Comparison of Internet forum software

This article outlines the general features commonly found in various Internet forum software packages. It highlights major features that the manager of a forum might want and should expect to be commonly available in different forum software. These comparisons do not include remotely hosted services which use their own proprietary software, rather than offering a package for download which webmasters can host by themselves.

General informationEdit

Basic general information about the forums: creator/company, license/price etc.

Creator Latest release date Current stable version Programming language License
bbPress[1] WordPress Foundation 2020-11-20 2.6.6 PHP[2] GPL[3]
Beehive Forum[4] Project Beehive Forum Developers 2016-11-05 1.5.2 PHP GPL
Discourse[5] Civilized Discourse Construction Kit, Inc.



Ruby, JavaScript GPL
Discuz![7] Comsenz Inc. 2018-01-01 X3.4 PHP EULA (proprietary, gratis for non-commercial use)
FluxBB[8] Developers 2018-12-31 1.5.11 PHP GPL
FUDforum[9] Advanced Internet Designs Inc. 2018-04-09 3.0.9 PHP GPL
Ikonboard[10] Matt Mecham (original creator) Joshua Johnson 2012-10-19 3.1.5A Perl Proprietary
Invision Power Board[11] Invision Power Services Inc. 2020-02-04 4.4.10 PHP Proprietary
MyBB[12] MyBB Group 2021-02-22 1.8.25[13] PHP LGPL, moving to BSD in 2.0[14]
Phorum[15] Brian Moon 2017-08-23 5.2.23 PHP Phorum License 2 (BSD like)
phpBB[16] phpBB Ltd. 2021-05-01 3.3.4 PHP GPL
PunBB[17] PunBB 2015-10-14 1.4.4 PHP GPL
Simple Machines Forum[18] Simple Machines 2021-02-01[18] 2.0.18[18] PHP BSD License
Syndie[19] Anonymous (related to I2P) 2014-08-14 1.107b Java Open source, multiple licenses
Thredded[20] Joel Oliveira, Gleb Mazovetskiy, et al. 2019-08-17 0.16.13 Ruby MIT
Vanilla Forums[21] Vanilla Forums 2019-07-09 3.1 PHP Proprietary/GPL[22]
vBulletin[23] vBulletin Solutions Inc. 2020-01-08 5.5.6 PHP[24] Proprietary[25]
XenForo XenForo Limited, Kier Darby, Mike Sullivan 2021-07-22 2.2.6 Patch 2 PHP[26] Proprietary
Creator Latest release date Current stable version Programming language License


Flat Threaded User selectable themes Unread message tracking WYSIWYG Editor Export, portability Email / NNTP interface Languages SSO
bbPress Yes[27] No[28] Plugin[29][30] Yes[31]
Beehive Forum Yes[27] Yes[27] Partial[27] Full[27] Yes[27] (using TinyMCE) Partial[32]
Discourse Yes No[33] Yes[34] Full Real-time side-by-side preview Full[35] Partial[36] Yes[37][38] OAuth2,[39] Custom[40]
Discuz! Yes[41]
FluxBB Yes[27] No[27] Partial[27] Session[27] No[27] Yes[42]
FUDforum Yes[27] Yes[27] Yes[27] Full[27] Yes[27] Partial[43] Yes[44] Yes[45]
Invision Power Board Yes[27] Yes[27] Full[27] Yes[27] No[46] No[47]
MyBB[48] Yes[27] Yes[27] Yes[27] Full[27] Yes[27] No[49] No[50][51] Yes[52]
Phorum Yes[27] Yes[27] Yes[27] Full[27] Yes[27] Plugin[53] No[54]
phpBB[55] Yes[27] No[27] Yes[27] Full[27] No[27] No[56] No[57][58] Yes[59] Yes (LDAP, OAuth)[60]
PunBB[61] Yes[27] Yes[27] Session[27] No[62][63]
Simple Machines Forum Yes[27] No[27] Yes[27] Full[27] Yes[27] Partial [64] No[65] Yes[66]
Thredded Yes[20] No[20] Yes[20] Full[20] No[20] No[20] Read-only[20] Yes[20] Custom[20]
Vanilla Forums Yes[27] Yes[27] Yes[27] Plugin[27] Plugin [67][68] Yes[69] Yes[70]
vBulletin[71] Yes[27] No Yes[27] Full[27] Yes[27] Plugin[72][73] No[74]
XenForo Yes[27] Yes Yes[27] Full[27] Yes[27] Yes[75] Yes[76] Yes[77]

Flat vs. threadedEdit

  • A flat forum is one where each message is added onto the end of the discussion, with no set relation to any prior messages (other than being on the same discussion topic — except in case of Off-Topic posting). But, there is normally a feature to 'quote' another user's post, to allow referencing back to other posts.
  • A threaded forum is one where users can specify their message is a reply to an existing message. Threaded forums can display relationships between message topics and associated replies, such as by indenting replies and placing them below the post they reference. Threaded forums are most commonly used for discussions where individual messages tend to be short, such as on social news sites (e.g. Slashdot or reddit), or in commenting systems like Disqus.

User-selectable themesEdit

Most forums provide an option for the forum owner to customize the look and feel. Some forums also allow the administrator to create multiple styles or themes, and allow the user to choose which one they wish to view. Themes may simply be a different set of colors and graphics, or they may involve a different layout to the forum, such as one optimized for small-screen devices.

The comparison table shows whether a forum software allows forum administrators to customise the "template" of the forum (or specific sections thereof) without altering the released code. Support is considered partial where it is only possible to add CSS rules in this way.[27]

Unread message trackingEdit

Unread message tracking refers to the way that is used by forum software to track and display messages that have not yet been read by the current user. This can be one of the following:

  • Session — when a user's session starts, this method relies on the user's "last visit time" to display all messages created since that date as unread. Everything that was posted before "last visit time" is considered "read" regardless of whether the user has actually seen it or not. Until the user's session expires, this method properly tracks read/unread messages, starting with messages that were selected as "unread" when the user's session started. This method is broadly used, due to the simplicity and speed benefits of only storing and checking against a single database value.
  • Full — forum software which records in the persistent database what messages have been read or unread by each user, regardless of user session expiration. Some forum software also allows the user to 'mark as unread', so that they can come back to a message later.

Export, portabilityEdit

This column judges the ability to allow users to export data from the forum installation and then import it in new installations of the same software (cf. right to fork and data portability) or feed it to data conversion tools.

Software portability is a key assessment criterion for the choice and procurement of software.[78]

Email/NNTP interfaceEdit

Whether the software can be used with standard Email or NNTP clients. Adoption of standard protocols is key for interoperability.[79]


Whether the internationalization and localization of the software are sufficient to both allow and actually provide grammatically correct support for the native language of the target users.[80]

For the purposes of this table, we consider languages used by a number of installations/users equal to at least 1% of the top million web properties using that software,[81] without major reported bugs in support.

Single sign-onEdit

Single sign-on is often required to enhance web accessibility of the application.[82] This can be accomplished with standards like OAuth and OpenID.

Other featuresEdit

Duplicate thread preventionEdit

Automatic recommendation systems based on content and users can help forum users find existing discussions similar to those they are browsing or on the topic they are searching,[83] or else reach the correct users with their posts, avoiding to "spam" the forum with duplicate or off-topic posts.[84]

Many users do not bother to search a forum and directly create new threads to seek an answer to a question. On some forums, when the user types a new thread subject, the forum software brings up similar threads automatically on the side. This helps keep the number of redundant threads (or the overall forum pollution) to a lower level as users who neglect to search for a topic and are posting a thread may find the answer to their question as they are creating the new thread.

Forum spam defensesEdit

Most forums are at risk of continuous attack by forum spammers, largely promoting websites with no relevance to the forum's niche. Systems vary in how they are geared to defense, and checking the offering is an important consideration before selection. A forum cannot succeed unless there is an effective system of defense, and an efficient set of tools for spam removal.

CAPTCHAs are a common feature used among most internet forum software and are often used to prevent automated registrations.

Banning or deleting membership should come as standard, with the ability to blacklist the username, email address or IP address for variable time spans.

Reference to an anti-forum spam database can be built into the forum software, or offered as add-ons for specific databases.

User-friendly URLsEdit

Human-friendly forum URLs do not have a query string and instead contain only the path of the topic. A user-unfriendly URL may contain cryptic parameters, numeric IDs, or file type extensions (e.g. .php) that do not matter to the user and could change if the forum is reimplemented using a different programming language. User-friendly URLs are easy to remember and to type, and may enhance search engine optimization (SEO).

  • user-unfriendly URL example:
  • user-friendly URL example:

In general this is accomplished via URL mapping, however, historically in many forum software packages, human-friendly URLs are an afterthought implemented via URL rewriting, and URLs often contain a numeric ID which represents the thread, while the remainder of the URL can in reality be any string: and point to the same thread,

The only non-controversial counter-argument to using user-friendly URLs is that they would be leaked in the HTTP referer header field when a user clicks on an external link from a post, which is undesirable for private (sub)forums, since a URL derived from the topic title could convey sensitive information.[85] This issue can be resolved by rewriting external links to point to a redirection page that performs referer hiding.

Data storageEdit

Information about what data storage system can be used.

MySQL PostgreSQL MSSQL Oracle SQLite Firebird Flat file
bbPress[2] Yes No No No No No No
Beehive Forum Yes No No No No No No
Discourse No Yes No No No No No
Discuz! Yes Yes No No No No No
FluxBB Yes Yes No No SQLite 2[86] No No
FUDforum Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
IkoBB Yes No No No No No No
Ikonboard Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes
Invision Power Board Yes No Discontinued [87] No No No No
kusaba Yes No No No No No No
MyBB[48] Yes Yes No No Yes No No
Phorum Yes No No No No No No
phpBB[55] Yes v8.2 or newer[88][89] Yes Yes Yes Discontinued No
PunBB[61] Yes Yes No No Yes No No
Simple Machines Forum Yes Yes No No Yes No No
Syndie Yes (HSQLDB) No No No No No No
Thredded[20] Yes Yes No No Yes No No
Vanilla Forums Yes No No No No No No
vBulletin[71] Yes No No No No No No
XenForo Yes No No No No No No

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  2. ^ a b "Requirements ·". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  3. ^ "License ·". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  4. ^ "Project Beehive Forum". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  5. ^ "Discourse". Retrieved 2016-07-26.
  6. ^ "Releases - discourse/discourse". Retrieved 2021-09-23.
  7. ^ "Discuz! X – 产品 – 北京康盛新创科技有限责任公司". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  8. ^ "FluxBB 1.5.9 released". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  9. ^ "FUDforum: Welcome to the forum". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  10. ^ "ikonboard". SourceForge. Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  11. ^ "IPS Community Suite 4 – Forums, CMS, eCommerce & more – IPS Community Suite". IPS Community Suite. Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  12. ^ "MyBB – Free and Open Source Forum Software". Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  13. ^ "ChangeLog Mybb 1.8.25".
  14. ^ "Change of license for MyBB 2.0". Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  15. ^ "Phorum | Open Source PHP Forum Software". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  16. ^ "phpBB • Free and Open Source Forum Software". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  17. ^ "PunBB". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  18. ^ a b c "Simple Machines Forum – Free & open source community software". Simple Machines. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
  19. ^ "Syndie". Archived from the original on 2016-01-12. Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Thredded". Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  21. ^ "Community Forum Software". Vanilla Forums. Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  22. ^ Vanilla Forums. "Open Source Forum Software". Vanilla Forums. Retrieved 2017-04-22.
  23. ^ "vBulletin Announcements – vBulletin Community Forum". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  24. ^ "vBulletin Manual". Retrieved 2017-12-29.
  25. ^ "vBulletin FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 2017-12-29.
  26. ^ "XenForo Installation and upgrades, XenForo 2 Manual". Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd "ForumMatrix on XMB, phpBB, SMF, vBulletin, bbPress, Beehive Forum, FluxBB, FUDforum, Invision Power Board, MyBB, Phorum, punBB, UBB.threads, Vanilla, XenForo". CosmoCode. 2007–2016. Retrieved 2020-11-26.
  28. ^ "pippinsplugins/bbPress-Export-and-Import". GitHub.
  29. ^ "rmccue/Falcon". GitHub. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  30. ^ "Topic: Post by Email & Social Media Integration ·". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  31. ^ "bbPress in Your Language · bbPress Codex". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  32. ^ "BeehiveForum/BeehiveForum". GitHub. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  33. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-01-16. Retrieved 2018-01-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  34. ^ "Allow users to select dark / light theme". Discourse Meta. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  35. ^ "Move your Discourse to a different server". Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  36. ^ "Discourse – Meta". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  37. ^ "Translating Discourse with Transifex". Discourse Blog. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  38. ^ "Discourse Translations". 2016-04-15.
  39. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-10-19. Retrieved 2016-10-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  40. ^ "Official Single-Sign-On for Discourse (sso)". Discourse Meta. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  41. ^ "Discuz.ML".
  42. ^ "Language packs – FluxBB". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  43. ^ For admins:
  44. ^ Native NNTP gateway:
  45. ^ "ForumMatrix / FUDforum Features – Compare Them All". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  46. ^ Only 3 languages updated in one year. Archived 2016-04-24 at the Wayback Machine
  47. ^ "4.0 – Login Handlers". Invision Community. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  48. ^ a b "Features – MyBB". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  49. ^ Group, MyBB. "MyBB – Mods – Export Thread v1.0.0". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  50. ^ Group, MyBB. "MyBB – Mods – Post Via Email". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  51. ^ "Allow users to post via email or web service". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  52. ^ Group, MyBB. "Extend MyBB – Translations – MyBB 1.8 Language Packs". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  53. ^ "Phorummail for Phorum 5". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  54. ^ "Phorum Support Forums :: 5.2 Language Files". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  55. ^ a b "Features". Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  56. ^ "phpBB: Export all posts for a user into a file – Nejko's randomness". 29 March 2016. Archived from the original on 29 March 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2018.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  57. ^ "I'm struggling with phpBB2 and mail2forum". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  58. ^ "phpBB • [ABD] Mail2forum for phpBB 3". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  59. ^ "phpBB • Language Packs". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  60. ^ "phpBB • 3.1 User Guide". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  61. ^ a b "comparison_to_other_discussion_boards – PunBB Wiki". Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  62. ^ "Language packs (Page 1) — PunBB Forums". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  63. ^ "punbb/langs". GitHub. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  64. ^ PM:;basic_search=export
  65. ^ "Post from Email".
  66. ^ "Downloads". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  67. ^ Attachments:
  68. ^ Admin-only:
  69. ^ "Vanilla languages". 2016-04-15. 2 languages 100 % translated.
  70. ^ "Vanilla forums". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  71. ^ a b "vBulletin Forum Features". Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  72. ^ "Major Additions – Email Integration (New threads/replies by email) – Forum". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  73. ^ vB 4:
  74. ^ "vBulletin Languages & Phrases – vBulletin Community Forum". vBulletin Community Forum. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  75. ^
  76. ^ Available translations for latest version.
  77. ^ OAuth SSO provided by Connected accounts feature.
  78. ^ "FSFE's Comments on the EU Digital Single Market Strategy". FSFE – Free Software Foundation Europe. Retrieved 2018-02-27.
  79. ^ Centre for Intellectual Property & Policy Management at Bournemouth University (25 October 2012). Open Standards in Government IT: A Review of the Evidence (PDF).
  80. ^ Patrick A.V. Hall; Martyn A. Ould, eds. (1996). Software Without Frontiers: A multi-platform, multi-cultural, multi-nation approach. With contributions and leadership by Ray Hudson, Costas Spyropoulos, Timo Honkela et al. Wiley. ISBN 9780471969747.
  81. ^ "Forum Software technologies Web Usage Statistics". Retrieved 2018-02-27.
  82. ^ Za, S.; D’Atri, E.; Resca, A. (1 January 2011). Single Sign-On in Cloud Computing Scenarios: A Research Proposal (PDF). Information Technology and Innovation Trends in Organizations. Physica-Verlag HD. pp. 45–52. doi:10.1007/978-3-7908-2632-6_6. ISBN 9783790826319. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  83. ^ Zhao, Jun; Bu, Jiajun; Chen, Chun; Guan, Ziyu; Wang, Can; Zhang, Cheng (2010-01-01). "Learning a User-thread Alignment Manifold for Thread Recommendation in Online Forum". Proceedings of the 19th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management. CIKM '10. New York, NY, USA: ACM: 559–568. doi:10.1145/1871437.1871511. ISBN 9781450300995.
  84. ^ Li, Yung-Ming; Liao, Tzu-Fong; Lai, Cheng-Yang (2012-09-01). "A social recommender mechanism for improving knowledge sharing in online forums". Information Processing & Management. Large-Scale and Distributed Systems for Information Retrieval. 48 (5): 978–994. doi:10.1016/j.ipm.2011.10.004.
  85. ^ Frèrejean, Erik. "SEO URLs". phpBB "Arsia" 3.2 Development. Area51 phpBB. Retrieved 2011-06-25.
  86. ^ "punbb/punbb". GitHub. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  87. ^ "MSSQL still supported?". Invision Community. Archived from the original on 16 April 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  88. ^ "3.1 "Ascraeus" to drop support for PostgreSQL < 8.3 - Development Discussion Board". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  89. ^ "PhpBB3.1 – phpBB Development Wiki". Retrieved 27 February 2018.