9 Widely-Used And Free Forum Softwares

Forums are clearly one of the most standard ways of sharing knowledge on the net. With easy-to-use interfaces & strong community features, they are still very functional & popular.

They can be easily integrated into a website by customizing the look & feel or used as a framework which is sometimes a good idea considering the features they offer.

Here are 9 widely-used, open-source & free forum softwares, where most of them are built with PHP, that you may consider using:

phpBB (PHP)


phpBB is one of the oldest & widely used forum softwares around. It is being updated frequently with improvements in speed, security & features.

It comes with a powerful administrator panel where all aspects of the system can be managed & supports almost any database.

The software has a very crowded community which makes it easier to get support.



This free forum software works with MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite.

MyBB has nice features like calendar/events, mass mailing to members, a built-in theme editor & more.

Besides an admin panel, a moderator panel helps managing the system by multiple users.


Article Sponsor



Answerbase is a powerful and hosted service for creating Q&A websites without any installation.

The front-end can be customized completely with the help of ready-to-use templates, ability to update every image/text and inserting custom CSS styles.

A feature-rich admin panel eases the management of the system, users and content.

Once the website is created, it gets a mobile-friendly version automatically and there is an API provided for integration with 3rd party products.


Simple Machines Forum (SMF) (PHP)

Simple Machines Forum

SMF is the PHP successor of the Perl-based forum YABB. It comes with a comprehensive template system, polls, groups, calendars & more.

The software uses MySQL for storing data & has 40+ ready-to-download language files.

Vanilla (PHP)

Vanilla Forum Software

Vanilla is an open-source, standards-compliant, multi-lingual, theme-able, pluggable discussion forum.

It is built on the Garden, a PHP development framework, which is easily extendible with a powerful plug-in architecture. And, there are already 450+ plugins that are ready-to-use.

Vanilla requires MySQL as the database.



PunBB is a fast and lightweight forum application which aims to be less graphically intensive compared to other discussion boards.

It supports with MySQL, PostgreSQL & SQLite. The design can be easily updated with the theming support. It is multilanguage & can be extended with the extension support.

FluxBB (PHP)

FluxBB Forum Software

FluxBB is a fork of PunBB which supports both PHP4 & PHP5 with MySQL, PostgreSQL or SQLite.

It generates "XHTML 1.0 Strict" valid pages & can be easily translated into any language.

bbPress (PHP)


bbPress is a forum software from the creators of WordPress which is plain, simple & fast.

It can be customized with templates & extended with plugins. And, it integrates perfectly with WordPress.

Phorum (PHP)

Phorum Forum Software

Phorum is also one of the oldest forum softwares. It has support for theming & modules.

The software uses MySQL for storing data

YetAnotherForum.Net (ASP.NET)


YetAnotherForum is a free application that is built with ASP.NET (C#) & uses MSSQL as the database.

It has a feature-rich administrator panel, supports unlimited categories/user groups, templating & more..


Which forum software do you think is the best one, do you have a favorite?

  1. Reply Jerry82 August 13, 2009 at 3:25 AM

    Suggestion: WRD Software of Choice.
    Where you, as the author, show ‘your choice’ of the pack (and why).

  2. Reply Dee August 13, 2009 at 3:30 AM

    I didn’t know there were so many, GOOD free forums out there PunBB looks awesome.

    I’ve used Burning Boards Lite by WoltLabs for years, and they are really good, even though its a watered down version of the one you have to pay for. should be on the list, but that’s just my humble opinion but I’m biased as I’ve been a fan of it for years ^_^

  3. Reply webmasterdubai August 13, 2009 at 3:39 AM

    phpBB rocks really nice forum software

  4. Reply Janko August 13, 2009 at 4:04 AM

    Good to see ASP.NET open source app in roundups. However, I tried YAF and it’s below the average. Customizing and styling themes are nightmare

  5. Reply jatropha, jatropha seed August 13, 2009 at 4:21 AM

    thanks for this info


  6. Reply Ryan Hamilton August 13, 2009 at 6:33 AM

    phpBB3 is my favourite if IP.B isn’t an option. The phpBB community is great with MODs and the like, while the ACP isn’t a sore to use (like SMF’s is).

    I’ve been interested in bbPress for a while, but I’m worried it doesn’t supply the common features most users would be pampered with on other boards, thus losing members.

  7. Reply Nahid August 13, 2009 at 10:10 AM

    Hey thanks for the list cool one! Are these free to use?

  8. Reply joel August 13, 2009 at 11:00 AM

    I agree with Ryan – phpBB is the best. (though not necessarily my favorite. My favorite is vanilla for its clean unobtrusive personality: when you want a forum to be “a part of your site” vs “being a comple site demanding everything for itself” then Vanilla is the one: simple, small, easy to integrate AND look like its what you’re doing.

    I would definitely say that “simplemachines” forum is NOT to be on the list of recommended forum software.

    1) Their security record has been VERY poor lately with thousands of poor website owners hacked and their sites compromised.
    On the SMF forums, they constantly try to downplay this – both in always asserting that their software has no flaws, or minimizing the scope/or response required to deal with the inevitable hacks. That is why you will read of members being hacked over and over and over again, and their private information being released.

    The other forums listed also have their security update releases too, but there (as open source programs) the discussion is frank and full-disclosure.

    This allows you as a forum owner to take intelligently informed steps as to what to do for you site. With SMF, they will ‘sit on’ security information (even as people are being hacked left and right) before finally releasing ‘work around’ information.
    The other thing I’ve found with them is: Because a ‘security scorecard’ is important, they tend to downplay security issues, even to the point of ignoring security reports from the security community. On several occasions, this has resulted in ‘zero-day’ release of information. 🙁

    2) They are NOT open source – even though you can view and edit the source code, you can just give anybody a copy of the updated version: everybody has to go through THEM- for legal distribution. You cant release ANY code at all, so technically, even discussing the code (with relevant snippets) could constitute illegal (to them) disclosure. Every other week, they have long arguments where they ‘out sites’ for not displaying their link back… ridiculous!

  9. Reply Wallpapers August 13, 2009 at 3:10 PM

    PHPBB is the best , Thanks for sharing these forums .

  10. Reply Gecko August 13, 2009 at 7:02 PM

    Xmb forum, an old one

  11. Reply Calítoe.:. August 14, 2009 at 4:17 PM

    I’ve always liked PunBB. I didn’t know about FluxBB though, it sounds good. I haven’t used PunBB for a while now, but I would say it also renders valid XHTML too, that’s what I was looking for the first time I used it.

  12. Reply Pierrick Le Gall August 17, 2009 at 6:26 PM

    In the last 7 years, I’ve used several forum software for http://piwigo.org

    First I started with phpBB. Many features, nice to use, but many vulnerabilities at that time. My website got hacked.

    I moved to Invision Power Board. Even more features than phpBB. But IPB became proprietary, and I wanted piwigo.org to run only with opensource softwares (Piwigo is GPL).

    I moved to punBB. I think it was in 2004. A tiny set of features, but works like a charm. I’ve added some features for my needs. There was no plugin system so I changed the code directly (that’s bad, but I had no other choice at that time).

    Then I moved to FluxBB, only because I had the feeling that punBB core team was also moving to fluxBB. Unfortunately, fluxBB seems to slow down (not dead, but I don’t see that much activity) while punBB has released new versions and so on.

    If I had to choose a forum software today, I would give a try to Vanilla and bbPress. On wordpress.org forums, I’ve seen bbPress in action, and I think it’s really designed with user experience in mind. For Vanilla, I really like their introduction website (even if they should use PEM https://gna.org/projects/pem/ to manage their plugins) and how they designed the software with extensibility in mind.

  13. Reply Neeraj's Software Discussion August 19, 2009 at 2:44 PM

    Forums are definitely the easiest way to get as much knowledge and also to share it. Which one would you prefer to use and please give some more features of these softwares so that the user can choose the most appropriate application. Thank you.

  14. Reply daredevilonline August 24, 2009 at 6:53 AM

    I’m new, just saying hey, everyone seems pretty cool here

  15. Reply Umut M. August 25, 2009 at 4:38 AM


    I have waited to see where the discussion goes & hear all the opinions.

    I, personally, tried some of these apps: phpBB, Vanilla & some ASP-based ones that are not in the list.

    phpBB is no doubt very mature & Vanilla is something a little different, like a new-generation forum.

    I think choosing which software is very-related to the project it will be embedded to.

  16. Reply b146 May 3, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    I have been thinking of getting a forum on my site, but most of the free stuff are boring. Vanilla however is superb. You’re right Vanilla is like a new age forum, it is different from the other mundane stuff, I mean usually you can’t tell one forum from the other but vanilla gives you a different feel and makes your forum stand out.

  17. Reply Aery May 13, 2012 at 12:11 AM

    If you are looking for something modern and not the traditional forums, then for Vanilla else PhpBB.

    I used to prefer BBPress but lately they have been very lax in development. I mean if you think something from the creators of wordpress then it ought to have themes and plugins but bbpress lacks these. Overall I will say Vanilla is doing fine job.

  18. Reply MrSmithX June 1, 2012 at 7:40 PM

    All Koo !
    How to put video on your forum ?
    It is interesting to see guest forum ))).

  19. Reply Steven B. June 8, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    Strange nobody mentioned miniBB. I think it would be the 10th in this list, making a very nice conclusion to all forums. I’ve been using it for years for my small yet rich of posts and members forum, and the secret about it is that it’s unbreakable for me so far, easy to maintain, and by now it works just without upgrades. I’m not a fan to switch forums program, I’m a fan to support my community, which just doesn’t need any extremely powerful options, it needs talking 🙂 I suppose if miniBB was that best about 6 years ago, now they have something unbeatable.

  20. Reply Excel Timesheets October 3, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    I have used PHPBB for couple of my forums and according to me, its the easiest and free software for a start up forum.

Leave a reply