Best Free PHP Forum Software for Community Discussion
We have heard and used forums from decades. Forums are mostly preferred to get quick assistance as a relevant pool of users instantly participate in the debate hence reaching a solution within a short time period. 

If you have to share some idea or have something to discuss or even to solve some technical issue with seeking some expert advice, forums are the best place. 


If you have developed a site and need high user engagement, a relevant forum will drive excellent traffic to your site by searching those relevant topics through a forum. Forums are the most valuable assets as real-time users do search and participate in finding the solution to their regular needs. Your site will get an auto-pilot as original content will be created and searched by the hundred of online users.


Depending upon your need there are various forums available designed using a few programming languages. You can install their software and start building discussions on relevant topics. Alternatively, you can embed these forums on your sites and custom domains using available tools. 


If you are planning to create your own forum, here are the best options. 

phpBB - 

It is the most used forum all over the world. phpBB uses a PHP script language and MySQL database. This forum has a large pool of registered users and hence generates healthy discussion with near-perfect answers. If you have a healthy topic for discussion, phpBB is just perfect platform!


phpBB is one of the most popular free and open-source forum bulletin board scripts. It can be used to power your entire website and help people stay updated with solutions. It provides hundreds of style and image packages to customize your discussion board.


phpBB is an open-source PHP forum script which is written in PHP scripting language and uses MySQL database. It is easy to install and provide easy to use admin control panel.


PhpBB has a wide development community which can help you deal with any issue. It provides lots of themes which are highly customizable. PhpBB fulfills all your requirements for having a powerful online forum status.

(Standard GPL License)
phpbb forum
image source: phpbb.com
Features - plugin support, private messaging, styles, anti-spam with security.

bbPress -


It has a similar interface to WordPress and uses PHP scripting. Widely accepted bbpress is for Wordpress lovers. It requires plugins to install for each additional function you choose, but certainly more you use them more it will slower the site user interface. Other than that bbPress is flawless and widely used by millions of users worldwide. You can install bbPress in your existing WordPress blog.
(Standard GPL License)

Features - Integration with WordPress, API support for making plugins, template tags (customize your topic related information), themes and templates support.


FluxBB - 

It supports advanced PHP4 and PHP5 scripts. It is highly stable, secure and has a lighter core design. It is easy to maintain and supports MySQL, PostgreSQL database. It’s a choice of many users worldwide.

(Standard GPL License)
Lightweight and easy software forum. Additionally, you can have more features through easily available extensions.
(Standard GPL License)

MyBB - 

It is popular open-source forum scripts with can be easily migrated from other forums such as phpBB. It also allows users to add plug-ins for each new feature they need. A very flexible and preferred option among many.
(Standard LGPL License)

SEO Board -

As a name suggests it is SEO friendly open source forum and works fast compared to others. It has inbuilt anti-spam support and mostly suitable for small-medium size pool.

(Proprietary License)

SMF (Simple Machines Forum)


An excellent open-source forum script with the custom made a template and unique SSI. You can integrate SMF with various content management systems such as XOOPS, Mambo, etc. It supports plug-ins similar to bbpress and has a very lucrative user interface.


It’s custom made template engine provides full control on the layout of your message board. It can be integrated with content management systems such as XOOPS, Mambo, etc. It also supports plugins for your further customization needs.


(BSD License) Berkeley Software Distribution with Minimum restrictions.


Vanilla Forums - 

It supports both hosted and self-hosted site. You can have different themes with it, add multiple plug-ins and supports many languages. The simple and great option preferred by worldwide users.
(Standard LGPL License)

Features - Support for mobile, importing data from other forums, embed to your own sites, Custom API support, file upload, banner (use your own logo on forum)


FudForum - 

It is open-source discussion forum again has support for multiple plug-ins.
(Standard LGPL License)

XMB (eXtreme Message Board) - 

It provides a strong forum software with support for themes and modifications. It uses PHP4 programming language and MySQL database. It is bug-free and stable software. Always recommended!

UseBB - 

It is PHP4 script-based forum accepted worldwide due to its easy UI and stability.

(Standard GPL License)

Phorum - 


It is the oldest forum started in 19's and has an easily workable design.
(Phorum License 2)

miniBB - 

It is a standalone open-source forum which can be easily integrated on your website. It has a great user interface with enough stability.

IceBB - 

It uses PHP scripting and MySQL database and widely used as it is free and open-source.


Flarum


Written in PHP and using MySQL and MariaDB databases, Flarum loads faster. It was originally based on Lavarel with Eloquent ORM. It has modern UI however some people say its installation is a little bit tricky on shared hosts compared to vanilla or phpbb.

It is one of the most powerful forum scripts. It helps to set up a knowledge base for your users where they can share their information with each other. It has quick and easy installation.

It features an authentication system that enables registration, signing in, signing out, and retrieving lost passwords. Flarum comes with an attractive user interface.

(Standard GPL License)

Forums which are not using PHP language


Discourse, eXo Platform, Syndie are developed on java language. NodeBB uses its own programming language while Snitz Forums 2000 uses ASP language.


UBB.classic  and Ikonboard use Perl language for their design with a proprietary license.


Forum-software.org has reviews for all the leading forums so that you can get full software details.



forums review site

Other notable forum softwares:


Discourse ($100+/MO)

Discourse is a perfectly designed forum platform to aid in the creation of high quality online conversation. It is written in Ruby on Rails, Ember.js and uses PostgreSQL with Redis databases. Not only this, its best user trust system help fight against trolls, spammers and bad actors made a lot easier for moderators. 

Available under simple GPL license for regular uses, Discourse is one of the rising stars in forum industry.

XenForo


XenForo is a leading PHP forum software package which is written in the PHP programming language. It is developed by a team led by former vBulletin lead developers.


It's a forum software and has many inbuilt SEO features, powerful add-ons, recent activity stream, social engagement functionalities, and lots more. It is a great forum script for the daily routine of forum postings and managing.


Mingle Forum


Use this forum easily on your WordPress blog or site. It is simple but yet very effective forum design. It can be configured easily within few minutes.


Features - Put your Adsense and affiliate links using HTML on a forum, media embedding on a forum, private message, customize topics (move their positions), skins, captcha, bb code support.


Forumpress 


A simple option for your WordPress blog. It comes with a ready plugin installed so you do not need to do major modifications. Easy to manage and fast installation. 


Features - SEO friendly URLs, guest posting, move posts easily, free support.


V-Bulletin (Paid) 


vBulletin or vB is one of the best premium online forum scripts among web owners. It has many superior features such as discussion and forum, groups, photo albums, calendar, events and tasks management, polls, blog sites, and much more.


It is one of the top paid forum available in the market. You can use it as CMS or a normal forum. It has all basic features included with additional management attachment and admin maintenance support. 


You also get three versions to choose from Publishing Suite, Forum Classic and Mobile Suite. All of them come with different costing, depending on your needs. 


With vBulletin, it becomes easy for every publisher to grab their audience.


Tal.ki Forum (Embeddable) 


Easily add a forum to your site or blog. It can work with WordPress flawlessly again with global logins such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and major social sites. If you have more social networking database, this forum is probably the best for you.


Features - Customizable CSS, bbcode, parmalinking support for sharing, lockable topics, sub-forum support, do easy topics arrangements, automatic security updates, private messaging. 


Invision Power Board (Paid)


Invision Power Board or IP. Board is quite a reliable and dependable forum software solution that enables you to create a healthy discussion on your site.


It is fast, reliable and provides sufficient engaging interface for users and easy to promote content online with its comprehensive set of tools.


IP. Board is highly configurable allowing site owners and administrators to set it up precisely according to their needs. All in all, IP.Board helps to build great communities on the web.


So, which is your choice among the above forums and do tell us why?


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