Top 22 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 22 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
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.
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.
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.
BuddyPress is another free and open source social networking software package. It is a WordPress plugin that transforms your site into a community discussion platform. The plugin is designed to allow schools, companies, sports teams and other community to start their own social network and online community. It comes with all the necessary online community features such as user profiles, groups, activity streams, notifications, 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.
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.
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.
Flarum has a modern and sleek forum interface that built with PHP for quick and easy deployment. Its two-pane interface lets you quickly work your way through unread discussions, without having to go back to the discussion list or open dozens of tabs. The forum platform comes with an infinite scrolling allowing you to scrub anywhere in a discussion quickly. Other notable features include floating composer, touch devices optimized, tags, replies and mentions, real-time discussion and more.
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.
NodeBB is another great community platform and forum software, built with various customizable features and a plugin system that extends the abilities of standard forums. Some of its useful features include single sign-on, social sharing, real-time streaming and updates, live chat, analytics dashboard with graphs and tools, mobile responsive, support over 50 languages and many more.
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.
Codoforum is a free and straightforward forum software. Its layout structure is fully responsive for large screen computer or tiny mobile devices. Codoforum’s WYSIWYG shows live preview as you type. It recognizes markdown as well as BBCode if you are coming from other forum script. Images, videos and other rich-content can be easily embedded, files can be attached. Other features include single sign-on (SSO), mentions, tagging, notification system that provides live updates, simple subscription system and more.
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.
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.
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
Zendesk offers a sophisticated forum software for companies to build their online community and interact with their customers giving them the product knowledge. The software allows users to participate discussions in which community members post questions, answers and comments about the products and services. It works like an expandable bulletin board that covers topics of most interest to the customers. Some of its key features include WYSIWYG editor, restore deleted content, 40+ languages support and more.
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.
Discourse is a free Internet forum and mailing list management software application designed for modern web browsers with HTML5 support. Usability wise, it offers many user-friendly features such as infinity scrolling, live updates, expanding links, and drag and drop attachments, improving online discussion experience. Discourse is also optimized for mobile devices, and the platform looks sleek on all of them.
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.
Invision Community is another platform for building vibrant online communities with forums, eCommerce, content management, image galleries and more. Its premium community forum software – IP. Board 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.
Instead of typical hierarchical forum views, IP. Board’s Fluid view is a single sleek view that collates topics from across a selection of forums. You can also use the per-forum theme options to uniquely customize each of your forums to match your sub-brands. Popular topics will be automatically shown in the sidebar for more visibility.
If you happen to run a Question & Answer forums, IP. Board enables you to up-vote the best questions and highlight the best reply to give better visibility.
WoltLab Suite comes with many enterprise-grade apps. The Woltlab Suite Forum (formerly known as WoltLab Burning Board) is an award-winning forum software, supported by many plugins to extend your online community. It provides many advanced features including delayed publication, post merging, duplication, etc. Its automated content aggregation feature allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds from external sites and have their content pulled over to your site. Moreover you can assign tags and groups of labels to threads, helping users to quickly recognize the content.