Choosing Forum Software

Apr 27, 2017
Choosing Forum Software
  • Forums are an important part of a Minecraft server community. They allow players to talk to each other and server owners to post announcements about what's new and exciting. Most servers have forums, but many server owners overlook some of their options when they decide on what forum they want. This guide is meant to inform everyone about their potential options when choosing server forum software.

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    1. Xenforo
    Xenforo, being the most popular, and in my opinion the best forum software, is definitely a viable option for server owners, if they are willing to pay the $140 price tag. While Xenforo is definitely worth the price, there are many (free) alternatives for those with smaller servers. These options generally don't have the same backing or following as Xenforo, but they do provide the same basic features and are generally expandable with plugins, should you choose to do so.

    Pros:
    • Huge community, with many free and paid addons and themes
    • Easy to set up
    • Powerful moderation tools
    Cons:
    • Developer documentation is extremely lacking
    • Many addons and themes require payment
    • Default theme is distasteful
    Price: $140
    Minecraft Integration: Yes (with addons)
    Used by: Hypixel, MC-Market, Arkham, many, many more
    Website: https://xenforo.com/

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    2. Flarum
    Flarum, which is the continuation of esoTalk, is decent forum software with a good open source community following. What is the advantage of this you ask? Free addons and themes. The open source community has generously provided us with a number of useful additions to improve your forum. It should be noted that Flarum is in beta and should be used with caution. That being said, I have had the chance to run it locally and encountered no issues. Flarum is extremely easy to set up, but a bit lacking in customizability.

    Pros:
    • Extremely easy to set up
    • Decent-looking default theme
    • Open source
    Cons:
    • Custom theming is difficult (you can still change the colors around, though)
    • The software is in beta and may be buggy
    • Support may be slow since it is a community-run project
    Price: Free (open source)
    Minecraft Integration: No (there seems to be a few projects looking to bring support)
    Used by: The Chunk (previously)
    Website: http://flarum.org/

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    3. Vanilla Forums
    Vanilla Forums is a long standing, open source forum project. It comes with a decent theme out of the box, and there are tons of themes available. I've worked quite extensively with Vanilla Forums and it's okay. Many of the features that you'd want are only available through addons and I've had to make a few tweaks in order to get it to operate in a way I'd like. The best way I could describe it is good, but not great. Vanilla Forums will also offer hosting and support for you for a significant mark up.

    Pros:
    • Easy to set up
    • Okay-ish looking default theme
    • Open source
    • Decent number of (free) extensions and themes
    Cons:
    • Missing a few key features out of the box
    • May require tweaks to styles, configuration, etc...
    Price: Free (open source) (hosted options available)
    Minecraft Integration: Yes (with addons)
    Website: https://vanillaforums.org

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    4. NamelessMC
    Nameless is a new open source forum software created by a rather large number of members in the Minecraft community. It is designed to integrate directly with Minecraft via a plugin which you can install. Nameless is a rather interesting project, but it is lacking a few features.

    Pros:
    • Open source
    • Designed specifically for Minecraft servers
    • Decent theme out of the box
    Cons:
    • Smaller project (less frequent updates and fewer addons)
    • Missing a number of features (planned for the future)
    Price: Free (open source)
    Minecraft Integration: Yes
    Website: https://namelessmc.com

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    5. Enjin

    Enjin is a hosted CMS designed to integrate directly in to Minecraft servers. Enjin is fairly easy to get started with, but is rather ugly out of the box and you must pay for some of the better features. Overall, I would not recommend Enjin, especially if you have the know-how on how to set up a website and can use one of the above options.

    Pros:
    • Easy to use + setup
    • Built-in shop
    Cons:
    • Rather ugly out of the box
    • Difficult to customize
    • Difficult to theme
    • Expensive relative to server hosting + a free forum
    Price: Free to $30/mo
    Minecraft Integration: Yes
    Used by: Mineplex, MineCade
    Website: https://www.enjin.com/

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    6. MyBB

    MyBB used to be a very popular forum, and still is used sometimes. MyBB is considered "the free alternative" to XenForo by some. It was orignally released in 2002, and because of that is very ugly out of the box. It packs a lot of features and can feel very familiar to XenForo users. The main appeal point of MyBB is that it is free.

    Pros:

    • Free
    • Lots of out of the Box Features
    • Many people are familiar to it
    • Can look and feel like XenForo with a theme
    Cons:
    • Is old and community is struggling.
    • Looks bad out of the box.
    • Some things are hard to configure.
    Price: Free - Open Source
    Minecraft Integration: Yes (with addons)
    Used By: [Censored]
    Website: https://mybb.com/

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    7. NodeBB

    NodeBB is a forum software written in NodeJS. It has a great style out of the box and a good amount of developer backing. The main caveat of NodeBB is that it requires you know how to set it up. Its definitely more difficult to set up than most PHP-based forum software. It also will likely not work on most web hosts, so you will need to know how to operate a VPS or dedicated server. They do offer hosted options, if you want to go with that, but it is rather expensive.

    Pros:
    • Looks good out of the box
    • Takes advantage of features PHP doesn't have (like websockets)
    • Powerful analytics
    • Tons of community plugins
    Cons:
    • Difficult to set up for people unfamiliar with Linux or Node
    • Will not work on most web hosts
    Price: Free (open source) (hosted options available)
    Minecraft Integration: Yes (with addons)
    Website: https://nodebb.org/

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    8. phpBB

    phpBB is an ancient forum software. Its relatively stable, but extremely old and has a number of security holes. I've yet to see any decent looking themes for it. I would not recommend using this software, especially considering the other options.

    Pros:
    • It works (to a degree)
    • It's free
    Cons:
    • Super old
    • Ugly, even with themes
    • A number of security vulnerabilities
    Price: Free (open source)
    Minecraft Integration: Yes (with addons)
    Website: https://www.phpbb.com/

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    9. vBulletin
    vBulletin used to be a rather popular forum software, but it seems to have died out over the past few years. I haven't been able to use it personally, but from looking at other forums, this is what I've gathered. It has a decent theme out of the box. There have been some major security issues found with vBulletin lately (its been the cause of many data leaks with a number of sites), so you should consider using xenforo if you intend to pay for a forum software.

    Pros:
    • Looks pretty decent out of the box
    Cons:
    • Has been dying lately
    • A number of security vulnerabilities
    Price: $249
    Minecraft Integration: Yes (with addons)
    Website: https://www.vbulletin.com/

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    I am aware that there are a plethora of other forum software, however I don't feel they are too significant compared to the ones mentioned above. Since many of these are free, I highly encourage you try them before you commit to using a specific forum software! Changing to a different forum software can be a pain, so you should decide on one you really like.

    If you've managed to make it this far, I'd love to hear your feedback on this list. Are there any other software that you think I should mention? Is there something about a certain software that I am missing?

    Anyway, thanks for reading!

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    Content by mattrick
    Page by Christopher
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