Open Source Forum Software

Something that may be of interest to you domain owners out there – a Free (no-cost) and Free (as in speech) -ly downloadable software package for hosting your own forum.

Vanilla is released under the GPL and can be downloaded from the authors’ website. So, what will you need to add this forum software to your website? Well, since you’re too lazy to read the documentation page, I suppose I’d better help you out. You will need:

  • A domain
  • A server to put the files on
  • Said server to be running SQL (Vanilla is compatible with MySQL v3.23 and upwards)
  • Admin access so you can change permissions on file folders
  • FTP or SSH software to enable you to upload and manipulate the files on the server
  • The ability to create SQL databases

Armed with all of this, you are then free to install and run your own forum software. because it’s released under the GPL, you are free to change it, pull it apart, put it back together again and share it. You can even take this release and fork it off into your own version. Really, as long as you are confident enough to install something like WordPress, Vanilla should be a breeze.

Once you have installed it to your liking, you can then install Add-ons for the software to further expand it’s abilities. There are currently 49 add-ons available, and I am sure that this list will grow.

It remains to be seen whether this will be a stayer. They seem to have a growing community and it’s a worthwhile goal, so I hope that it will stay and grow further. I can’t post a step by step install and experience post here – I have no use for a forum and so won’t install it.

Anyway, here’s a screenshot of it in action (it’s the Vanilla support forum, if you’re interested):


Posted on 30 May, 2006, in Computer Stuff. Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. I actually checked this one out as well. I decided on UseBB though for; once I get around to finishing it up though. You can have a sneakpeek at though, I’ve disabled registrations at this time until I get everything completed and how I like it.

  2. I was quite impressed by the software – especially since it’s open source and no cost.

    PQo looks very very good. Should be great when it’s up and running.

  3. Yeah, once its up and busy, I might need a few good moderators.. šŸ˜‰

  4. As soon as it’s up and running, I’m going to plaster it with my stoopid noobie questions! šŸ˜‰

  5. Good, I can test banning people when you sign up.. šŸ™‚

  6. I’ll make my first post “what do you have to do to be a moderator here?” šŸ˜€

  7. That would prompt a deletion of your account and domain on my server.. šŸ˜‰

  8. hehehe – why are you on Windows XP? Gone over to the dark side…..?

    As long as I’m able to post a url after less than 3 posts, I’m happy šŸ™‚

  9. New job, laptop has XP on it. šŸ˜¦

  10. You should complain – say "do you know who I am?" and then sneer at them šŸ˜€ šŸ˜€

  11. that’s great guys. šŸ˜€ made my day.

    Hey Drew & Ray- a group of us are looking at starting up a forum- why decide to go with UseBB/Vanilla rather than, say, phpBB?

    oh- and Ray- I’ve found a bug with the comment box- the wordwrap is set too high- I find I’m typing blind as the text goes under the preview box as I get too far right.

  12. Hi Alison – the word wrap/scroll bars work in FF/Slack and Konqeror – or, at least, they turn up. You have to manually scroll down the page.

    And as far as reasons to use one bit of software over another, I dunno šŸ™‚ For a non-profit with tight funds, a free forum buider could be very useful. Or if you want to play with the idea of a forum before committing.

    It’s really all about choice šŸ˜‰

  13. One of the reasons I don’t choose phpbb is that it’s heavily used, which in turn makes it more vulnerable for those to write malicious code to use against it. It’s had quite a number of security risks in the most recent years.
    I went with UseBB after testing out about 5 different forums. It seemed the most full featured but also seemed to run the fastest. The second runner up is Phorum, it’s not as full featured but it’s truly one of the fastest I’ve used and very secure, but in the end, most members start asking what other forums have, UseBB had a majority of what the standard forum has already.

  14. Where did vanilla rate for you, Drew?

    *scroll bars missing* on trying a long line of text like this one, I’ve found that if I have the browser truly full screen, (apple: that green button? full screen my foot.) then the overlap isn’t as bad.
    The preview means it’s not a big issue, but it’s really not that great if a component solves a problem it creates…

    OOOh! I see what it is. I see the scroll bar on the preview window (long post) and also- putting the window to a ludicrously skinny size showed the preview floating in the middle of the box.

    The scroll bar gets in between and prevents overlap, but it overlaps the preview slightly.

    anyway. ramble ramble *who cares anyway* šŸ™‚

  15. Vanilla was up there but it seemed more like a discussion type forum or mailing list rather than the standard forum. I did like it however and I almost thought about having a different section using it as more of a leisure discussion section instead of a ask and answer section.

  16. vanilla looks like the one for us then- we would be a more a leisure discussion type place rather than a “x broke!” “try y” kind of forum.

    Thanks drew! (and ray- for highlighting this)

  17. Drew, if you need advice, tips and help on building a community online, I suggest

    I am the official reviewer there and you get lots of people to discuss various issues that crop up in forum building as well. I’ve benefitted a lot from that forum.


  18. That looks pretty interesting! I don’t have any plans to start a forum in the near future… But it’s an interesting option if I decide to!

    Alison – “(apple: that green button? full screen my foot.)”

    The green button isn’t a maximise button.. Here’s an article my friend sent me a link to not too long ago: Click

    Enjoy šŸ˜‰

  19. I personally don’t like vanilla. If you have to go with a free forum software it would be phpbb3 handles sql better.

  20. Vanilla is a decent entry into the field – it’s not good if only a handful dominate šŸ™‚

  21. PhpBB is very heavy to use. If there was a forum application that was as easy to skin as wordpress is, that would be a GOD send. However I doubt we will see that any time soon as PhpBB and Vbulletin have carved their nitch REAL good.

  22. I quite agree – though vbulletin makes a pretty reasonably priced modifiable product. That said, having more options is always a good thing.

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