Top 3 Forum Applications

If you want to start a vibrant online community, you need a forum. One that has proven its power over the years, helping you build an attractive, and – most of all – fully functional discussion board. These are my top 3 picks when it comes to forum apps.

1. phpBB

You knew I’ll start with this one ;). Well, let’s begin by saying that this great application is 100% free. Also, it’s got a great team of developers behind it. Lots of users have created various mods and styles, so you won’t have to set up a forum that looks exactly like your granny’s forum either.


phpBB is fully compatible with the UTF-8 character set, so it will work fine with pretty much any language on the planet. Being built with the latest HTML5 and CSS3 specifications in mind, the end result is an application that is modern, fast and – a critical feature! – responsive, working fine of mobile devices.

With its set of comprehensive moderator and administrator options, phpBB can be easily configured and kept under full control. And its private messages system works flawlessly!


2. vBulletin

If phpBB is the king of free forum software, vBulletin is definitely the queen of the paid forum apps. This discussion board comes in two flavors: vBulletin 5 Connect, which can be installed on your server, and vBulletin Cloud, a service provided by the forum makers, who will gladly host, maintain and upgrade vBulletin for you.

This piece of code is very powerful, and yet easy to use. vBulletin supports photo albums, has a site builder and supports paid subscriptions. It incorporates a “likes” system and comes with  built-in SMTP email support.


Still, if you aren’t a guru, it may be wise to go with the “cloud” version, in which case the software makers will do all the heavy lifting for you.

The cloud plans aren’t expensive either, ranging from $15 to $60/month, for packages that include 25GB to 200GB of monthly traffic. In fact, if tech support is necessary for you, my strong recommendation is to purchase one of the cloud plans. It’s the perfect option for non-techies who want to set up their forums quickly.


3. bbPress

bbPress is a template-driven PHP/MySQL forum software, which was built by the team behind the popular WordPress CMS.

It’s very easy to install – it only needs a mouse click! – and runs blazing fast. As you can guess, it’s also the most convenient solution if your own website is built with WordPress.


bbPress is (and will always be, according to its makers) open source and 100% free. It comes with lots of different styles, built-in user notes, custom login forms, and more.

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