features in Vanilla Cloud:

  • GPL importer for other forum systems such as vBulletin and phpBB.[23]
  • <embed> Vanilla (embed forum anywhere via JavaScript)
  • Social Connect
  • Vanilla Mobile - Configuration required
  • Vanilla Connect (Single Sign In)
  • Themes
  • Banner
  • File Upload - included as a plugin
  • WYSIWYG Editor - included as a plugin
  • Emoticons - included as a plugin


Garden is the PHP framework on which Vanilla Cloud is built, and deployed with, but can also be used as an MVC framework in its own right, and has a convention-based folder structure.[24][25]

When downloading a Vanilla release, it is packaged in Garden as an application.[26]

Garden can be developed on via 'Addons' of applications, plugins, themes, and locales.[27]

Each application follows the MVC paradigm, and applications are typically placed in the applications folder, plugins in plugins folder, and so on.

Applications can be extended by plugins and themes, these mainly use a combination of convention based file structure, configuration, and event hooks.

Pluggability is a core feature of the framework, as is object-oriented programming, so the application and core is mainly extended via plugin classes using a public method naming convention to denote event hooks, 'magic event' hooks, 'magic methods', and occasionally method overrides. Some general functions in the core can be overridden by predefining them.

In addition, locales can be used to translate into different languages, or variations of text, which are replaced by reference.

Release history[edit]

Legend: Old version, no support Older version, still supported Current stable version Latest preview version Future release
Version [28] Release date Notable changes Latest release
Old version, no longer supported: 2.0 21 July 2010 Bug fixes[29] 14 September 2014
Old version, no longer supported: 2.1 29 April 2014 MeBox, Improved social features, bug fixes, improved embedding of forums, support for WordPress plugins, /me action 2.1.13p1 6 November 2015
Old version, no longer supported: 2.2 12 November 2015 Improved features, better security and PHP 5.3 min requirement[30] 2.2.1 7 May 2016
Current stable version: 2.3 18 November 2016 Improved features, HTML Emails, bug fixes, better security and PHP 5.4 min requirement[31] 2.3.1 12 May 2017
Future release: 2.4 31 January 2017 New caching system, Updated dependencies, New responsive dashboard, PHP 5.6 min requirement, and a lot of changes[32] 2.4b1 31 January 2017


PlushForums[33] is a commercial fork of the Vanilla 2.0 branch. It incorporates a new design, real-time discussions, an integrated blog, image gallery, member directory and paid subscriptions. PlushForums was awarded the 2014 Critics' Choice Award for Best Commercial Forum Solution by CMS Critic.[34]

Vanilla APP[edit]

Vanilla APP[35] is an unofficial commercial app frontend for the Open Source version of Vanillaforums. The app solution for iOS and Android aims to give users of the forum software a better mobile experience, improve the retention as well as make up a new user acquisition channel through the app stores. App instances connect and share data with the web version of Vanilla among a server side set up API. The development is led by Stefan Eipeltauer who is a long term Vanillaforums user and active member of the Open Source community named phreak.

Hosted forums[edit]

The hosted version of Vanilla runs on the newest version of Vanilla. It also provides features that are held back from the community edition (usually people who are self-hosting their forum). The features held back are Reactions[36] & Badges, Polls, User Ranks, and enterprise integrations such as Salesforce, Zendesk and Github (among others). This leads to ongoing discussions in Vanilla's own community forums. There have been numerous discussions in the past about the business model and why certain features have been held back.[37] The community version of the software has seen developers replicate much of these functionalities.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "vanilla/". GitHub.
  2. ^ "Vanilla 1 Site".
  3. ^ Gunter, Tim. "Vanilla Emotify Plugin".
  4. ^ "Another Look at Vanilla: Online Communities Reinvented".
  5. ^ "Designing A Hosting Platform Around High Availability, Low Cost". Rackspace Hosting.
  6. ^ "Booting the jerks from discussion forums". The Globe and Mail.
  7. ^ "Difference between self-hosted vanilla vs Vanilla hosted". Vanilla Forums.
  8. ^ Miles, Stephanie. "App Vita".
  9. ^ "Browse Addons". Vanilla Forums.
  10. ^ "What are Features and Addons?".
  11. ^ "Vanilla Documentation".
  12. ^ "Canadian software company improves on the Internet forum". IT World Canada.
  13. ^ "Vanilla Forums". Vanilla Forums Blog.
  14. ^ a b Charles Hamilton. "Hosted Community App Vanilla Forums Now Embeddable".
  15. ^ "Montreal's Vanilla Forums Launches New Commenting Feature to Help Cultivate Online Communities".
  16. ^ "WordPress › Vanilla Forums « WordPress Plugins".
  17. ^ "Vanilla Forums". Vanilla Forums Blog.
  18. ^ "Vanilla 1 Documentation Archive". Archived from the original on February 15, 2014. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  19. ^ Contributor. "TechStars Incubator Hatches 10 New Companies". TechCrunch. AOL.
  20. ^ "Vanilla Forums Receives $500,000 (CAD) Round A Funding for Its Innovative, Open Source Community Forum Software - Business Wire".
  21. ^ "Vanilla Forums Gets Investment, Releases New Version".
  22. ^ "The forum is dead, long live Vanilla". Boagworld - Web & Digital Advice.
  23. ^ "Vanillaforums's VanillaPorter". Archived from the original on May 13, 2010. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  24. ^ "cakephp - Forum/Board written atop one of the big PHP Frameworks - Stack Overflow".
  25. ^ "Mark O'Sullivan • Garden Preview Part I".
  26. ^ "Vanilla".
  27. ^ "How to Build a Simple Module and Integrate it as a Plugin".
  28. ^ "Vanilla Forums releases".
  29. ^ Burry, Todd. "Vanilla Community Forums".
  30. ^ "Vanilla is Proud to Present Version 2.2".
  31. ^ "Vanilla 2.3 beta".
  32. ^ "Preview release: 2.4 beta".
  33. ^ "PlushForums".
  34. ^ Johnston, Mike. "2014 Critics' Choice Award Winner - Best Commercial Forum Solution".
  35. ^ "Vanilla APP".
  36. ^ Stubbs, Ryan. "App Storm".
  37. ^ "The Community and Vanilla - Please Read". Vanilla Forums.
  38. ^ "Yet Another Gamification Application 1.0.3 by hgtonight". Vanilla Forums.

External links[edit]