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Bleg: do you know of any good forum software?

Posted by joshy on March 29, 2008 at 1:10 PM PDT

Today I think I shall use the power of my blog for evil instead of good. Well, maybe not evil but at least for my own personal gain.

I need some forum software. After searching online for an hour or so and asking a few friends the consensus seems to be phpbb. Is this really the best of the bunch? The many forum software packages I have found all leave a great deal to be desired. They are often ugly, have extra features I don't need, are missing a few crucial features that I do need, and seem to have a plethora of config options. Surely there is something good out there I'm missing. So my question to you is: what forum software do you recommend?

Here are my constraints:

  • the UI must be skinnable
  • it must have true email support, where some readers can read and post via email and some readers can read and post via the website.
  • it must be open source or at least free for commercial use (though i'm not averse to purchasing a support contract after evaluation)
  • Being written in Java is desired but not essential. As long as it runs on Linux or Solaris I'm fine.

Any ideas?

Thanks.

  Josh

Comments

I'm in the same boat as you. My conclusion so far is that phpbb3 is nice and feature rich, but there is a trade off with PHP: I've been royally burned by PHP vulnerabilities. I don't trust it at all anymore. I only use PHP behind a firewall where people can more easily be fired and prosecuted for malicious behavior. When it comes to security, Java got it right.

As for Java based solutions, Jive is my preference -- if you are RICH, that is! It use to be open source, but now they are just arrogant and clueless.

If money is an object, and it usually is, LifeRay has a Message Board that is fairly nice. Then there is either JForum or mvnForum. mvnForum seems to be going the route of Jive by charging for an "Enterprise" and "Portal" solution. Give me a break.

In case Jive and MyVietnam (mvn) haven't noticed, Open Source can be far very lucrative: $1 BILLION for MySql says a lot. And then there is JBoss, and... you get the idea. Hopefully they will get their head out of their posterior orifice, and learn from the success of others. I use to contribute to Jive, but won't lift a finger until it is truly free and open again.

I would also recommend phpBB3. It has everything you require, except Java. Take a look at our forum for an example of skinning.

I don't know about performance either unfortunately. I do not host it myself on our servers. Too much hassle for too little gain IMO. Online hosting is so cheap anyway and they all support PHP.

Josh, I actually don't know. I don't use email in that way.

JForum is the only decent forum software written in Java that I've seen: http://www.jforum.net/


-Nilesh

I'm impressed. That skin does look pretty good. What is the performance like? Can phpbb3 do full email or just send you an alert when a new message is posted?

Hello Josh,

I have had very few problems with phpbb3. Super easy to install and easy to admin. It can look pretty good with the right skin: http://migcalendar.com/forum/

Cheers,
Mikael

I am a member of the Nabble project. Have you tried Nabble?

http://www.nabble.com/

> the UI must be skinnable

Nabble is embeddable. Try create a forum, then embed it into your site like a YouTube video. It's easier than skinnable.

> it must have true email support, where some readers can read and post via email and some readers can read and post via the website.

Nabble currently has an email alert, which allows you to get alert for new posts or replies or any posts matching your search query. But in the next few weeks we will allow user to subscribe to a forum by email, so the forum can be accessed both as forum or as a mailing list.

> it must be open source or at least free for commercial use (though i'm not averse to purchasing a support contract after evaluation)

It's not open source yet. It's free.

> Being written in Java is desired but not essential. As long as it runs on Linux or Solaris I'm fine.

It's written in Java.

One extra benefit of Nabble is that it's simple. An even simpler Nabble2 version will come out in a few weeks.

Haven't tried this myself but this is phpbb written in java: http://nbb2.sourceforge.net/index.html

Here you can compare forums http://www.forummatrix.org/ I would recommend http://www.simplemachines.org/

I run a busy forum, at visforvoltage.org and am using Drupal. I did a similar search about 4 yrs ago and ended up choosing Drupal over all the competition. However I wanted to more than just a forum. I get complaints from PHPbb devotees that they dislike Drupal, but I think phpBB is pretty bad and the fact it is only a forum (doesn't have other features) is pretty darn limiting. Drupal is a general content management system that also happens to have forum capabilities. As for the "java or not" side of this.. if you use Resin (caucho.com) it comes bundled with a PHP compiler. It's very likely whatever PHP widget you choose it will run.