Apart from your website if you want a free self-hosted online forum software then you stumble upon the right place. There are lots of open-source forum software platforms available where you can start your online discussion board in no time. But things get stuck when you want to start your forum and are a little bit confused about which platform is best for you. Many forum platforms are available free of cost and easy to handle just like WordPress for creating an online discussion portal. Building an online community is not only beneficial to you but also to your readers who have lots of questions and doubts about your product.
For How2shout, first, we have started our forum on the free and open-source platform phpBB then we shifted to Vanilla forum software, and then finally stopped at the Question2Answer platform. Because we want something like Quora for our website where people just ask a question and get an answer from admin or community members. There are both best paid and free online Forum Platforms/Software available in the market but in this article, we are majorly going to discuss the free and open source
Here is a list of the best Open-source Forum Software/Platforms in 2022
phpBB is the most popular best free and Open Source forum software that comes with an extensive database of user-created plugins and styles or themes. It is a free flat-forum bulletin board software that can customize easily according to user choice. There are also phpBB themes available online both paid and free.
The default interface does not seem too interactive like Discourse forum software but you can customize it by some developer to get better looks to suit your brand. The theming system is mediocre not like WordPress in terms of easy accessibility. Overall, if you talk about phpBB forums features and security then it is far better than free forums available. It has pretty much the same features as the paid Vbulletin which is around $250.
WebsiteLink to Download:
phpBB Key Features
- Extensive database of extensions.
- Can easily optimize for SEO.
- Comes with anti-spam functionality.
- Light and snappy
- Theme support
- Supports social login including Google and Facebook using an extension.
MyBB Forum platform
MyBB is another open-source forum software or platform that comes with extensive themes and plugins database. The default theme of MyBB is also like phpBB not much intuitive but you can use third-party themes to give it a more sleek and modern look.
With everything from forums to threads, posts to private messages, search for profiles, and reputation to warnings, MyBB features everything you need to run an efficient and captivating community. Through plugins and themes, you can extend MyBB’s functionality to build your community exactly as you’d like it.
MyBB Key Features
- Extend the capabilities using the plugin system to add new features to your forum.
- It has a Template, Theme, and easy CSS editor for style customization.
- Private Messaging for registered users.
- Threads, Posts, and Polls
- Calendars and Events
- Give ratings and leave comments on other registered users and their posts.
- Automatically promote users based on post count, reputation, or registration date.
- Warning System that warns and punishes users when they act inappropriately.
- Mass Mail and Newsletters to registered users
- MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite database support
Vanilla-Free Forum software
We have tried this software after phpBB and it is easy to install. Vanilla provides both hosted and open source community forum software that can be self-hosted too. Most of the hosting providers have this forum software in their application database where you can install it with one click.
In our research, this is also one of the free & best forum software solutions available that support themes and plugins. Also, you can find a variety of themes and plugins to enable different features such as SEO, anti-spam, social login, emojis, FilterDiscussion, calendar, and a lot more. The database of themes and extensions is enough vast to fulfill your forum needs.
Download: Vanilla Forum
Vanilla Forum key features
- Widget support
- Roles and Permissions
- Themes and plugins support
- Social login support
- Easy to Install
- SEO supported
Simple Machines Forum
Simple Machines Forum (SMF) is a free professional forum software platform that can create a forum for enterprise online communities within minutes. Like phpBB, MyBB and Vanilla this is also offered to install in the application package of hosting providers, just select it from there and install it.
The Simple Machine forum gives you full control of the layout of your message board and lets your forum interact with each other. It is written in PHP and uses a MySQL database but supports PostgreSQL and SQLite too. The default interface is not much attractive and you need to modify it using themes to give it sleek and modern. Overall, all the essential features it provides those you need on a bulletin board.
Download Link: Simple machines
Supports themes and plugins
- Light and PHP based
- Easy to install and maintain
- Uses PHP and MySQL, PostgreSQL, or SQLite.
- Multi-media output. (XHTML, XML, RSS, WAP)
- Multi-language support from a large community.
- Administrative actions require the user’s password (and do not rely solely on cookies.)
- Major actions are time and IP locked, preventing ‘hammering’.
- CAPTCHA system and more.
Discourse Forum Platform
Discourse is an open-source cross-platform and one of the best forum software platforms. This forum platform helps to set up an online community in a very interactive way. The interface of this platform is one of the best available free of cost. The UI is simply clear and straightforward. For checking out the conversation you don’t need to click again and again on the Next button instead of that just keep scrolling. The links to different websites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Amazon, GitHub, Twitter, etc. placed in the discussion are going to expand automatically to provide additional context and information.
This open-source free forum is responsive which means it looks awesome on both desktop and mobile browsers. The only drawback of this open-source software is that you should be a little bit technical as it only going to install using Docker. Also, it is resources heavy as compared to the best PhpBB forum software.
Discourse Key Features:
- Responsive and clean interface for touch devices and desktops.
- Dynamic notifications
- Community moderation
- Reply via email
- Social login using Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo accounts.
- Like function for posts.
- Support plugin system.
Learn: How To Install Discourse on Debian 11 Bullseye server
bbPress- A WordPress Forum platform
The bbPress is a forum plugin that can be installed on WordPress to provide forum capabilities. The above screenshot is taken from a dedicated Q&A WordPress forum theme that uses bbpress. If already a WordPress user and wants the same type of flexibility with your forum then bbPress is here.
bbPres is also a free forum software that can be used along with BuddyPress too. If you know a little bit about hosting and WordPress setup then you can easily set up the bbPress too. It is developed by the Automattic the mind behind the popular Jetpack plugin. It is focused on ease of integration, ease of use, web standards, and speed. Well documented along with a good database of plugins and themes both paid and free.
Website Link to download: bbpress.org
bbPress Key Features
- Topic Tags
- Post Formatting
- Auto-embed Links
- Reply Threading
- Integrated Plugins: Akismet and BuddyPress
- Supports Widgets, Shortcodes, and useful tools to repair your forum
FluxBB Forum software
FluxBB is another free and open source forum software platform that islighter and faster and can be an alternative to heavy forum software applications. It is easy to use and has a track record of stability and security making it a good choice of forum for your website.
FluxBB Forum software key features
- Supports MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite databases.
- User-selectable style
- Admin panel plugins
- Read topic tracking
- Topic subscription
- Forum subscription
- Post preview and many more.
CODOFORUM – Free PHP Forum Software Script
Codoforum is not much popular but it is very straightforward free forum software. It is a free PHP-based forum platform that has a clean divided section of question & answer and right sidebar. On the left side, you get all the topics and other information on the right side. It uses a MySQL database. There is no extensive plugin or theme database but Codoforum keeps pushing its community and developers to create plugins and themes.
Website Link: Codoforum.com
Codoforum Key Features:
- Simple, clean, and impressive UI.
- Easy to use and speed.
- Live notifications
- Markdown Support
- syntax highlighting
- Support for embedding images, videos, tweets, and other rich content.
Flarum Opensource Forum software
Flarum is the combined successor of esoTalk and FluxBB forums. It is a newbie in the forums world but still one of the best forum interfaces along with a sleek and modern look. The user interface is simple, fast, and free from clutter and bloats. Flarum is built with PHP so it’s quick and easy to deploy.
Website Link: Flarum
Flarum Opensource Features:
- Beautiful and responsive design
- Dynamic notifications
- SEO optimized
- Touch devices optimized
- Tags, replies, and mentions
- Real-time discussion
Learn – How to install Flarum on Ubuntu 20.04 or 22.04 Server
BuddyPress WordPress forum Plugin software
The above screenshot interface is a third-party BuddyPress compatible theme for WordPress called “Thrive”.
Just like bbPress, the BuddyPress is also a plugin that creates a community discussion platform for WordPress. It includes all of the features you’ve come to expect from an online community, like user profiles, groups, activity streams, notifications, and more.
Download link: buddypress.org
BuddyPress key features:
- Users can create and update profiles, including the use of profile photos.
- Private messages can send similar to those found on Facebook.
- Users can form and join groups.
- Administrators can choose to let their users create and join groups of common interest.
- Follow activity streams.
- Users can create blogs.
- Full functionality of WordPress
- Full-featured online publishing platform.
- Users can participate in forum discussions.
- Integrated with bbPress to enhance community forums.
ZetaBoards: A Free hosted Forum Platform
If you don’t want to dirty your hands with coding and all those technical stuff then ZetaBoards is the best option. ZetaBoards offers its pre-hosted forum software platform that comes with both free and premium services. But most of the services you need for your forum are free. You can also set your custom domain to show professionalism too.
ZetaBoards key features:
- Full Customization via CSS
- Custom Profile FieldsFree Support for Custom Domains
- Integrated Automatic Spam Prevention
- Pinned (Sticky) TopicsWebsite Maker
- ZetaBoards Integrated Shoutbox
- Advanced Private Messaging System
- Anonymous Login Option
- Theme Selector
- Collapsible Forums and Forum Statistics
- Topic and Post search
- Extensive BBCode Options and More…
Also, we want to include some best-paid discussion forum platforms too and here they are:
Best Paid Online Forum Platforms
vBulletin Connect Forum
vBulletin (vB) is the most popular premium forum software for creating an online community. It has lots of built-in an application such as discussion and forums, photo albums, groups, calendars, events management, polls, blog, and more. There are three versions of this paid forum software that can be selected according to need.
- Publishing Suite
- Forum classic
- Mobile suite
vBulletin Key features:
- Built-in Applications: Discussion Forum, Groups, Polls, & Blog
- Search Engine Optimization
- Control Panels for Every Role
- User/Member Management
- Create a continuous Style/theme across Articles, Blogs, Forum and more.
Nodebbcommunity forum software
It integrates into your existing website and social media networks, allowing you to maximize your outreach and establish close relationships with your users.
NodeBB Key Features:
- Mobile Responsive
- support, with over 50 language
- SEO,semantic HTML with embedded microdata, and more.
- Real-time Streaming
- Social Integration
- NodeBB’s Analytics Dashboard has real-time graphs and tools.
Zendesk Guide -knowledge base forum
Build an OnlineForum with Zendesk Guide which offers a smart knowledge base forum witha smart interface. It is basically for companies that want to interact with their customers and give them knowledge about their products.
- Keep some content for your agents only, require registration, or open it up to the public.
- Create articles including media like photos and videos with our WYSIWYG editor.
- Restore deleted content
- Supports 40+ languages and more…
Invision Power Board (IP Board)
The IPS Community Suite is a flexible, integrated set of apps for building great communities on the web. It provides Forums, eCommerce, Content Management, File Manager, Calendar, Image, Galleries, Blogs.
Invision Power Board Features:
- Spam preventions
- Content discovery and more…
XenForo – Community Forum Software
XenForo is a commercial Internet forum software package written in the PHP programming language using the Zend Framework. The software is developed by former vBulletin lead developers. It was written PHP and supports the MySQL database.
XenForo key features:
- Social Engagement
- Recent Activity Stream
- Easy Styling
- Add ons,extensible and flexible community software
- SEO Built-in
PlushForums integrates a blog, private messaging, member directory, custom profiles, paid subscriptions, and a polished set of forum features. You don’t need any technical knowledge, themes, plugins, security updates, etc. to configure it is hosted service and maintained by PlushFroums. The design of the forum is sleek, modern, and responsive for both desktop and mobile.
- Live notifications
- an intuitive feedback system
- Easily add tweets, videos, images, polls, smart quotes, hashtags, rich text, and more.
- Free SSLsupport
- built-in protection against bots, spammers, and hackers.
- Integrated Blog
- Private conversations
- Question Mode and more…
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If you know any other best forum software which is free and open-source then please do comment and let us know…
Discourse is forum software that's available as open-source, self-hosted or a hosted solution. Hosted solutions require a paid license but you can install the open-source Discourse on your own server for free, other than the cost of implementation.
Discourse is open-source forum software that you can in tandem with your existing website and CMS platform. Not only can community members use it on their mobile devices, but they'll also get dynamic notifications, badges, emoji, and more.
- Enter your website name. Select a unique name for your forum website that can help your business stand out.
- Add preferred features to your website. Build a great forum website without any coding.
- Launch your website. Test your forum website and launch it.
Best & Most Popular Online Forums, Message Boards & Online Communities. 1. Reddit: This world website or online forum aggregates news around the world and creates space for online forum users to hold topical discussions and rate the web content.What are the most active forums? ›
- Reddit (430 million monthly users) ...
- Quora (300 million monthly users) ...
- Craigslist Forum (55 million monthly users) ...
- GameSpot (58+ million annual page views) ...
- IGN Boards (1.3 million registered members) ...
- Stack Overflow (10 million registered members) ...
- Something Awful (150,000 paid members)
Perry Educators' Ass'n, 460 U.S. 37 (1983), the Supreme Court divided forums into three types: traditional public forums, designated forums, and nonpublic forums.Does Google have a forum app? ›
Google Groups doesn't have an official "Forum" option, but you can use the service to interact with your group in a web browser as you would a forum. You can keep your Google Group private or make it easy to find using Google's search tools.What is an example of online forum? ›
Reddit. Reddit is both an online forum and a global social media network. Passionate users devote themselves to the conversation, with the best answers receiving an upvote. The platform itself is one giant online forum, with thousands of divisions into specific topics: AKA subreddits.Is Wix forum free? ›
Simply add Wix Forum (for free!) directly from the Wix App Market. Make your forum unique by customizing the layout and design to your liking.What is a forum app? ›
A forum app is a modern mobile and navigation friendly app to grow your forum. Your members can use it to get involved in discussions, join in on polls, share photos and videos and easily access it on both iOS and Android devices.
An environment where participants can pose issues for discussion and respond to any contribution, thus creating threaded discussions that can spawn a discussion tree where the discussion branches out in many directions or subthreads.Can you make money with an online forum? ›
You can start adding affiliate content to your forum. It's the easiest way to make money with forum websites, without a doubt. You can add offers from Amazon, ClickBank, Commission Junction, and more. The best choice will be adding affiliate banners of top eCommerce companies.What is an open forum website? ›
Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format: An open forum where anyone can start a new discussion at any time. Discussion topics are on one page with Discuss this topic links.How do you create a forum on Google sites? ›
- Go to Google Groups.
- Near the top left corner, click Create group.
- Describe the group. ...
- Choose the type of group you want to create. ...
- Choose who can join, post, and see topics in your group. ...
- Near the top left corner, Click Create group button.
- Discussion – Discussion forums are the most traditional type of forum. ...
- Question (Q&A) – The Q&A format presents the initial thread post as a question, requesting responses. ...
- Both Q&A and Discussion - Both Q&A and traditional discussions are enabled for this type of forum thread.
In the United States, for example, most government owned public property is an open forum. In that forum, citizens can protest, hold meetings, and exercise other first amendment rights. Some typical examples include sidewalks, parks, streets, publicly held buildings, and spaces set aside specifically for the purpose.What is the largest electronic discussion forum? ›
Reddit − Reddit is a social news collection of web content along with ratings, and the discussion forum website. Reddit's registered community members can submit the content on various topics in the form of text posts or direct links.How do I find new forums? ›
- Boardreader. ...
- Google Forum Search. ...
- Find a Forum. ...
- Create Your Own Forum Search Engine. ...
- Search Forums Directly.
White explained three categories of government property
- Traditional, or quintessential, public forums;
- limited, or designated, public forums;
- and nonpublic forums.
A Digital forum, or message board, is an online discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. They differ from chat rooms in that messages are often longer than one line of text, and are at least temporarily archived.
A blog is a frequently updated web page or website where the content appears in reverse chronological order, while a forum is an online discussion site where users share ideas, thoughts, or help by posting text messages. Thus, this is the main difference between a blog and a forum.What is a private forum? ›
What is a private forum? An internet forum is any kind of online discussion board where members can discuss common interests and exchange messages. A private forum goes a step further by hiding its content behind a sign-up page so that only registered members can view and post content.What are social media forums? ›
Forums are an element of social media technologies which take on many different forms including blogs, business networks, enterprise social networks, forums, microblogs, photo sharing, products/services review, social bookmarking, social gaming, social networks, video sharing and virtual worlds.How do I find a discussion forum on Google? ›
If you're a fan of Chrome, give the Discussions button for Google Search a try! Once you've downloaded the button, Discussions will appear back in the 'More' menu on the Google search results, allowing you to search forums and message boards for up-to-date conversations.How do I create a forum online? ›
- Choose a forum software.
- Define your forum's theme.
- Be clear about the rules.
- Encourage active participation.
- Promote your forum regularly.
- Enhance your forum with special features.
Facebook doesn't have discussion forums. They have what they call “groups”. It's more for a post and then comments on that post instead of actual robust discussion like a forum is made for. A forum allows you to organize discussion better into various categories.What is the most popular social media forum? ›
1. Reddit » Social Media. A sub for professional discussion about social media, news, and best practices.What is the difference of chat and forum? ›
Whereas chat rooms allow you to communicate with people in real time, forums are more suited for discussions where not all participants have to be online at the same time. Forums also tend to be more organized, with discussions separated into topics called "threads," which are moderated.What is an example of discussion forum? ›
Flyertalk.com is an excellent example of a discussion-driven community, which hosts discussions centric to the airline industry. Topics include frequent-flyer forums, travel news, luxury hotel discussions, and advice on all things airline related.Is Vanilla forums open source? ›
Vanilla provides cloud and open source community forum software that powers discussion forums worldwide with close to 1M downloads. Built for flexibility and integration, Vanilla is the best, most powerful community solution in the world.
- Step 1: Decide where you want to create your forum.
- Step 2: Download and install bbPress.
- Step 3: Create your first forum.
- Step 4: Display your forum index (all of the forums)
- Step 5: Organize your forums.
- Step 6: Setup register and login workflow.
Wix gives you 100s of templates, unlimited pages & top grade hosting FREE.What is SEO forum? ›
SEO forums allow you to ask questions and share knowledge. This is an opportunity to help you build your online reputation. Sharing solutions that work for other people will make them trust you. If you keep helping people with useful, relevant information, they will consider you as the expert of a certain niche.How do I create a forum app? ›
- Choose your forum topic.
- Select a forum name.
- Choose a platform for building your forum app.
- Decide on features and functionality.
- Design your forum app.
- Preview your forum app.
- Submit your forum app.
- Final Words.
The Slack Community Forum is a central place for users to connect with others and with Slack more directly to research, gather information and solve problems together.How do I create a discussion forum? ›
- Pick a location to host your forum.
- Choose a software to create your forum website.
- Organize your forum's structure.
- Design your forum's theme.
- Create user rules for your forum website.
- Start conversations with interesting discussion topics.
- Publish your forum on your website.
A single simple discussion - A single discussion topic which everyone can reply to (cannot be used with separate groups) Each person posts one discussion - Each student can post exactly one new discussion topic, which everyone can then reply to.How can I improve my online discussion? ›
- Develop a thesis, argument, or question. ...
- Use keywords in your title. ...
- Encourage discussion. ...
- Make postings short, clear, and purposeful. ...
- Your stance need not be forever. ...
- Other practical considerations for discussion board postings. ...
- Make the context clear. ...
- Add value to the conversation.
- Rent a Local Friend.
- Rent a Cyber Friend.
- Friend PC.
- Use ad networks. ...
- Sell ad space directly to companies. ...
- Mention products you affiliate-sell. ...
- Add a sub-forum that sells. ...
- Add a sub-forum for product reviews. ...
- Turn links in user-generated content into affiliate links.
It is a common mistake for many users who create a forum to create too many topics or channels. Don't overwhelm the user, especially if it's not needed. Start with a forum with only a few channels (4-6) and then as more channels become needed, create those channels.
Focus on content quality and visitor engagement
Once your forum grows to a certain size, you might have thousands to tens of thousands of post threads on your site. To run a successful forum or online community, you need two things: users who are posting, and other users who are engaging with those posts.
Looking for a Forum to Join
Just double-click on the icon of the browser you wish to open (any will do) found on the desktop. Search for a forum. If you haven't yet found a forum you want to join, you can search for it using the browser's search bar at the top of the screen.
Google Groups is a great way to get started in creating discussion forums on your website. After making the group public and allowing external users to view conversations, you can embed it into Google Sites and use it as a forum like our Discussion Forum page. Anyone can join the discussion and post.How much does it cost to build a forum website? ›
The cost of creating a custom platform can be largely variable, depending on the functionality and user experience required for your site. As an estimate, we've roughly determined that a very simple custom platform will likely cost $20,000, with the cost going up as additional features are added to the platform.What is a Gmail forum? ›
Forums: Messages from online groups, discussion boards and mailing lists.Does Microsoft have a forum? ›
Social Squared is a Microsoft Teams Discussion Board App enabling Microsoft Teams users to benefit from structured forum discussions where topics and replies to topics can be discovered easily. S ocial Squared for Microsoft Teams provides a platform for multi-threaded conversations within Microsoft Teams channels.How do I create a discussion forum for my website? ›
- Choose a forum software.
- Define your forum's theme.
- Be clear about the rules.
- Encourage active participation.
- Promote your forum regularly.
- Enhance your forum with special features.
Is Microsoft Teams really free? Yes! The free version of Teams includes the following: Chat messages and search.
Many companies set up specific Yammer groups for different workplace technologies that act as a forum for all users across the organization.What replaced Microsoft Live Meeting? ›
We encourage you to begin the move from Live Meeting to Skype for Business as quickly as possible, completing the migration no later than December 31, 2017, at which time the existing Live Meeting service will be fully shut down.Can you make money from creating a forum? ›
You can start adding affiliate content to your forum. It's the easiest way to make money with forum websites, without a doubt. You can add offers from Amazon, ClickBank, Commission Junction, and more. The best choice will be adding affiliate banners of top eCommerce companies.Does Google sites have a discussion board? ›
Adding a discussion forum to your site can be a great way to engage with customers and get feedback on your business. Whether it is for an internal project or public fan page, Google Sites makes adding a discussion easy right on the site.How much does it cost to host an online forum? ›
High-speed hosting for less than $1 per month.
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