Interview – Matt Mecham of Ibforums
Matthew Mecham is one of the most famous people in the world of online communities, and a popular person among Webmasters who use the famous Ikonboard — and now the popular Ibforums — scripts to power their communities.
Matt has worked on products like YaBB SE and, with YaBB founder Zef Hemel, started "Ikonboard", one of the most popular community scripts on the Internet. Now, Matt’s making a splash with his own group of services, Invision, which has rolled out Ibforums. We asked Matthew to dedicate some of his time to answering a few questions which have been on our minds…
Hi Matt. Thanks for giving us an opportunity to talk to you. First up: what does your average day involve, besides work? Do you sit at the computer all the time, or do you have other interests too?
As most of my work is computer-based, I tend to spend what must be an unhealthy amount of time in front of one. I do make sure that I keep my weekends as free as possible to spend time with my fiancee; as much as I enjoy my work, it’s refreshing to get away from it all and do something else. It definitely helps maintain balance and perspective.
Ikonboard – A Little History
What made you start writing your own forums script, Ikonboard? What did you do before you ventured into that direction?
In the latter part of 1999 I ran a Website for the graphic and Web design audience (at www.ikondiscussion.com). The site was centered around tutorials and tips on good design. I found myself, as have many Webmasters, looking for a forum script that I could use to build an online community, and, like many other Webmasters, I ran the site as a hobby and the budget was on the proverbial shoestring.
I stumbled across a decent free forum script (it literally was just 1 script) called "BoardMaster" (now defunct). It was a fairly basic but solid little script in a similar vein to UBB (this was before the days of YaBB, vBulletin, etc). It didn’t have any of the "must have" features boards come with in these modern times (such as private messaging, complex profiles, etc.), but it was enough to run a small community.
My site required some custom scripting and the scripting language of choice at the time was Perl. I learnt Perl the wrong way (as the experts will tell you) by looking at other Perl scripts and figuring out how it all worked. I picked it up pretty quickly as I used to program AMOS on the Amiga (but that’s another story). After I had the site ready to run, I set about making small modifications to the forum script — little things like improving the navigation (such as a forum drop down box at the bottom of the page), and allowing different images to be used in different forums. I released these "hacks" into the BoardMaster community and eventually was asked to moderate the "hacks" forum.
As any Webmaster will tell you, a Website is never really finished, it’s just constantly evolving. I was always looking for ways to improve this site and this desire led me to another forum script called "Board Power". Compared to BoardMaster, Board Power was feature-filled and fun to use, and offered what was (at the time) a complex and powerful administration center. I downloaded a copy and toyed with it for a few weeks before deciding to replace the existing live BoardMaster with Board Power, much to the delight of my community. It wasn’t long before I had released a few hacks and set up a little mini-site dedicated to modifying Board Power.
The biggest hack I authored was a pre-runner to Ikonboards "User Control Panel". It allowed you to modify your profile, add buddies to a contact list and send and receive private messages (this was long before private messaging was popular and included as a default feature in today’s bulletin boards). Unfortunately for Board Power, the developer never really seemed to take Board Power seriously — a string of disagreements and shady business practices forced me to abandon the Board Power community. During my time at Board Power, I’d developed a review script (labeled Ikon Review) that allowed the public to submit Websites, tutorials, etc., and give the administrator the ability to rate and submit them. The internal wrangling at Board Power and the lack of good alternatives made me think seriously about writing my own forum script.
As development of Ikonboard started, I noticed a new kid on the block going by the name of "YaBB". Never one to resist a new script, I downloaded a copy and played with it, and it wasn’t long before I had a few little hacks for it. And I paused the Ikonboard development for a short while, figuring that if this script shaped up, I could use it instead of writing my own. I joined the YaBB development team and contributed to its early development (such as the search engine, topic views and thread review when posting). Although YaBB was beginning to gain momentum, I still yearned to complete Ikonboard, and felt that I couldn’t be involved with both YaBB and Ikonboard, so I resigned from the YaBB team in the summer of 2000.
The feature list for Ikonboard was driven by suggestions from the Ikondiscussion community. I wanted to add the personal messenger and control panel into the base script, and enhance many other standard features, such as announcements, moderation tools, and more. I figured that if these features were standard, people wouldn’t need to modify the code to add in such functionality; I wanted Ikonboard to be a complete solution and act as a solid base for more functionality. I put up a "coming soon" page in early August 2000 with a section to subscribe to the mailing list, and within a few weeks I had over 200 email addresses. A month later, in September 2000, Ikonboard v0.9 BETA was finished and ready to download.
Whenever a new product is released to the market, it has to battle strong competition from existing products in the same market, while proving a competitor for them at the same time. Which script did was Ikonboard’s largest competitor, and what other difficulties did you face while launching the first stable release of Ikonboard?
When I released Ikonboard there wasn’t a great deal of serious competition, certainly nowhere near the glut of forum scripts that are available today. Board Power and BoardMaster were dying slowly, either through stupid decisions or lack of development (the BoardMaster developer disappeared without a trace). vBulletin was relatively new, not yet out of the version 1.1 releases, YaBB was just starting out, phpBB 1 hadn’t been released, and UBB 5 was still the leader of the pack. I never really worry about competition and what other forum software houses are doing, I just concentrate on my own work and try to take it as far as I can.
When Ikonboard was released, some UBB owners claimed that Ikonboard was just a re-badged copy (which obviously it wasn’t) and made some noise, which I guess is quite natural as most boards look alike from the front end. In my experience, it’s only a small handful of people that try to stir up trouble — you rarely see the developers getting involved in a tit-for-tat argument; as a matter of fact, I’ve remained on good terms with the UBB and vBulletin authors and development teams. On paper, UBB was Ikonboard’s biggest competitor at the time of its release, even though I didn’t really see it as "competition" — that’s not meant in an arrogant way, it’s just that I was never trying to compete with UBB because we serviced two different markets.
The biggest difficulty Ikonboard faced — and Invision Board still faces — is being taken seriously by the commercial sector, where most people assume that "free" equates to "better than nothing". I’ve always tried hard to persuade people that this isn’t always the case, and that, in fact, 3 of the most used software tools on the Internet are all freely downloadable. Apache, MySQL and PHP are all giants in their field because they’re free. It’s difficult to imagine PHP being as widely used as it is if you had to pay for a server side license before you could use it. With that in mind, I do find it fairly ironic that the free software that uses these tools isn’t allowed to prove itself before it’s labeled as "better than nothing". Having said that, over time Ikonboard did carve itself a pretty decent reputation and was used by some rather large Websites, including Sony and Viacom.
What type of license agreement was Ikonboard first released under, and what license agreement is your current script, Ibforums, released under?
Ikonboard and Invision Board both follow the Freeware model using our own proprietary licensing: they’ve always been available for free but they aren’t, and have never been, open source. A lot of people ask us why we don’t release Invision Board as open source (GPL), and my answer is always the same: Open source is great, and PHP, MySQL and Apache all prove that the GPL model works. YaBB and phpBB also do well with the open source license, but it’s not something that we wish to do. I’ve released little scripts before and in almost all cases, to most, open source merely means "I can remove the copyright, rename it and release it as my script" which, of course, isn’t the case — I got tired of seeing my work re-badged. To true open source developers this may seem vain and narcissistic, but I always marketed my products with a business approach.
Invision Board is free to download, but you don’t have the ability to re-distribute or re-badge the product without our written consent. Of course, you’re allowed to change the template colors, the graphics, and make as many modifications to the board as you wish (as long as you don’t remove the copyright and link at the bottom of the page). In effect, this allows you to do as much as you can with an open source product apart from re-distribute it with the modifications in place. I’m not looking to make money directly from Invision Board — that was never the intent — but we do use it as a way to get traffic to our sites, which offer custom scripting, Web hosting, forum hosting and priority support. That’s how we make our money — that’s how we’re able to develop a product and allow it to be used for no cost. Most businesses that we’ve dealt with prefer to use a freeware product because the developer still holds some liability, offering a priority support plan also gives them the confidence that we’re not just doing this for kicks. We have a great support team of about 20 core members who do a fantastic job and always receive praise from our clients.
When you released Ikonboard, who was working with you at the time, and what resources did you use?
When Ikonboard was first released, I was working on the code, development and support on my own. I was paying for virtual hosting at my own cost. However, it wasn’t long before I started recruiting a team to help support the product and moderate the support board — it being a new product, we were all in the same boat, had to be quick on our feet and learn fast. We were fortunate to have some talented people working with the Ikonboard team — our NT specialist Marcel (aka Redmak) went on to work on Neowin.net, but nearly all of the original "iTeam" are still with me today, nearly 2 years later.
When Ikonboard 2 was released, the product had started to gain momentum and we were out-growing our virtual hosting — especially bandwidth. I was stretching my budget to make the payments but it was obvious that something needed to change to allow us to grow. Fortunately for us, Ventures Online stepped in with a very generous offer of semi-dedicated hosting in return for a banner advertisement to help us grow. When JEG acquired Ikonboard, we moved across to their in-house network. Ikonboard.com sat on a dedicated linux server (an IBM Netfinity) and was plugged into the twin OC48’s that powered the network — needless to say, bandwidth and resources weren’t an issue any longer.
Early in 2001, JEG approached and bought Ikonboard. What were the details of that deal?
The Jarvis Entertainment Group (JEG) approached me in the first quarter of 2001. At this time, Ikonboard had been out for several months and had established itself. I’d just started work on Ikonboard 3 and I was aware that trying to manage the development, for administration and the business was too much, considering that I also had full time employment. I spoke with the CEO of JEG on a few occasions before the deal was formalized, and he promised many things such as dedicated hosting in his own datacenter, helping with the administration and business development, and assured me that he didn’t want to charge for Ikonboard. He was happy to let it grow and remain free — after all, a busy Website can get good sponsorship deals, and keeping a good flow of traffic through the network impresses the shareholders.
After much deliberation, I signed the contract and the deal was done, now Ikonboard was owned by JEG and I was brought into JEG to manage the project. I feel that it’s worth mentioning here (to put many rumors to rest) that the deal did not involve any money at all. My "payment" was in the form of shares in JEG (which at the time of writing I have not managed to sell or trade as they are virtually worthless). Initially there was a large outcry from the Ikonboard community who feared the worst — that a large corporation had swallowed us up, and it was only a matter of time before they were charged for downloading Ikonboard — or that it would be broken up and sold on. It took me a long time and a lot of personal promises to reinforce that this was not going to happen and that Ikonboard would remain free.
What were the strong points of Ikonboard over its free competitors?
When Ikonboard was first released, its strongest point was the speed of development, the quick support, and the interactivity of the community that drove the product forwards. Ikonboard 3 was heavily influenced by the wants and needs of the community at the time. I was very open about its development and kept a public log of ideas and code snippets for the community to review and discuss. Zeff Hemel (YaBB founder) was inspired by my notes about "iDatabase" (a database abstraction layer) and worked the ideas and structure into his own DBA when he was working on YaBB 2 Perl (development stopped on this product a long time ago). I also laid down the foundation for user selectable skins and templates in these coding notes long before any other board had such a feature. And it was no surprise that other boards copied this idea shortly after the first Ikonboard alpha was unveiled. Not that I mind — to have contributed to the "feature pool" that modern day bulletin boards draw from is an achievement in itself.
Can you tell us more about Aurora? What was its status, in terms of development and completion, when you left Ikonboard and JEG?
Aurora was about 35% complete when I left JEG and Ikonboard. There was no moderator control panel or administration control panel, and very few moderation tools other than the basic close, open, and delete topic. Aurora’s database structure was exactly the same as the Ikonboard database structure, so the demo version we had available was still using the Perl administration center to create categories and forums, etc. There was a lot of bridging code to get it to run — it was far from an alpha product, let alone a full release product. Its main goal was to show development progress, and it was used as a tool to show how fast the new PHP version would be.
Earlier this year, you left JEG and stopped working on Ikonboard altogether. What were the reasons for that?
It is worth mentioning at this point that JEG is a company that trades on the OTC/NASDAQ and is regulated by the SEC; this means that I’m unable to put them in an adversely negative light that might affect their business — but I’ll try to be as open as the law allows me to be.
I was growing steadily disillusioned with the direction in which Ikonboard was being taken by JEG as early as the end of the last quarter of 2001. I felt that I was totally mislead and that certain details had been exaggerated or omitted to persuade me to sign the contract. However, I’d committed myself to finishing Ikonboard 3 and I decided I’d see the project through before deciding what to do.
In the very late part of 2001 and early art of 2002, I was under a huge amount of pressure from JEG to release the final version of Ikonboard 3 and write a totally new hosted version of Ikonboard, to be called MyIkonboard. I knew that Ikonboard 3 was not ready for a final release, yet the pressure continued. I’d often read press releases stating a release date I’d never given, and be told to "make sure that it’s done". I was still working full time, and worked on Ikonboard in the evenings, often until 5.00am to get it finished — considering I had to be at work for 9.00 this didn’t leave much time for sleep. I was told on several occasions that JEG couldn’t afford to pay me anything and therefore couldn’t employ me — so I had little choice but to continue doing both.
The demands grew and grew daily until I felt mentally exhausted — I was trying to work full time and maintain Ikonboard 3, develop MyIkonboard and write "Aurora" (Ikonboard PHP). Charles Warner, at the time another JEG "employee" and shareholder felt he was in exactly the same position. He was assigned to dealing with all the business Ikonboard generated and taking care of the JEG network — not an easy task, and a very time consuming one. The final straw came in February when Charles and I were issued with a directive from the CEO of JEG informing us that he wanted to charge for Ikonboard, which would make me break my promise to the Ikonboard community. Charles and I discussed our options and decided that we would rather start over than continue working with JEG. It wasn’t an easy decision to walk away from 2 years of work but I felt it was the right thing to do.
Were you legally required to turn over all development of Aurora to JEG, even though they had only acquired Ikonboard? Was Aurora in plans before JEG acquired Ikonboard?
When I left Ikonboard, I returned all the Ikonboard, MyIkonboard and Aurora files as a matter of course. All of these files were being developed live on JEG’s servers — but as a gesture of goodwill, I returned the copies on my hard drive even though JEG did not have a direct legal claim to all future work that I developed. JEG acquired Ikonboard, not all code that I develop, however, as I was developing Aurora as Ikonboard PHP I felt that a clean break was in all of our best interests.
The Present – Ibforums
With whom did you start Ibforums? What support did you get from the outside community to start afresh?
Charles Warner and I left JEG to start our own partnership. We set up Invision Power Services as soon as we could — this is the parent company for all our services. The support we had from the community was simply amazing. I had hoped that a few members would follow us over to Invision Board, but I never expected about 85% of the regular posters to follow us. It was at that moment that the true community feel unified us and made us all feel part of an extended family. We set up a temporary board to hold discussions and within a few days we had nearly a thousand members registered and actively posting.
For me, the community is just as important as the product — especially in the business we’re in. If we’re marketing a community building product, then it makes sense that we have a strong active community of our own — Ikonboard and Invision Board have always been lucky enough to gain a diverse following. The current Invision Board team is as diverse as it is as talented. Ken (Heartcall), one of the founding members of the original "iTeam" is a performing musician, and Luke our support co-ordinator is also a talented musician, recently performing live in front of 20,000 people in a performance that included Michael Jackson.
Andre and Oscar (Nominell) are two of the most original graphic artists I’ve seen in a long time, Stewart Cambpell is doing wonderful work converting our clients from other forum software to Invision Board — often juggling 20 conversions at a time. And the self titled "MadDocktor" is our security expert — often plugging holes in Windows software and giving us all advice on how to protect our systems. The list goes on and on! We’re very lucky to have one of the best teams in the business. Our dedicated support team (consisting of 20 members) works its socks off to provide first class service with our free and priority support requests — 98% of all tickets and posts asking for support are answered within a few hours, if not sooner. As we have such a large team spanning the globe, it’s not practical to have a centralized office for us all to work in. The Internet is a communications medium and we use it to keep in contact, regularly holding meetings on our private IRC channel. All of the team members are in constant contact via the support board and instant messaging software.
You preferred to write Ibforums in PHP, as opposed to your previous choice of writing Ikonboard in Perl. Are there any reasons of that? Did you consider PHP to be more superior to Perl?
When I started getting into Web programming, back in late 1999, Perl was the language most commonly used — it was actively developed and installed on nearly all Web servers. Through writing modifications for other bulletin boards, I became quite comfortable with Perl, so when I started Ikonboard it was natural to continue using Perl. I should note that nearly all the major bulletin boards were using Perl at the time. UBB, wwwthreads (now UBB.Threads), etc. were all coded in Perl, as PHP had yet to prove itself, and in its version 3 incarnations, it was clumsy and missing a few of the power features that made Perl easier to use.
During the development of Ikonboard 3, PHP was gaining ground rapidly. The new bulletin boards, such as vBulletin were coded in PHP and attracted a lot of interest, as PHP was quicker and less server-intensive (when compiled into Apache, as most PHP installations are). Perl was starting to look a little outdated and I realized that if Ikonboard were still to compete, it must make the transition to PHP. I read the signs pretty early — Perl was getting bad press and development had seemed to stagnate, mod_perl was such a pain to set up and code for that it wasn’t much of an option for the average Webmaster, and despite Ikonboard 3’s complete compatibility with mod_perl, it wasn’t often run under mod_perl. PHP was definitely the future.
In early 2002, after Ikonboard 3 was released, I ordered a few PHP books and set about learning the language. PHP is like Perl in so many ways, it didn’t take long to pick up, and I made a start on the totally new Ikonboard PHP (code-named Aurora). Unfortunately, Ikonboard PHP never saw the light of day under my reign at Ikonboard. When I left the project I returned all the Aurora files and development notes.
So PHP seemed like the natural choice when I started developing Invision Board. Its forgiving nature and quick code development allowed me to build the basic structure of Invision Board within a few short months. I didn’t have to worry about mod_perl, fast_cgi or any of that nonsense, I could just code PHP and not worry (too much!) about cross platform issues — it was like a breath of fresh air. My early PHP code was approached from a "Perlish" angle, so much so that I dubbed my style "PHPERL". After working with PHP for about 5 months I feel that I am as comfortable with it as I was with Perl after 12 months.
Did you face any legal problems because of your contract with JEG, when you started Ibforums? Did you use the same routine codes, converted to PHP of course, to start Ibforums?
The contract JEG and I signed was very loose. There was no non-compete clause and no claim on any future work developed by me. JEG only acquired Ikonboard and all rights to it; they did not and could not acquire me or my coding style. If you’ll excuse the analogy, if you purchase a Van Gogh painting and employ Van Gogh to paint a few more for you and he then leaves, you would not have any legal grounds to force him to change his style just because he worked for you and you bought one of his paintings.
I have my own way of working and my own coding style and this was naturally carried onto Invision Board. The Invision Board development was quick because it was my third bulletin board script that I’d authored within an 18 month period (Ikonboard 1/2 and Ikonboard 3 were totally different). Without a doubt, some of the Ikonboard structure and methods are in Invision Board, but that’s because it’s my style and the way I code. Invision Board has been out for many months and I know that JEG has examined the Invision Board code for copyright infringements. As I’ve heard nothing from them, one can assume that JEG has no issue with Invision Board.
Is Ibforums similar to Ikonboard in any way, such as the coding structures or programming guidelines? What new features do you plan to implement, or have already implemented, in Ibforums?
Nearly all bulletin boards are the same at a fundamental level. Most allow registration, log in, search, help, posting, moderation and administration — it’s only the implementation that’s different. Ikonboard was coded in Perl and Invision Board is coded in PHP — for this reason alone there cannot be any direct code similarities. PHP is a scripting language, it has a preset number of tools to do a job; does this mean that all scripts are the same because they use these tools? Obviously, the answer is no. For example, there is only one way to connect to a MySQL database in PHP; this means that all bulletin boards written in PHP that use a MySQL database must share an almost exact line of code — how could you copyright that?
A product is a sum of all its parts, if you start breaking it down into routines and code structure, you’ll find that it’s the same as any other PHP script — it can’t be significantly different when the coder is restricted to using the limited tools a scripting language provides. Aurora was a bit messy when I left, and its final feature set hadn’t been decided. Invision Board allowed me to start over again, and the experience I gained in using MySQL during the Ikonboard 3 development meant that I could write a much more efficient program this time around. Ikonboard’s MySQL database structure was very messy because of the self-imposed limitations that iDatabase (a proprietary database abstraction layer) created.
Although Invision Board may have started from the seed that Ikonboard planted, it’s grown into a completely different product that stands on its own merits. Invision Board’s new features are all based around usability. I feel that we’ve got the point of feature saturation, which leaves the end user a little cold and confused. I’m trying to develop an easy-to-use product that has solid, powerful features for administration and moderation, whilst retaining good usability for the end user.
Zef Hemel, the creator of YaBB, is now helping Ibforums. Can you let us know how you signed Zef up to help with the Ibforums community?
When I was at Ikonboard, Zef was a very active and capable poster in the Coding forum — always willing to help out and offer his extensive advice when it was required. His name was put forward by a team member as a potential moderator. After a brief discussion it was decided that he more than deserved an official post because of his hard work in that forum. I was not concerned about Zef’s other activities or that he started YaBB, one of our competitors at the time, as I knew Zef well enough to trust that he’d always be objective. When we left Ikonboard to start Invision Board, Zeff followed — and his hard work continues. He’s a great asset to the team.
At this point I can’t really say what the future holds. Invision Board v1.1 will probably be the last development cycle that I do on my own, as all future versions will be developed within a team. I’ll still be very actively involved in coding the board, but it’ll free some of my time up to work on other projects we have in the pipeline, such as our CMS/Portal hybrid plug-in that’s in very early stages. If Zef wanted to be involved at a coding level, he’ll definitely be on the short list of potential candidates.
Are you facing any challenges at the moment from other forums, especially as you now have Ikonboard as a major competitor?
I have to say, Ikonboard is a hard act to follow! But I’ve always maintained that competition is a good thing, as it brings about rapid developments in technology. When you consider that a forum script is nothing more than a database and a bunch of HTML forms, there isn’t much more you can do until Web technology advances, so all we can do is build on existing ideas to make them more user friendly. Ikonboard, Invision Board, UBB, vBulletin, phpBB and YaBB SE have all introduced neat little ideas into the "feature pool" that we all draw from. If there was only one forum script in existence, the feature pool wouldn’t be as buoyant as it currently is.
Netmag.co.uk recently recommended Ibforums as one of the best free forums around. Has that helped gain more popularity and converts from other forums?
.Netmag is one of the most popular printed Internet magazines in the UK. I was rather amazed to see the feature in print, and naturally pleased that Invision Board came out on top. It’s definitely helped us "sell" Invision Board to potential customers — you can’t get much more of an independent review than one in a magazine. I think that all the systems reviewed benefited from the exposure that printed material gives — as the saying goes "there’s no such thing as bad publicity". We did note that we had a lot more calls from the UK after the magazine was published.
At the moment, you’re also offering paid services, including paid support, installation and copyright removal add-ons. Are these services in high demand? How does your paid support different from your normal support via Ibforums?
Invision Board is free, so to secure Invision Boards future, we have launched these paid options and separate services from the parent company, Invision Power Services. Our support team work around the clock on both free and priority support tickets. We pledge to answer all free tickets within 24 hours and priority tickets within 12 hours — in nearly all cases we beat those times by a large margin. Our priority account holders also benefit from direct telephone support and access to private support forums within the public support board, to request support or just to get questions answered promptly.
We already have a growing number of clients taking up the paid-for option, as it gives them complete peace of mind with their Invision Board. Our team regularly logs in and solves problems for our priority customers, which saves valuable time when support is required. And our installation service is always in high demand. Invision Board is easy to install, but most Webmasters would rather concentrate on content than installing complex scripts that power their site.
The Parent company, Invision Power Services, also offers other services besides Forums, such as hosting and Web development. Are these tied with the forums in any way? Do any of these services drive traffic into your other offered services? Can you tell us more about your "hosted Ibforums" service?
Invision Board is just one department of the Invision Power Services business. Our main services include Website design, custom scripting, and hosting (from forum hosting through virtual hosting to dedicated hosting). Our forum hosting package is very popular. Unlike some of our competitors, our package is "real" hosting: you get your own allocation of Web space, your own Invision Board, your own database and FTP access — it’s not simply a "custom" Invision Board powering several installations. You’re free to add modifications to the code and do pretty much all that you’d expect to do on a regular virtual hosting plan. The forum hosting servers that we own are all fully optimized for Invision Board, offering the best possible environment for the board.
The relationship between Invision Board and Invision Power Services is closely tied. Invision Board is maintained by the revenue that Invision Power Services generates and Invision Power Services is able to reach a large audience because of the traffic that Invision Board generates.
Are there any plans to have Ibforums converted to or written in Perl in the future?
We had considered porting Invision Board PHP to a Perl version, but have largely decided against it after polling the community. There may have been a need for it 12 months ago when PHP was still being picked up by Web hosts, but it seems now that PHP has reached the point that Perl had, in that 99% of Web hosts have it installed and freely available. I fact, I’d bet that there are more hosts that support PHP and MySQL than those that have taken the time and trouble to install the Perl interface for MySQL (the DBI modules). We do have an Invision Board "Lite" in the works, but this is being developed in slow time and its release will largely depend on the state of the market. We’ll be reviewing the need for a Perl version when Perl 6 is released.
Have you done any benchmark tests to compare Ibforums with other scripts? A little while back, there were benchmark tests done to compare Ikonboard with other scripts — can you let us know some details about that?
I try and stay away from pure benchmarks as much as I can. Designing a program just for speed is folly. A good design should put security first, usability second and efficiency third — raw speed should be near the bottom somewhere. Let’s face it, the difference between 0.03 and 0.1 is about the time it takes you to blink, we’re not really able to distinguish between these measures. I’ve run some personal benchmarks with Invision Board, phpBB2, YaBB SE and vBulletin and on paper Invision Board is faster, but in "human" terms, there isn’t much in it.
I certainly didn’t approach Invision Board with the aim of making it the fastest board in it’s field. When I was working on Ikonboard PHP (Aurora), David ran some tests based on what we had completed (reading, registering, posting, etc) against other boards. The test results showed that on his machine Aurora was faster and more efficient. The Jarvis Entertainment Group thought it good PR to advertise these figures. But whether or not the final version of Aurora would have out-performed its competitors will probably never be known.
What are you plans for Ibforums in the future? What new features have you planned for it?
Invision Board is a constantly evolving product. We get some good feedback and feature ideas from the community, and nearly all these suggestions are considered for inclusion if they have a broad enough appeal and are workable.
Future releases of Invision Board will focus primarily on optimization and efficiency. We’re also in the process of completing more database drivers, including MS-SQL and pgSQL. We have a few ideas that we’re keeping close to our chest to try and take Invision Board into different markets, but that’s firmly in the "next year" category.
What about yourself? Do you intend to be associated with Ibforums in the future, or are you planning to be involved more in other areas of Invision Power Services?
I’ll always be associated with Invision Board. Version 1.1 will probably be the last version I’ll develop on my own as I have some other projects that I want to get off the ground for Invision Power Services. Having said that, Invision Board will always be taken seriously, and I’ll still have a big say in its development and code structure — I just feel it’s got to the stage where the main core has been developed and stabilized, and immediate future releases will be mainly service releases.
We’d like to thank Matt for his time. We look forward to watching Ibforums and Invision Power Services continue their success in future!