Forum applications, or message boards, are server programs where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. They differ from chat rooms in that messages are at least temporarily archived. Also, depending on the access level of a user or the forum set-up, a posted message might need to be approved by a moderator before it becomes visible.
Forums have a specific set of jargon associated with them; e.g. a single conversation is called a “thread”, or topic. A discussion forum is hierarchical or tree-like in structure: a forum can contain a number of subforums, each of which may have several topics. Within a forum’s topic, each new discussion started is called a thread, and can be replied to by as many people as so wish.
Depending on the forum’s settings, users can be anonymous or have to register with the forum and then subsequently log in in order to post messages. On most forums, users do not have to log in to read existing messages.
All forum software listed in this article are open-source and free for use. Feel free to suggest any other forum not mentioned in the article.
Project page: https://www.phpbb.com/
phpBB is an Internet forum package written in the PHP scripting language. The name “phpBB” is an abbreviation of PHP Bulletin Board. Available under the GNU General Public License, phpBB is free and open source software.
Features of phpBB include support for multiple database engines (PostgreSQL, SQLite, MySQL, Oracle Database, Microsoft SQL Server), flat message structure (as opposed to threaded), hierarchical subforums, topic split/merge/lock, user groups, multiple attachments per post, full-text search, plugins and various notification options (e-mail, Jabber instant messaging, ATOM feeds).
SMF (Simple Machines Forum)
Project page: http://www.simplemachines.org/
Simple Machines Forum (abbreviated as SMF) is a free Internet forum application. The software is written in PHP and uses an SQL database backend, from version 2.0 MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite are supported. SMF is developed by the Simple Machines Forum development team.
SMF was created to replace the forum software YaBB SE, which at the time was gaining a bad reputation because of problems with its Perl-based ancestor software YaBB.
Simple Machines won forum-software.org’s best free forum software award of 2009.
Kunena (for Joomla)
Project page: http://www.kunena.org/
Kunena is a forum component for Joomla. Integrating a forum into Joomla has always been possible but was never very easy, often involving the use of bridge extensions to connect Joomla to well-established, free-standing web-based forum products. The name Kunena is from a Swahili word meaning, “to speak”. It was derived from the former Fireboard forum with new and previous developers that include several Joomla core developers. The developers have a long term goal to redesign Kunena from the ground up to take full advantage of what Joomla has to offer.
There is no company behind Kunena; everyone who contributes to Kunena is a hobbyist, enthusiast or professional web developer who gives their time freely to this project – volunteers every one of us. Our hope is to make Kunena the most reliable, scalable, durable and robust forum component for Joomla that we can make it and to give people the best solution to meeting their forum needs. The forum is a self-help community-driven resource for users to help one another. Our job, in moderating the forum, is not necessarily to answer every question but, rather, to point people in the right direction where they can find the answers.
Project page: http://ocportal.com
ocPortal is a free and open source content management system (CMS) written in PHP and based on a MySQL backend database. The software has been developed by British software developer Chris Graham since 2004, with contributions from programmers Chris Warburton, Paul Duffy and Philip Withnall, and designers Allen Ellis and Robert Goacher.
ocPortal complies with a number standards, covering areas such as web publishing, accessibility and internationalization, metadata and data storage and distribution.
It has a plenty of built-in features such as OCF, integrated forum plugin developed by the same company. Although it’s a plugin the OCF has many advanced forum features. OCF in action can be seen on General Talks forums.
Project page: http://www.mybb.com/
MyBB, originally MyBulletinBoard, is a free and open source forum software which is developed by the MyBB Group. It is written in PHP, supports MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite as database systems and has database failover support. It is licensed under the LGPL.
MyBB supports multiple database engines. It currently supports MySQL, PgSQL, and SQLite v2 and v3. MyBB also databasefailover support so that if one database fails, MyBB will load the next database on the list. Master and slave databases are also configurable.
MyBB plugins are written in PHP and use hooking techniques. Unlike other software like WordPress, plugins need to be uploaded via FTP as uploading from the admin panel is not supported without a plugin. However, this is a considerable advantage over the extension method used by phpBB where all modifications are core file edits.
Project page: http://fluxbb.org/
FluxBB is an open source forum application released under the GNU General Public Licence. It is free to download and use and will remain so. FluxBB was conceived and designed to be fast and light with less of the “not so essential” features that some of the other forums have whilst not sacrificing essential functionality or usability.
FluxBB is a fork of PunBB, which was created by Rickard Andersson. In 2007 PunBB was sold to a commercial company. Development continued under the direction of Rickard Andersson until April 2008. At that time Rickard Andersson announced he would be ceasing his active involvement with the project.
In light of the changed circumstances the remaining members of the development team decided they needed to exert more control over the direction of the project which meant the only option was to fork the project; hence FluxBB.
The FluxBB v1.2 branch is an update to PunBB v1.2.17, fixing various issues.
Project page: http://vanillaforums.org/
Vanilla is a light weight Internet forum package written in the PHP scripting language using the Garden Framework.The software is released under the GNU GPL. Vanilla Forums is Free Software, standards-compliant, customizable discussion forums.Vanilla was released on the 1st of July 2006, and has since undergone many changes; the most notable being the complete rewrite between Vanilla 1 and Vanilla 2, the latter of the two became the primary product and Vanilla 1 was passed into the hands of other developers. Vanilla is designed to bring forums back to their roots, providing core functionality with additional features such as emoticons available as plugins.
Garden is the PHP framework on which Vanilla 2 is built, and deployed with, but can also be used as an MVC framework in its own right, and has a convention-based folder structure.
Project page: http://punbb.informer.com/
PunBB (PunBulletinBoard) is a lightweight PHP-based internet discussion board system. It is released under the GNU General Public License. The project’s primary goal is to be a faster, smaller and less graphic alternative to discussion boards such as phpBB, Invision Power Board or vBulletin. Many open-source and commercial projects’ discussion boards use PunBB. Until September 2011, Facebook’s Developers were using Facebook Developer’s Forum for discussions and bug reports, which was powered by PunBB.
PunBB was originally designed to output standard XHTML, and with speed and simplicity in mind. Features such as private messaging, polls and file attachments were not originally implemented, however they have since been released as third-party modifications. PunBB supports extensions since version 1.3.
PunBB is written in PHP and thus requires a PHP interpreter. PunBB also requires a database in which all forum data is stored. It supports MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite.
bbPress (for WordPress)
Project page: http://bbpress.org/
bbPress has a templating system similar to that of WordPress, which includes themes that can be installed and switched between. The code that comprises the themes can also be edited for more advanced customizations. bbPress can integrate itself with WordPress upon installation. bbPress uses a similar link management system as WordPress.
Just like WordPress, bbPress is code named after well-known jazz musicians.
Project page: http://jforum.net/
JForum is a complete, powerful and multi-threaded forum software developed in Java programming language. Features include unlimited forums and categories, topic watching, email notification, Private Messages, user ranking, advanced permission schema and moderation options and much more.
It provides an attractive interface, an efficient forum engine, an easy to use administrative panel, an advanced permission control system and much more.
JForum has a growing number of features, with a lot more being asked and developed each day.