The Forum Fit for You

This article is intended to help guide you through the process of selecting the perfect forum for your sites needs.  There are practically hundreds of options out there for the site owner looking to start up a forum, but no easy ways to figure out what is best for the sites goals.  We’re hoping this simple guide gives you a better understanding of what is out there, and what is right for you.



This article is intended to help guide you through the process of selecting the perfect forum for your sites needs. There are practically hundreds of options out there for the site owner looking to start up a forum, but no easy ways to figure out what is best for the sites goals. We’re hoping this simple guide gives you a better understanding of what is out there, and what is right for you.

We’ll take a look at some of the big names in the PHP forum world, and discuss how you can find different applications if these guys aren’t for you. While we won’t be getting very technical in this article, we will be evaluating how a certain application can best suit your needs. Something that carries over to all scripting you do, and hopefully helps you build better applications yourself. Of course, at the end of it all, only you can decide what the best solution for your needs is. Read on to find out what the PHP world has to offer in the hunt for forums.


The Players:

In this article, we’ll be basing the majority of our focus on “The Big Three” as I’ve come to think of them. These guys represent the majority of forums in use on the web today. These forums are the applications bringing innovation to the forefront, and making your life as a webmaster easier. Even so, lets not forget that there are still hundreds of others out there. However, without further adieu, I present you “The Big Three”.

phpBB – Commonly accepted as the powerhouse of Open Source forum software. With the recent dawn of phpBB3, they’re only making it easier to add a thriving community to your website. Best of all, phpBB is Open Source, making it a breeze for you to modify things however you choose.

Simple Machines Forum – A free forum solution that makes it easy and effective to get your sites community underway. While not exactly an Open Source approved project, still puts power in the users hands, letting them modify the application however they may choose.

vBulletin – The only pay-to-use solution we’ll be looking at in-depth. vBulletin offers great support and a powerful system for the administrator looking for the least effort solution. Despite this, you may lose some expandability.

Lets take a deeper look at each of these and get on track to finding out what is best for you.


The Open Approach:

As already mentioned, phpBB is the only forum application we’ll be discussing in-depth which is Open Source. For some people, this is where your search ends – if you are a strong believe in Open Source only, phpBB is one of the best choices out there. If you’re not one of those people, you’ll still want to take a look at what phpBB has to offer.

One of the most attractive features of phpBB is simply put, the extensive user base. It is widely used, meaning its easy for you to find support. The dedicated phpBB user forums are buzzing with activity at any time and serve as an excellent fountain of knowledge. Even better, the users of phpBB are an industrious people, able to cook up all varieties of plug-ins and extensions. It is very easy to find modifications for your phpBB installation that can be added with little or no trouble. Surely, this open ended approach will save you some time and maybe money. Of course, if you wish to homebrew some of your own extensions, the Open Source license of phpBB gives you all rights to do just that.

If you find that you are the type of user who loves the freedom of manipulating your site at will and experimenting with scripts, phpBB is probably the solution for you. Either way, keep on reading and see what else is out there!


If It’s Free, It’s for Me:

Simple Machines Forum is another very powerful PHP forum solution. Simple Machines Forums is a wonderful alternative to phpBB with a wonderfully polished and attractive feel to the software. Of course, it is every bit as powerful of a solution, too. However, lets take care of one thing first off…

SMF is a free to use forum application, but it is not an open source application – at least, not technically. Simple Machines Forum is not released under a license approved by the Open Source Initiative, but still grants its users nearly all the same privileges. So what’s the catch then, you ask? Well, you must leave the copyright notice intact (no modifications whatsoever!) and you may not redistribute the application without written permission. However, you may still view and modify the source code, distribute instructions for modifications, and suggest improvements to source code. For these reasons, Simple Machines Forum may not be the absolute best recommendation for the code hungry of us, but its still a formidable weapon for the code warrior.

All in all, if you’re looking for a free, out of the box ready-to-go application, you should consider trying out Simple Machines Forum. It provides you with the means to make modifications, while remaining a powerful and free solution. Certainly this is more than most of us webmasters are looking for in our application selection process.



The Power of Pay:

vBulletin represents the final giant of the forum playground that we’ll be discussing. vBulletin stands out from the other applications we’ve touched on because it exists on a pay-to-use service base. While this may initially seem like a huge disadvantage, I beg you to reconsider carefully before drawing a final conclusion. Because it is a paid service, vBulletin is able to offer professional support for their application. Their support options include installation and updates, live problem assistance, and more.

Certainly, vBulletin has plenty of moderation features, and the support backing it is a great selling point to a site administrator looking for a stress free solution. The user end of a vBulletin forum promises as a responsive and useable application. vBulletin abides to all of the usual features including a template system, plugins, and more. As a whole, vBulletin offers a powerful forum application with the least potential for administration headache. What is more reassuring then knowing there is professional support waiting to help you out with your forum? That is exactly what you get with vBulletin.

If you are looking for a no hassle solution that just works, vBulletin is probably the choice for you.



In this article, we took a brief look at each of the main forum applications available today, and evaluated some of the basic advantages and disadvantages to each. With this information, you should be able to narrow down your selection to further evaluate which forum application is right for you. If you are looking for another forum solution, different from those we have explored, fear not – there are tons out there! A PHP resource guide, like Codango, contains many forum applications just waiting for some more exploration.

While we can guide you in finding some great solutions for your website, only you can decide what is truly best. Without further adieu, get out there and try some of these out for yourself and see what is best!



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