Web forums are very useful form of communication and most people like them. Forums allow anyone to participate to discussions, to meet other people and to stay in touch with them. I met some of my best online friends and business partners within the forums!
Participation to forum’s discussion helps you to gain social experience and to learn from others. Asking questions and getting answers about anything is a very powerful way to get knowledge. This method of learning works. You can see that Yahoo Answers (YA) is build on it! But the main advantage of the open discussions is that they are funny! Look at this!
Question in YA:
“My dad is allergic to fur and I want a cat. Is there anyway that i can convince him to get one?”
“Get one of those ugly hairless cats”
“There are hypoallergenic hairless cats. not as cute and twice as expensive, but probably the only one that you would be able to talk him in to.”
“You don’t try to convince your father. That would be immature and selfish. Your father would suffer day and night if there were a cat in the house.”
“Hairless cats lol oh god they’re ugly”
… and many more
You can see, it works! The little guy that asked the question got different answers. Some of them are just funny, some of them are useful.
Let’s now get back to the forums issue. The most popular open source (PHP and MySQL based bulletin boards) are phpBB, vBulletin and Invision board. There are also a few more popular bulleting boards such as Ideal Science, YaBB, Ikonboard.
phpBB and Invision Board are free and that’s why you can find many review and comments about them, especially for phpBB. It is included as a preinstalled feature to service plans of many web hosting companies.
Let me share my personal experience with forum software. If your budget is tight and you can not afford to pay $160 one time license fee for VBulletin then it is better to go for phpBB, Invision Board or YaBB forums.
I use both phpBB and vBulletin and I can say that vBulletin offers many features that help anyone to improve the experience of it’s forum members. It is definitely easier to use and manage vBulletin!
So my choce is Vbulletin, but the best advice I can offer to anyone who have made their decision to create a popular web forums is to try 3 different forum software applications before choosing one of them!
One more thing, whichever to choose, it is very important to constantly upgrade the forum software so you would make it less vulnerable to hacks.