15 Best Online Forum Platforms / Software (Free and Paid)
Interested in running your own online forum, but having a difficult time to decide which forum platform suits your needs? Well, look no further, let us introduce you top 15 most widely used web forum platforms available on the web, both free and premium. You can simply pick one of these forum software solutions to set up your own online discussion board right away. Before that, ask yourself what kind of forum you exactly want. If all you need is a lightweight and easy-to-use online forum, then you can consider free and open source platform like phpBB. If you are Internet entrepreneur and thinking of some big forum sites like Digital Forum or 4Chan, you’ll need a feature-rich and powerful solution like vBulletin.
We hope you’ll find this article useful. Any great forum software is missing from the list, please let us know in the comments section below.
Best Free Online Forum Platforms
phpBB is a free and open source forum bulletin board software that can be used to stay in touch with a group of people or can power your entire website. Its extensive database of user-created modifications and styles contains hundreds of style and image packages to customise your board.
Simple Machines Forum
Simple Machines Forum is a free, professional grade software package that allows you to set up your own online community within minutes. Its custom made template engine puts you in full control of the layout of your message board and lets your forum interact with each other. SMF is written in PHP and uses a MySQL database. It is designed to provide you with all the features you need from a bulletin board.
ZetaBoards offers free forum hosting that serves as the great site for growing an online community. They don’t limit their forum communities by posts, members, or even bandwidth. Like many other forum platforms, Zetaboards has many features like joinable groups, custom profile fields, full customization via CSS, free support for custom domains, integrated automatic spam prevention, pinned topics and more.
bbPress lets you easily setup discussion forums inside your WordPress.org powered site. It is focused on ease of integration, ease of use, web standards, and speed.
Vanilla provides hosted and open source community forum software that powers discussion forums. It allows you to create a customized community that rewards positive participation, automatically curates content and lets members drive moderation.
PunBB is a lightweight PHP-powered discussion board. Its primary goals are to be faster, and less graphically intensive as compared to other discussion boards. PunBB has fewer features than many other discussion boards, but is generally faster and outputs smaller, semantically correct XHTML-compliant pages.
FluxBB is designed as a lighter, faster alternative to some of the traditional feature heavy forum applications. It is easy to use and has many useful features such as User selectable style, admin panel plugins, read topic tracking, topic subscription, forum subscription, announcement, post preview and many more.
PlushForums is a hosted community service offering real-time discussions, a modern design, integrated blog, member directory, private messaging and excellent mobile support. It even includes a PayPal subscription feature so you can easily monetize content. Plush is fast and easy to use. No technical knowledge or plugins are necessary.
Phorum is open source forum software with a penchant for speed. Its flexible hook and module system allow a webmaster to create modules for using external authentication, altering message data before its stored, adding custom information about users or messages and more.
MyBB is a free PHP and MySQL based discussion system. It uses an intuitive discussion board structure, so that visitors can easily start and reply to discussions and markup their posts. The forum administrators and moderators can use MyBB’s inline editing and moderation features to control discussion and keep the forum tidy.
miniBB is a free, standalone, and open source program for building your own Internet forum. The PHP bulletin board script offers you a simple and stable message board that includes a full customization of the layout to the look of your website, and synchronizes your existing membership system.
YaBB is a free forum software package that allows users to setup and control a “bulletin board”. It provides a real-time chat and support system for your visitors. With YaBB, you can build a community and get visitors to come back for interesting discussions, fun chit chat, and supports.
Best Premium Online Forum Platforms
vBulletin (vB) is a popular premium Internet forum software on the web, and the choice of many big websites. Some of its built-in applications include discussion and forum, photo albums, groups, calendar, events management, polls, blog and more. There are three versions for you to choose: publishing suite, forum classic and mobile suite, with different costing, depending on your needs.
IP.Board is another solution for creating an engaging discussion forum on the web. The premium forum software offers comprehensive tools that enable users to discuss effortlessly and encourage them to return to your site again. It also allows users share and promote content from your website.
XenForo is a commercial Internet forum software package written in the PHP programming language. It is developed by a team led by former vBulletin lead developers. The paid forum software has several SEO features inbuilt, powerful add-ons, recent activity stream, social engagement functionalities, etc.
Woltlab Burning Board
WoltLab Burning Board is a fast and reliable forum software solution for your internet site. It has three premium versions you can choose: Burning Board, Burning Board Lite and Community Framework, with many plugins to extend your online community.