Top 10 Best Forum Software Programs

Forums are a great way to build a community website around a theme, create a support tool around a product or service, or add an extension to your existing site so your visitors can interact with each other. Selecting the right forum software is an important first step in making sure your forum will be able successful as possible. You'l want to find a software package that combines stability, security, usability, and flexibility. To help you get started, below is a list of the best forum software.
The Top Ten
1 phpBB

The most popular forum software out there, and it's free. It's completely open source, so you can do anything you want with the code. Because it is so popular, there is a ton of documentation and support out there to help you out.

phpBB is a long-running project, and while it has been modernized over the years, most recently with phpBB 3, it still lacks many features that you would expect from a modern web app. A good WYSIWYG editor, out-of-the-box mobile support, animation, and callbacks to enable actions without reloading the entire page are all missing. The structure of the codebase is also a bit outdated.

The entire application feels as if it were primarily written procedurally, with object orientation added as an afterthought. This is not entirely bad. However, it gives the impression that the project started as a personal project for fun and later evolved into something on a larger scale, rather than being designed by professional engineers.

The plugin system is nonexistent, and the only way to install plugins (referred to as MODs) is by editing the core files, similar to "hacking core" in Drupal. This is a terrible design because multiple plugins may interfere with each other, and any updates must be merged back into the core. The good news is that the phpBB updater has a built-in utility to assist with this, but the fact that this is required at all is unfortunate.

Due to this limitation, installing more than a few mods (less than 5) is not recommended. It's best to use the software as is.

The theming system is mediocre at best and lags significantly behind platforms like WordPress in terms of accessibility and ease of use. The design of the forum is very application-specific and heavily enforces the original design paradigm of phpBB, making significant modifications to its functionality challenging. This paradigm also makes it difficult to integrate phpBB with other software, such as CMS systems you may already be using.

While those are the downsides of phpBB, it's not to say that the project doesn't have its merits. Compared to other free competitors, phpBB offers a superior default user interface, ease of use, and security. In terms of feature... more

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2 XenForo

XenForo is great for forum software. It's cheaper and much better than vBulletin. It feels like it was built for the modern web with features like modal pop-ups, AJAX, animations, and an out-of-the-box responsive design for mobile devices.

phpBB is probably your best free option. XenForo is your best overall option.

One of the forums I used switched from vBulletin to XenForo a year or so back. It's like night and day - a huge improvement in productivity for regular posters and enjoyment for members. Very slick.

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3 MyBB

This is amazing software with unbelievable support in their user community. It's very stable and easy to install. I'm looking forward to the next version. Hundreds of quality and well-thought-out mods, plugins, and themes are available!

I have a MyBB forum. It's fine but not as good as my paid forum software. MyBB is good enough for a free, low-traffic site.

The software is easy to use and relatively fast.

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4 Simple Machines Forum

The best solution for tiny or large forums. It offers powerful tools and is newbie-friendly. On the official website, you can download MODs to create new functions or implement new features. This platform has the best security options compared to all other platforms. I recommend it!

Secure forum software with easy mod/theme install options. It supports lots of local language translations done by official teams inside the SMF itself.

Powerful, newbie-friendly, and has a lot of modifications you can put on. It looks very nice with some themes and works perfectly.

5 vBulletin

We've been running vBulletin for over a decade. We recently upgraded from version 3 to 4, and this summer we upgraded to version 5. It's a solid product with good features and is well-implemented. However, support is spotty, and design changes made with vBulletin 5 have killed the developer community, so extensions are few and far between.

If you're satisfied with the product as is, it's a good choice. But if it's missing features you need, expect to code them yourself or move on to another product.

While not free like some of the other software on this list, vBulletin is definitely worth the price. It comes highly recommended by administrators of some of the largest, most popular forums on the internet. It is a powerful and secure forum software.

6 IP.Board

Powerful solution. It is not free, but you can have the license included for free with an Invision Power (the guys who made the program) hosting account, starting at $5 a month. The nice thing about having them host it is that they handle the installation and upgrades, so you don't have to worry about it.

The best and easiest bulletin board to use.

The best! We have used this platform since 2008.

7 Vanilla Forum

Modern, flexible, customizable. How can any others compare? There is both a free self-hosted and cloud-based version if you don't want to deal with hosting.

Vanilla is free, open source, sweet to look at, easy to manage, and easy to customize. It's everything I wanted, all in Vanilla.

The hosted version is brilliant.

8 Muut

It is forums and commenting unified, a truly modern discussion platform unencumbered by the weight of unnecessary features and distractions. It places the conversation back at the forefront. The fast and clean real-time user interface, persistent content, and deep integration with the site make for more natural and meaningful discussions on topics people care about.

The only forum script out there that doesn't burn my eyes.

They changed their name to Muut, by the way. Muut really rocks, as it's the only one that combines comments with a forum.

9 Flarum

Flarum may still be under heavy development, but it is the next-generation forum software!

A simple forum with an elegant user interface.

I have seen their work. They have a totally new concept. Good looking and real-time.

10 WoltLab Burning Board
The Contenders
11 Codoforum

Codoforum is a refreshing take on the tired old forums we see again and again. Say goodbye to the old, cluttered, and cumbersome interfaces. CF has a fresh UI that is simple, clean, and impressive.

It has everything that a modern forum needs:

1. Markdown support
2. Drag-and-drop media in posts
3. Built-in syntax highlighting
4. Login integration for existing websites and social logins too And many more.

What I like about Codoforum is that after a standard 20-second install, it could immediately interface with my existing website built on Drupal. Support has also been very good. For the price (free), this is a no-brainer. Highly recommended.

12 ASPPlayground.NET

Great software and great support! Why bother with open source? I have two forums running this software, and I am more than happy with it.

I use ASPP on two of my forums, and it's great. Version 4 looks to be nearly perfect!

13 YaBB
14 Discourse

This is a rock-solid piece of modern forum software. It has the best mobile support of any forum out there, along with many other features to assist members and administrators. I managed to set it up by following their guide for DigitalOcean hosting, getting it up and running in 30 minutes. They also offer their own hosting, but otherwise, it is free and open-source.

Made by the founders of Stack Overflow, needless to say, these guys know what they're doing.

15 Discuz

It combines both social networking and forum functions together.

16 Web Wiz Forums

Web Wiz Forums is a free and solid BB performer with rock-steady user-modifiable code (with a licensed version). It is written in classic ASP (VB Script) and supports several flavors of SQL databases. It also has chat functionality built-in and several add-on modules available.

18 ProBoards Free Forums

This software is a cutting-edge, cloud-hosted forum service. The team behind the project has been at it for 15 years and continues to update it regularly.

It is currently the best forum software. It's cheap and excellent. The only disadvantage is that you can't upload HTML files to the forum. It costs $13 per annum! Who else offers you a better deal?

19 Zendesk
20 Get Satisfaction

Get Satisfaction is a community platform that helps companies create engaging customer experiences by fostering online conversations about their products and services at every stage of the lifecycle.

Get Satisfaction powers 70,000 active customer communities, hosting more than 35 million consumers each month. Since its inception in 2007, Get Satisfaction has focused on building an intuitive, easy-to-use community platform. This platform aims to bring resolution to consumers, is highly discoverable by search engines, and can be implemented quickly and easily.

Companies of all sizes, such as Flipboard, Intuit, Kellogg's, and Sonos, rely on the Get Satisfaction community platform to acquire new customers, provide better service, and build better products.

21 bbPress
22 NodeBB
23 AnswerHub

AnswerHub is an enterprise knowledge management platform built on a question-and-answer (Q&A) foundation. With additional features like ideation and a knowledge base, AnswerHub is the perfect solution for capturing, sharing, and leveraging shared knowledge. Some of the world's most successful companies use AnswerHub for collaboration, social learning, customer support, and online community, including GE, Epic Games, LinkedIn, Estee Lauder, eBay, USAA, Unity, and Thomson Reuters.

24 PantherForum
25 PunBB
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