What is the Best forum software out there?

And I’m back! It has been a long while since I last blogged, so lets get going right away!

What is the best forum software available out there?

Not the best question to start with, so the best answer it not optimal as well: it depends. Depends on what you want, on what you are looking for. What I want is something that:

  • is simple and easy to manage – I won’t have much time the manage stuff;
  • is free or at least with a good entry level pricing – I want to create a community, but it has no direct commercial goals;
  • is modern looking and easy to use.

Those are perhaps too much to ask, but lets find out.

The options

Bellow are the forum board software I found, some I already knew about, and others were recommend by friends. The grouping is not random: we will quickly analyse similar systems together.

These are the simpler ones. phpBB is probably amongst the better known of all software that I looked at, and both jforum and Simple Machines seems to be highly inspired by it. Both phpBB and jforum are open source, but I couldn’t really find that out about Simple Machines.

Those three got ruled out because of the third of my requirements: they are old-looking. They have a very dated UI, but could be a good option if you are looking for a well known formula.

Next.

Now things get visually much better. All three options above are modern looking and seem quite interesting. NodeBB and Discourse also bring something new to our comparison table: they both offer commercial / hosted solutions, which is great when you don’t have expertise or time to setup your own installation.

I discarded Mamute because it is not much more than a Stackoverflow clone, and I wanted something more community focused, and less Q & A focused. Discussion should be fine and encouraged for what I’m looking for.

NodeBB and Discourse were a different matter. I was really close to choose one of them when I found about the winner – more on that one later. Also, they both have a small problem for me: they are based on technologies I’m not totally familiar with, which means I would have to spend sometime learning. It would not be a big deal, but the winner is really a killer. Finally, the hosted version seemed a bit expensive to me.

Next.

A fully commercial option. Good looking and feature rich, lost me on the price point. They base their price on the number of online users – but how am I to know that, considering I’m just starting?

The winner.

Another commercial option. Two features really got me: first, it is embeddable. It can be part of your site, instead of a different or separated thing altogether. Second, it has a great starting price: Zero. You can use the free version for as long as you want, and if you decide to pay, the service levels are not based on the number of users you have, which makes everything that much simpler.

Also, the way Muut organizes information is exactly what I wanted: community focused. And to make things even better: the setup is ridiculously easy. Just drop in a html snippet in your site and you are done. They also have an API and other really cool features!

There are only two features I miss on Muut: sticky posts and locked posts. If the community is well behaved, this shouldn’t be a problem, but we will find out.

Finally….

What is it that I am doing, you might wonder… Well, I’ve been working on EasyForger (http://easyforger.com/) for a while now. It is starting to get some users, and I would like a way to connect them together. You can see our forums at forum.easyforger.com – it is only in Portuguese for now, though =].

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