phpBB or vBulletin or bbPress, Which is the Best Forum Software

phpBB or vBulletin or bbPress, Which is the Best Forum Software

There are so many forum software available online, among which phpBB, vBulletin and bbPress are the most wildly used applications. Below are the comprehensive introduction and the in-depth comparison among the three.

Forum, or message board, is the online discussion platform which allows people to gather together and start conversations related to the posted messages of a particular website. It is very helpful for webmasters to stay in touch, thus hold a solid interaction with their readers, so having an active forum has become the top priority for many site owners aiming at retaining their loyal readers and attracting potential visitors.

Overall of the Three Forum Software

  • phpBB

    Rating: rating 4.8 of 5

    phpBB is the abbreviation of PHP Bulletin Board. Just as the name suggests, it is written in the PHP scripting language. Besides, phpBB was born as an open-source UBB look-alike bulletin board created by James Atkinson, and was first released on December, 2000, with subsequent improvements to the codebase of its 1.x version. At present, phpBB is in the latest stable version 3.0.11, and has supported millions of users on a daily basis. Even some of the world’s largest forums are running phpBB, including Gaia Online, JLA Forums, Jogos,, and Rus-Chat.

  • vBulletin

    Rating: rating 3.5 of 5

    Produced by Jelsoft Enterprises and vBulletin Solutions, vBulletin is a proprietary forum software, which is written in PHP and uses MySQL database. Since its initial release in 2000, vBulletin has been changed and improved for many times. The current production version is 4.2.0, and the latest beta version is 5.0. At present, vBulletin has powered many of the largest social sites on the web like, Something Awful, Fan Forum, and

  • bbPress

    Rating: rating 4 of 5

    bbPress is a small and light forum software, which is made by the creator of WordPress. It keeps focused on the ease of use, ease of integration, fast speed, and the allowance of great add-on features through WordPress extensive plugin system. bbPress is currently in its 2.4 version, which includes a lot of improvements like pretty URL’s for search results pages, code posting, an Akismet admin UI, and much more.

Open Source – phpBB and bbPress Win

Both phpBB and bbPress are released under the GNU General Public License, meaning that the 2 software are free to use. Thus, you can change the code as you like, without the need to get the permission from their development team.

vBulletin, however, is a commercial and proprietary forum software, which is produced by 2 subsidiaries of Internet Brands – Jelsoft Enterprises and vBulletin Solutions. So you cannot make changes and add features by editing and modifying its source code to your convenience.

Price – phpBB and bbPress Win

Both phpBB and bbPress are free forum software, so you only need to download them, and then install them according to the documentation and Flash video tutorials available online to get the 2 software running on your website in minutes.

In term of vBulletin, you have to pay at least $209 each year to get the license. At present, the vBulletin 5.0 Connect is available, which cost you $249/yr for new version and $209/yr for upgrade version. If you need the mobile suite bundle, then the price will be up to $399 a year. Besides, to get some other add-ons like Facebook App, you have to pay some extra money accordingly.

Compatibility – phpBB Wins

A significant benefit phpBB brings is its compatibility with many data storage systems like Oracle, MySQL, MSSQL, and FireBird. Therefore, there is no need for you to worry about what kind of database your hosting company utilizes.

Unlike phpBB, both vBulletin and bbPress are only compatible with MySQL database, so you choices are quite limited.

Usability – No Champion

All of the 3 forum software are very easy to use, with user-friendly interfaces, simple installation and administration processes, as well as helpful tutorial and documentation available on their official sites.

phpBB has an extensive database of user-created modifications, which makes modifying and adding features as simple as pasting code into the appropriate files.

vBulletin has a very nicely laid out administration panel with logical navigation menu. All the features are presented in a readable, visually friendly manner on the screen.

bbPress is made in the same way as WordPress, and focus on ease of integration, ease of use ,and keeping things as small and light as possible.

Customization – phpBB and bbPress Win

phpBB has been packed with hundreds of attractive themes, which are divided into multiple types for users to choose. Besides, it comes with a highly customizable permissions creator, so you can easily change the appearance and style of your forum to match your website.

bbPress has a built-in theme support that offers all required functions like front-end editing, and up to 130 plugins that are rated 4.8 out of 5 averagely. To customize bbPress powered forum, you can go to the directory wp-content/plugins/bbpress/templates/default/ to change the template parts in bbPress directory, optional root level page templates in extras directory, and style sheets in CSS directory.

As compared with the other 2 software, vBulletin offers limited freedom and choices for you to customize your online forum.

Summary – phpBB Recommended

From a user’s point of view, you need to make your forum look professional and attractive. Here, we highly recommend you using phpBB, for it is easy to use, charge free, open source, easy to customize, and compatible with multiple databases. If you’re looking for a web host for hosting a phpBB forum, please read the award of best phpBB hosting.