Alternative Free but Useful PHP Forums and Discussion Boards

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php forum fuzzylimeboard

What is a forum? Early Internet forums could be described as a web version of a newsgroup or electronic mailing list (many of which were commonly called Usenet) ; allowing people to post messages and comment on other messages. Later developments emulated the different newsgroups or individual lists, providing more than one forum, dedicated to a particular topic.

Forums perform a function similar to that of dial-up bulletin board systems and Usenet networks that were common from the late 1970s to the 1990s. Early web-based forums date back as far as 1996. A sense of virtual community often develops around forums that have regular users. Technology, computer games and/or video games, sports, music, fashion, religion, and politics are popular areas for forum themes, but there are forums for a huge number of topics. Internet slang and image macros popular across the Internet are abundant and widely used in Internet forums.

Few of the Most popular PHP driven forums are PHPBB, Invision Board and VBulletin. But today I’m not here to talk about those popular packages; I’m here to list out the possible alternative quality PHP forums available around the globe.


php forum bbpress

bbPress is forum software with a twist from the creators of WordPress.

Have you ever been frustrated with forum or bulletin board software that was slow, bloated and always got your server hacked?

bbPress is focused on web standards, ease of use, ease of integration, and speed. We’re keeping things as small and light as possible while still allowing for great add on features through our extensive plugin system.

What does all that mean? bbPress is lean, mean and ready to take on any job you throw at it.

Download | Extend | Forum | Examples | Documentation

Simple Machines Forum (SMF)

php forum simplemachines

Simple Machines Forum — SMF in short — is a free, professional grade software package that allows you to set up your own online community within minutes.

Its powerful custom made template engine puts you in full control of the lay-out of your message board and with our unique SSI – or Server Side Includes – function you can let your forum and your website interact with each other.

SMF is written in the popular language PHP and uses a MySQL database. It is designed to provide you with all the features you need from a bulletin board while having an absolute minimal impact on the resources of the server. SMF is the next generation of forum software – and best of all it is and will always remain completely free!

Download | Demo | Documents | Customize


php forum phorum

Started in 1998, Phorum was the original PHP and MySQL based Open Source forum software. Phorum’s developers pride themselves on creating message board software that is designed to meet different needs of different web sites while not sacrificing performance or features.

Download | Demo | Community | Docs

The Ultimate PHP Board (MyUPB)

php forum myupb

Your ultimate and free bulletin board resource. MyUPB is a flat file bulletin board powered by TextDB engine so it doesn’t require MySQL Database to run.

Download | Demo | Community | Docs

W-Agora Board

php forum wagora

w-agora is Opens In a New Window open source software, you can download, install and even freely modify the code, all free of charge

Versatile: w-agora is one of the most customizable forum packages. Designed to be adapted to various needs, w-agora offers an evolutive solution that will meet various needs

Easy: to install and easy to use: All you need is a simple WEB browser and 5 spare minutes in order to install. The whole interface can be edited with a simple WEB browser

Full featured: w-agora has all the features that you expect from a today’s professional forum software: full WEB based administration, users management, authentication, Online registration, email subscription and much more

Reliable : For more than 5 years, w-agora has been used by a wide and continuously increasing number of sites in France and all over the world.

Download | Docs | Demo

XMB Forum

php forum xmb

XMB is a lightweight PHP forum software with all the features you need to support a growing community. With outstanding community support and contribution, you will find XMB to be easy to setup, customize, and enhance.

Though XMB is lightweight out of the box, it offers the key features you need to get your message board up and running

  • Forum Organization with Categories, Forums & Sub-Forums
  • Easy to use Member Management
  • Anti-spam image verification for registration and anonymous posting
  • U2U Private Messaging
  • Inline Mass Moderation
  • Easy-to-use Theming Interface
  • Board Rules & FAQ System

Download| Mods | Themes | Docs | Demo


php forum punbb

PunBB is a fast and lightweight PHP-powered discussion board. It is released under the GNU General Public License. Its primary goals are to be faster, smaller and less graphically intensive as compared to other discussion boards. PunBB has fewer features than many other discussion boards, but is generally faster and outputs smaller, semantically correct XHTML-compliant pages. PunBB is written in PHP and thus requires the PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. PunBB also requires a database in which all forum data is stored. For that purpose PunBB supports MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite.

Developing software to “please the masses” isn’t difficult. Just cram in every possible feature you can think of and most people will love it. Some people, however, will hate it and look for alternatives. The problem with developing for that other group of people is having to make decisions on whether to implement a feature or not. What is a “must-have” and what is not?

Some features that I have so far chosen not to implement are: private messaging, file attachments, polls, linking to off-site avatars, advanced text formatting controls, subforums etc etc. The jury is still out on some of these features, but don’t expect them to pop up anytime soon. It should however be noted that most, if not all of these features have been realized in the form of third-party mods.

Download | Demo | Docs | Extensions


php forum minibb

miniBB is a software for building Your own forum, but not from “yet another” series. It’s designed with purpose to make a unique forum, which will be different from others by many aspects. It’s the first forum software of choice, which makes possible to save on hosting expenses, computer resources, forum moderation time, and visibly increase forum traffic speed, still running a fully functional script. The secret is that You choose and decide on every option and function available for Your forum. You is the key to your forum success, and miniBB tries to bring up your hidden abilities in this aspect, providing an ultra-optimized handmade programming code and carefully thought interfaces.

Features | Download | Manual | Demo | Community


php forum freeforum

Not everyone needs a full featured bulletin board such as phpBB. freeForum is a GPL, free, and simple discussion board script which can be fully integrated with your existing page layout. It concentrates on the main features of typical forum scripts, and does it well. Above all, you’ll need less than 3 minutes to get it working!


  • Post: you are free to post in open categories.
  • Categories: unlimited number of categories.
  • Layout: layout is fully template and css based, feel free to change it.
  • Cost: as in beer, it’s licensed under the GPL.


  • No image, no avatar, no smilies.
  • No useless statistics.
  • CSS and template based.


  • Backup and restore functions.
  • Anti-spam: captcha images, smart forms, IP banning, flood protection.
  • Open and closed categories.
  • Reserved user names.
  • Edit previous posts.

Download| Usage | Community


php forum mybb

MyBB is a discussion board that has been around for a while; it has evolved from other bulletin boards into the forum package it is today. Therefore, it is a professional and efficient discussion board, developed by an active team of developers. The MyBB history has been recorded and is available for the interested to read. You can also read more about the MyBB team and why they develop MyBB in their spare time. We also like to highlight the most active and contributing fansites of the MyBB community.

MyBB puts your board’s security first. Extensive measures have been put in place to guarantee MyBB’s security on your web server. We’ve performed security audits and rewritten code to make sure that no vulnerabilities are left unpatched in MyBB. In the off chance that a vulnerability is found, you can be confident that we’re already preparing a patch for immediate release.

So fast you’ll have to chase it. MyBB has been optimized to be speedy on any occasion; be it a large or small forum. Whenever we make a change to the core workings of MyBB, we first ensure that it will not cause a disturbance in the speed of your board. Several features have been rewritten to be optimized for larger boards while still working on smaller boards. Regardless of whether your forum is big or small, you can be guaranteed MyBB will provide you with the speed you need to get your forum running.

MyBB makes use of AJAX to enhance its features. MyBB uses AJAX technology throughout to make its features quicker and easier to use. In MyBB 1.2, inline editing was added to allow for faster editing of posts from the thread page and thread titles from the forum page, and keeps you from having to load an entire page to make one small edit. In addition, auto completion was added to private messages to make finding the user you want to write to easier. MyBB 1.4 added still more AJAX-based features, such as an updated quick reply, the ability to mark a forum as read, an updated buddy/ignore list manager, an updated thread rating system, and the ability to select PM recipients from your buddy list. Even the Admin CP utilizes some AJAX, such as in the settings search and the theme manager. In all of its uses, AJAX refines the user interface and makes MyBB even easier to use.

Inline Moderation
MyBB’s inline moderation makes management easier. Inline moderation can be found throughout MyBB’s forum and thread pages to make mass moderation a breeze. Inline moderation allows you to perform the same moderation task on multiple threads or posts, or just one. You can even create your own moderation tools using MyBB’s custom mod tools. Inline moderation is just the beginning of the extensive moderation systems you’ll find in MyBB.

Extensive permissions allow for complete control. MyBB features a vast set of tools for thorough control of your users’ access to various parts of the board. Every user group has a large set of permissions for various features in the board, as well as varying permissions to each forum. With MyBB, you can control every level of user with ease, and can easily block access to any part of your board to some groups, while leaving it available for others.

Download | Wiki | Mods | Community


php forum imperialbb

ImperialBB is a free PHP/MySQL driven forum software package which is fully featured and highly customizable. It is compatible with all webserver / operating system setups providing PHP 4.x or higher is installed. It also benefits from a unique one click upgrader and mod installer to cut down the time you have to spend installing mods on your system and ensures that you keep it up to date.

Our forum software package allows you to quickly and easily create categories, forums and sub-forums, manage users / ranks / usergroups / smilies on your community through the powerful administration panel.

Download | Mods | Styles | Community | Blog

Electron AEF

php forum aef

The full name of AEF is Advanced Electron Forum. This bulletin board software is free software. It is written in PHP and MySQL. AEF has a very simple and easy to use Administration Panel and installing this software is a piece of cake! You can install new themes, customize themes the way you want. The User Control Panel has a simple yet beautiful interface where users can set their preferences for the board.

This Bulletin board or forum software has all the general features that a forum software should have. It also includes features such as :

  • UTF-8 Supported
  • Search Engine Optimization Tools
  • IP Ban
  • W3C Validated
  • News System with articles
  • ShoutBox
  • Threaded Mode for topics
  • JS DOCK for easy navigation(A first from AEF)
  • WYSIWYG Editors
  • Customizable Themes
  • Multiple Languages supported
  • Time Zone Adjustment
  • Automatic Updates
  • Export Files and Database
  • Suggest Framework for usernames while writing PM’s
  • Domdrag for reordering Categories, Forums, emoticons (A new feature included for the first time ever in a forum software.)

Download| Docs | Themes | Community


php forum gbx

Gravity Board X is free forum software written in PHP and MySQL. GBX features a unique front page layout, and version 2.0 will push the envelope with features such as a CSS-based layout, WYSIWYG message editor and AJAX framework.

Download | Docs | Demo

fuzzyLime Forum

php forum fuzzylimeboard

Want a forum on your site, but don’t want to have to spend ages setting it up – and want it to look different from all those other ones?

fuzzylime (forum) is for you. We’ve ignored the traditional look of a forum and gone for something altogether more modern. It looks – and works – like your favorite e-mail program. New messages even appear while you’re surfing!

It uses all sorts of clever technology to do this – but don’t worry, we’ve made sure that if your visitors can’t use this for some reason, they can still see everything on your site through a traditional forum-style layout.

For the more technically minded, the script is written in PHP and uses a MySQL database to store posts, user info etc. It also relies heavily on JavaScript, particularly Ajax, to update pages automatically and provide some of the cool effects like the option of dragging boxes around the page.

But as long as your server as PHP and MySQL installed (and most of them do), you should be able to get things up and running within minutes. Then, it’s easy to customize your forum with your own logo (if you wish) as well as choosing from a whole range of color schemes that are built-in to make sure your forum suits the look of the rest of your site.

Download | Screenshots | Forums

These are few of the alternatives to popular forum software like PHPBB or Invision Board. There are many out there but some of these are pretty much faster than the popular ones used by everyone. Do you know of any other useful PHP Forums that you’ve used. Feel free to comment about it. Share your thoughts if you had any problems or drawbacks of these products. You can find me on twitter @ruhanirabin if you want to let me know of any other scripts too.

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