The are many forum software or platforms that allow you to start an online community with a few clicks, but you have to choose carefully because the forums are very often the target of spammers and hackers, so you have to choose a platform or script that is regularly maintained and updated. The most used and popular forum software is also often updated and we have included in our test only forum scripts which are updated and highly used.
The free ones are surprisingly good, but the main advantage of the paid platforms is that you have many additional options in the administration panel. Also, there are more themes and add-ons available for paid platforms, but also they will cost you some dollars.
Another advantage of the paid forum software is that you can use it on the cloud, this means you don't have to deal with installation and maintenance (security updates, backups etc.); here vBulletin seems to do a great job. The cloud options allow you to pay as you grow, so you can start with a minimum monthly investment and pay more when you have more users.
For the tests we have installed these platforms on our local server or we have used the demo from the developer, as you can see in the screenshots for each forum software.
We have focused out reviews on administration options, security and easy of use.
You must view statistics with users, registrations, posts etc., ban users and get rid of spam, easily create groups of users and assign different titles and rights (moderators, paid members etc.).
The users must feel comfortable on a forum, they are used to uplaod an avatar, give ratings to other posts, add friends to their profiles and exchange messages in private with other members.
Probably the most important feature of a forum platform because forums are often the target of spammers and bots that are trying to post links to different websites. A good platform should offer the tools to manage and tweak the registration settings to prevent automatic registrations, posts and bots.
More important is that the developer is releasing updates often. Spammers find new ways to break Captchas or security holes in the source code, so a popular forum platform usually is often updated. We have included in our top only the popular forum CMS that are constantly updated and maintained.
As an administrator or moderator, you must have all the tools needed to manage your forum, posts and users without wasting your time. The best platforms have a lot of options, but also the menu is well structured that you can easily find the desired setting.
Help & Support
Almost all platforms have an online forum where you can read tutorials and get help.
According to builtwith.com, (order by The Entire Internet) the most popular forum software is vBulletin (paid), followed by 2 free platforms: phpBB and SMF.