Top 10 Best Free and Open Source Forum Software For Small Websites

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Looking for a software program to create your discussion-based website? We’ve compiled ten of the best forum software for small and medium-sized websites.

For this list, we considered admin and visitor usability, security, interface and style, power and reliability, functions, features, Access Control List (ACL) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Oh, and that they have to be open-source and absolutely free too.


1. phpBB


One of the most popular forum solutions, phpBB just works. It does. If you’re looking for a start-up community project, then this is your best bet. As the software is very popular, it’s got tons of support and recommendation and is very easy to install and use. It also has the best ACL, but this sacrificed admin usability, which is one of its cons.



2. Simple Machines Forum

Simple Machines Forum

SMF is one of the most preferred forum software in terms of security and ease of installation, and is one of the best out there. It’s got extensive language support, great plug-in system and is compatible with PHP and ASP. However, SMF is a bit lackluster when it comes to SEO, and the 5 to 6 plug-ins related to SEO just doesn’t make it any better.



3. MyBB


This forum software is fast, easy to use with great support. It’s relatively younger than SMF, so developments are still underway. While the program is pretty simple, the admin panel is extensive and the plug-in system is just powerful. The program couldn’t upload and install plugins by itself however, and you have to manually upload the plugins to the server/host and activate it via the plug-in manager, which is an inconvenience for some.



4. Vanilla Forum

Vanilla Forum

Probably the best-looking and the most flexible, Vanilla forum has one of the best installation systems, which is easy and uncomplicated. The plugins are also perfect; everything is there, with all the social networking sites natively installed like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. Some may ignore Vanilla because it seems simple, but you can actually extend it with a lot of default modules. Vanilla forum has free self-hosted and cloud-based versions.



5. miniBB


This free PHP forum software is lightweight, fast and stable. Admin features are also simple and efficient which is perfect for beginners and advanced users. If you’re only after customizing and installing features you’d like to integrate, then miniBB is for you: install a module, configure the database then download and install only the additional features you need. However, the security is low-level, and you’ll need to install additional security from spam posts.



6. FluxBB


This forum software is simple, fast and easy to use. It’s features  are minimal, although enough to support classic forums. If you’re used to heavier forum software, you might find FluxBB too simple for your taste. However, it makes up for speed: the software is pretty fast and your community members won’t even need T1 connection. If you don’t need all those extra forum features, then this software will work for you.



7. IceBB


If you’re looking for a forum software to integrate into your existing website, then IceBB’s high readability default theme will work well for you. However, just like FluxBB, its features are pretty minimal; meaning there’s nothing extra and it’s all classical forum features. But if you’re fine with that and speed is more of a priority, then this software is for you.



8. UseBB


Another PHP/MySQL forum software, UseBB is simple, light and very easy to use. With a  powerful administration interface and anti-spam features, this software respects the norms of w3c and can support/manage a small community. However, it is currently compatible only with PHP 4 and a specific patch is needed to make it compatible with PHP 5.3.



9. bbPress


Set up a forum for your site with this software. Built using PHP/MySQL, bbPress is pretty simple in a smart way, without all the excess features of other programs that aren’t always useful. Simple, well-implemented features sets this forum software apart from all the others. The reply options are quite lacking though, and the admin interface leaves a lot to be desired.



10.  Unclassified NewsBoard (UNB)

Unclassified NewsBoard (UNB)

Revolutionary and intelligent, UNB is a great alternative to other paid forum software. It’s easy to install, user-friendly and has all the classic forum features. UNB makes forum management easy for the admin by providing options right in the forum category page. It’s likewise stable and does not have security problems. The only issue with this program is the unsightly default theme with horizontal lines.


Manage your forum easily with these highly recommended forum software. Being open source and absolutely free, these programs could rival any other paid forum software out there in the market today. You only have to choose one that fits your needs and specifications.


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