Best Forum Software


I know this question has been asked a billion times, but since it changes so frequently, I thought it’d be a good idea to ask again: what is the best forum software out there?

To be more specific, here are some things I’m looking for:

  • Free (or paid but really worth it)
  • Easily skinable
  • Clean Coding (so it’s not a huge ordeal to modify)
  • Standards-compliant (or at least possible with a custom skin)

I’ve used vBulletin and Invision Power Board before. Both are pretty good, but I’m not really in love with them.

Vanilla also looks promising and I used it briefly when it was new. It wasn’t quite ready then, but it might be now. Anyone have any recent experience with this. Are they really standards-compliant like they claim?

Any other good ones out there? I don’t need too much in the way of pre-built add-ons. Any add-on functionality I’m planning are things that’ll basically need to be custom made anyways.


I will probably take some flak for this, but I’ve always liked phpBB, and especially phpBB3.

Actually, I like phpBB as well. I haven’t used phpBB3 yet. It may be better now, but I think it’s code is a bit heavy and outdated. I may have to check out phpBB3 though.

SMF. Nuff said. (Though from what I have heard privately, they are starting to slip down the slope of mixing markup output with programming and database logic…)

Could you brief the list of changes that phpbb3 have? I lie to add poll Option and other options.

Go with Vanilla, it’s no longer half baked and it’s the most semantically accurate and standards compliment forum out there, plus the fact it’s free and simplistic (so easy to maintain and skin) makes it worthy of at least checking out again, it’s the one I recommend for people starting out with forums. :slight_smile:

I haven’t touched phpBB since an entire cluster of Web sites I had on a server got taken out by another site with a phpBB2 forum hosted on the same server (on someone else’s account).

(Oh the in"Sanity"!!!)

Sounds like a bad server configuration to me. Surely, no forum software would allow server root access from the hosting account?

I’d personally recommend SMF.
Simple to set-up, very intuitive admin panel, and lots of support/mods available.

SMF 2 with the new curve default theme, is looking very promising, but it’s not publically available yet (should be within the next couple of weeks).

I still have a site running phpBB2, even though it’s no longer supported, but it’s running a plugin which isn’t available on any other forum.
I’ve also briefly used phpBB3, but found it even more complicated than phpBB2 to do simple things. I always found configuring phpBB a bit of a complex affair.

I also maintain a site running vB3.x, and I’m currently trying to find out more about the new vB4, and if it’s going to be worthwhile updating, or switching to something else (theme is going to need redone for vB4, and lots of other bits worked around, so now is going to be an ideal opportunity to switch).

If I got my way, I’d just run everything on SMF, but I can’t :-/

I like PHPbb there are a bunch of templates and hacks to modify it already done for it.

Free = phpBB
Very well established so lots of mods hacks and designs out there already for the not so clued up users.

Paid = vBulletin
Its simply the best forum software out today, and with the new version of v4 coming out soon its just gonna wipe all the rest of the face of the earth
(Even if the have marketed it in a very bad way)

I still prefer phpbb3, but like you said, it’s easy to get a bunch of random spam due to it’s popularity. Any forum software is prone to bots though. So there’s a few scripts that aren’t too hard to install that help prevent this. I can’t recall any, but an easy Google search should find a few. It’s usually just modifying a header file and inserting a couple lines of php code.

Also, it helps to have email activation to prevent even more spam rather than allowing users to register without activating.

+1 SMF and phpBB3 are both good.