There are a lot of forum platforms available, both free and commercial. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. For someone dabbling in creating a forum, the free options are a great way to get started without incurring any cost other than your investment in time. I experimented with forums a couple of years ago but never got pass the installation phase of phpBB. I recently decided to revisit the available options and took a look at these selections after checking some online reviews.
- WordPress plugin BuddyPress. This is not forum software. It’s a plugin for WordPress Multi-user to build an entire social networking structure. Unless you are already running WP-MU, this is not really an option for most.
- WordPress plugin bbPress. This a “not ready for prime time” forum software plugin for WordPress. I abandoned it quickly as it is voided of the most basic features and rely on third party plugin for the most basic features. Many of those plugins are outdated, incompatible, or abandoned by the authors. They like to advertise it as small and light. That’s code for no features.
- phpBB is the market leader for non-commercial forum software but unless you plan on building a huge community and have countless hours devoted to learning this, it’s probably best to stay away from this monstrosity. Being the #1 non-commercial forum software also makes it a target for hackers and spammers.
- Simple Machines Forum. This forum software has been around for a long time. The development cycle is long, as in years. They are finally putting the finishing touches on version 2 (It’s currently in release candidate 4). Many reviews tout their ease of installation and version 2 supports both MySQL and PostgresSQL if that is something you need. I installed the stable SMF 1.1.2 and that’s what this tutorial will focus on.
- Web hosting service with MySQL (Shared hosting will work just fine).
- Filezilla for ftp. You can use any ftp client but this is my favorite.
- Internet connection.