Forum Script Round-Up

So you’ve decided to add a message board to your site, but you don’t know where to start. If you search for scripts that do this at a site like CGIResources, you’ll be overwhelmed by the wealth of choices your results return.

Here’s a shortlist of the five most talked about scripts available today – use these to add a community to your site.

1. vBulletin

http://www.vbulletin.com

This is an up-and-coming, feature-loaded script. It uses PHP and MySQL to drive the fast backend engine. The script currently comes in two flavors, a lite version which, while free, has been stripped of almost all its features, and a full version which costs around $160.00. vBulletin provides a very scalable and customizable system with which to start your community. With its extremely customizable interface, it does have a learning curve, while you set it up the way you want it, but overall this is a great script.

Wayne’s score: 5 stars

2. Ultimate Bulletin Board

http://www.infopop.com

This software created the explosion of Web-based BBSes. Now on version 6, it still has what it takes to make a good strong community site. UBB uses PERL for its engine, and stores its data to a proprietary file format in flat files. This enables you to install the software on almost every server available. The only downside to UBB is the price as it can be quite costly for smaller sites.

Wayne’s score:4 Stars

3. WWWThreads

http://www.wwwthreads.com

Available in both PERL and PHP versions, this software can be installed anywhere. It uses MySQL to store data, which results in a fast system. The big plus about this system is that the topics can be viewed in a flat style similar to UBB or vBulletin, or in a threaded style similar to WWWBoard (the granddaddy of Web-based BBSes). WWWThreads also offers skins or themes that you can apply to your board to get it up and running quickly. This, along with other add-ons, gives you a complete community-building toolkit. The system seemed a little slower under heavier loads to me, but overall it’s a good performer.

Wayne’s score: 4 Stars

4. IkonBoard

http://www.ikonboard.com

Ikonboard looks like a promising system. Currently the newest version (3.0) is in beta testing, but a lot of thought and planning has gone into the rewrite. With this version, you can store your data to a proprietary database format, or use MySQL as your backend. Following the lead of vBulletin, Ikonboard has added a lot of new features beyond simple messaging. While this software is still a little rough
around the edges for my personal taste, it does have a cult following, and will be getting better. I’ll have to take another look once 3.0 is officially released.

Wayne’s score: 3.5 Stars
Will the release of 3.0 earn it a complete 5? We can only wait and see.

5. PHPBB

http://www.phpbb.com

This has to be the most talked-about free PHP-based bulletin board system available. However, I found it to be very rough around the edges and missing some key features (i.e. secure email addresses) that are needed in today’s environment. It also has the least appealing default style of all the systems listed here. A great advantage of PHPBB is its opensource nature, however, it still has a long way to go before being a leader.

Wayne’s score: 2 Stars

The Round-Up

As I see it right now, vBulletin is a market leader that provides new features that its customers want and demand. If you’re going to purchase software to start your community today, I’d have to recommend this product – vBulletin has the customization, features and power to satisfy any Webmaster. UBB is still a leader, but has to listen to its customers more if it’s to retain the market share it currently holds.

If you absolutely have to have a threaded view, in my opinion there is only one option for this today and that is WWWThreads. And, of the two free systems that I looked at, I would have to recommend Ikonboard above any other. It has the power and potential to become a market leader.

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