Introduction to Software for Blog Forums

By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

One of the first decisions you must make when you want to turn your blog into a community forum is between free forum software and commercial software. Both categories offer great options.

Budget is, of course, one of the biggest differences. There’s free… and not free. If you have zero budget, well, the choice is pretty simple!

But if you do have some money to spend, commercial forum software generally offers some level of customer service and technical support that free software lacks. If something goes wrong or the forum does not perform correctly, answers can be a little easier to come by. If you aren’t terribly technical yourself, having reliable technical support may be cheap, whatever the cost.

Selecting the software that will benefit both you and your audience is paramount to the success of your forum, so be sure to thoroughly kick the tires before you make your final choice.

In addition to forum software you install on a web server, you can also use hosted software that runs elsewhere.

Commercial forum software

Here are three of the most popular packages with commercial support:

  • vBulletin: This feature-rich forum software offers commercial support and a variety of licensing models. Cost starts at $249 and increases based on additional features and support levels.

  • UBB.Threads: Available since 1997, UBB pricing starts at $139, and you can pay to have the software installed.

  • IP.Board: Part of a suite of website tools, this forum software can be purchased on its own from ten dollars per month.

Open source forum software

Here are a few open source alternatives:

  • phpBB: This very popular open source package has been available since 2000 and you can find good user-created resources.

  • Vanilla Forums: This tool promises a high degree of flexibility and integration with existing websites and blogs.

  • miniBB: miniBB is a lightweight forum package that prides itself on being small and fast.