Best Forum Software Sites (Premium & Free)

Online forums offer a great space of discussion and they allow you to express your opinion on a particular subject, share information and find people that have the same interests as you. If you are thinking about setting up your own online forum, one of the first things that you need to do is to get the right software. To help you, we have put together a list of the best solutions that you can find to create an online forum.

With these options, starting your own community board will be very easy and won’t take you long. Finding the best solution to make your own forum can be difficult, but the choice depends on your specific needs and the options below are a good alternative to having to hire scala developer. This article will help you to narrow down the selection as we will go through the most effective and practical free and paid tools to start a forum.

Below are forum software options that will get your online community going

phpBB Forums

phpBB is widely used and it has become the favorite forum creation solution for people around the world. The software is available for free, it is open source and it offers a great selection of features. Since it is open source, phpBB lets you enjoy a great level of flexibility and you can modify the code to suit your needs. It gives you the possibility to set up a small forum focused on one subject, or to create multiple boards for your website. phpBB is fully functional, simple and effective.


Those who need a professional, advanced forum software should consider vBulletin, a powerful premium solution that is the top choice for many popular websites. It offers impressive functionality and some of the options available are: surveys, online journal, date-book, photo collections and much more. vBulletin is versatile and there are multiple solutions available so you can select the one that is right for your community.


If WordPress is your thing, bbPress is a great choice that focuses in simplicity. It is open source, which makes it flexible and easier to adjust to your personal requirements. You can forget about slow, cluttered software because bbPress is designed to offer ease of use, fast performance, web standards and it also facilitates integration. It is a straightforward, yet powerful solution that supports an extensive selection of add-ons.


This open source and standalone solution to create your own online forums, can be downloaded for free and you can customize it as you wish. Based on the original PHP code, miniBB stands out for offering a fast, lite solution to set up a forum. It is stable and easy to use, making it a great choice for beginners. You can customize the appearance of the forum to match your website and enjoy other practical integration features.

Vanilla Forums

This is another popular solution to set up a forum and it is ideal for those who look flexibility and powerful features. There is an open source option that gives you freedom to manage every aspect of your forum. If you want a professional solution to support a large community, you can opt for Vanilla for Business, a paid, cloud-based solution that includes Premium features.


Since 1998, Phorum has been offering users an open source solution based on PHP and MySQL. Phorum adapts to your website’s requirements and it also gives you the possibility of enjoying strong performance and a good set of features. You can set up modules that can be used outside validation, include custom data about messages and more. You can create a forum that fulfills the specific needs of your website. It is simple and allows your brand or website stand out through the message boards.


Plush is a premium, efficient and advanced platform that allows your community to engage in real-time discussions. It offers an elegant, modern interface and it supports features like private messaging, access from mobile phones and the possibility to share tweets, videos and more without hassle. Plush combines simplicity, security and it comes with spam protection. It is a convenient solution to manage a professional forum on your site or organization.


YetAnotherForum (YAF.NET) is a popular open source solution that is dedicated to support your online community. It is designed to offer stability, speed and solid performance. With YetAnotherForum you can enjoy powerful features for your online community. Combining its open source flexibility with Microsoft’s .NET platform, YAF.NET is a suitable option for any online community. It offers support for an unlimited number of boards, forums and topics.

Simple Machines Forums

Simple Machines Forums, also known as SMF, is a free solution that includes everything you need to create an impressive forum, in one package. It is simple but very powerful and supports a great selection of features that will allow you to customize and manage your forum effectively. Simple Machines is easy to use and like other great options in the list, it is an open source project. Thanks to its SSI capacity, your forum will integrate seamlessly to your website. SMF can be easily customized and it offers a good level of support.


PunBB is a message board solution based on PHP that focuses on speed and simple design. In terms of appearance, it is fairly basic, particularly when compared to other options available. It offers less features, but since it is a lighter solution, it can offer faster performance.


This free forum software allows you to create and manage an announcement board. It is a fantastic way to set up a communication channel between you and your customers, but it can also be used for other purposes. You can use it within an organization, at school or in any community to share news, ideas and more. It can be the perfect addition to your website or serve as a standalone bulletin board for your community.


XenForo is aimed at businesses that want to engage their customers through online communities. It is intuitive, fast and supports social features and fantastic add-ons. XenForo can be customized and extended according to your needs. It supports late movement stream, SEO highlights and other useful solutions.


Zetaboards gives you free hosting for your forum and it is a solution trusted by millions of users across the world. Zetaboards doesn’t put limits on number of users, posts or data transfer, making it the ideal option to grow your online community. It supports full customization through CSS, free backing for custom spaced and much more. Zetaboards is a stress-free solution to create your own online forum.


FluxBB aims to be a faster, lighter forum application for those who prefer a basic, more simple experience. If you don’t need as much features as other solutions offer and prefer a simple, efficient solution, FluxBB is a suitable choice. Forum membership, post sneak peak, user customization and administrator forum modules are some of the options that FluxBB supports.


Created by Invision Power Services, the IPS Community suite is a premium solution based in PHP and it uses MySQL as database. It comprises a fantastic selection of apps that will allow your community to connect effectively. It is an advanced solution to create and manage engaging forums.

Burning Board

Burning Board is another great tool to create and manage an online community effectively. It offers advanced technology and practical organization that will allow you to run large communities seamlessly. It is also a premium solution that offers different options to suit particular needs.


IceBB is also a PHP and MySQL based open source solution that offers powerful, fast performance. It works well, even for many users or posts thanks to its straightforward interface and efficient code. You can customize it so that it adapts to what your community needs.


This is another platform that is based on PHP and MySQL. It offers a simple structure that allows users to participate in the community actively and enjoying a wide range of option. It is powerful, smart and flexible, helping you with threads, posts, private messages and everything necessary to manage a forum successfully.

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