Free open source forum systems – quick review

Here is a brief list of the most popular open source forum systems available.Each one of them has its’ own pros and cons of course so you should decide which one to use yourself.All I am going to do is write a short review for each one.For detailed information or specific questions you will have to visit their developers’ official websites.Here we go:

phpBB PHP Bulletin Board
If you have not heard about this at least once I suppose you were living in a cave for the last five years.This one is really a pretender for the title „most popular“ in its’ category.
This is an open source project and can be downloaded for free from the official site (check below).It has a nice and clean interface , well organized navigation and admin panel.
As you can quess it is written in PHP and in most cases is the great solution for every website that needs a free forum system.It is translated in more than fifty languages and is highly customizable (you can create your own theme so it matches the image of your site as a whole).
One of the few bad things about it comes from the fact that is it is used on a lot of sites – if you start using this you will need to update it on a regular basis because there are different sort of exploits appearing every now and then.And you really don’t want to end up with a hacked/spammed forum because some script kiddie decided to test out what he has.
The latest release is v3 but there is no problem for you to use v2 since it is updated often as well.
Official site

SMF Simple Machines Forum
Are you looking for a nice looking, powerfull and easy to use forum system for your site…which of course is free (at least for starters).If the answer’s yes then SMF is probably the thing you are looking for.
It has a pretty straight forward installation process , it is easily configured and is recognised with its’ intuitional interface.As most of the free forum systems it is based on PHP and MySQL.This software is secure and you can edit its themes and change its look.It supports statistics and some details can be exported as XML/RSS.
It also has a great set of additional features available that you can play with after you have installed it on your server.
Official site

A lightweight discussion board system requiring a PHP and MySQL services running on your machine.It also uses JavaScript and Ajax (recently one of my favourite web technologies).The keyword here is „add-ons“…lots of them available and for all kinds of manipulations – administration , statistics and more.The best way to see what it can do is download it for free and test it out.
Official site

Another fast and lightweight forum system written in PHP and released under GNU Public license.The main goal of its’ developers was to create a faster and smaller system (images are brought down to the minimum) instead of being s stuffed with eye candy resource-requiring monster.
Bottomline is that punBB has less functions and options tham most open source projects but it is a lot faster (did I mention it was fast?).However , it is great for using when your site is hosted on a shared server and the administrator is monitoring every MySQL query and shuts you down at the moment you exceed what is allowed (not a very nice experience as you know).
Official site

miniBB Mini Bulletin Board
Yes , you guessed right – an open source forum system that uses PHP and MySQL…and released under GNU Public license.The pros here are the user-friendly interface and that it does not require a lot of resources to operate.Plus it is very stable.Most of the things said about punBB are valid here also.
Official site

As you can see if you are about to start your own forum you have a lot of choices.I would recommend taking your time to check what software is available out there and choose the one you need based on your personal requirement.Here are some extra links from me –

PHP based forums

ASP based forums

Other languages


Leave a Reply