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  • Which forum software to use?

    With Invision Power Service’s (IPS) modification to their company structure, a few perceptions need to be revised, reviewed, and readdressed. I took a look at a few forum software scripts’ newest released versions and did a few comparisons between them.

    Licensing
    Invision Power Board (IPB) had a license structure with one major loop hole; while a user is suppose to have license to run the forum script, they offered what they called the unlimited free trial which allows the user to trial the script for as long as possible. vBulletin is the only common PHP / MySQL based forum script that required a paid license and was still commonly used. vBulletin had been the only major forum script in the market until September 27th, 2004. On September 27th, 2004, IPS changed their license structure to a similar path as Jelsoft’s (vBulletin’s developer) structure. This means that the old free vBulletin alternative is now no longer free. While the online demo is still easily accessible without having to register, the free trial links have been completely removed from their website. Prospecting customers now cannot download the script and try it out on their own server.

    For a first time user, vBulletin offers two different licenses; the lease license ($85) which offers one year of member area access, but license expires after one year after purchase, after which you must delete your forums or renew/upgrade your license; and the owned license ($160), which offers one year of member area access, but you can use your forum for as long as you want. Each additional year of member area access will cost the owned license holders $30. You cannot upgrade your forum script to a newer version of the software should it become available after your member area access runs out. The price gets cheaper as you purchase the ladder licenses, and the more active license you get, the cheaper each license will cost you.

    IPB is now on a similar licensing system as Jelsoft's existing system; during their promotion period, you can purchase their one year license for $40, and their lifetime license for $149. After the promotion runs out, you must pay the full price for the software ($69.95 for one year license; $199 for life time license). IPS offers member area access for as long as your license is active; and you can continue to use their forum script if your one year license is expired. Therefore, the only true difference from them and vBulletin is that you can keep your forum for as long as you want, and if you have a lifetime license, you can upgrade your forum script whenever the new version becomes available. IPS does not have any public offers discounting for additional licenses.

    WoltLab Burning Board is considerably bit cheaper for starting webmasters. At the starting level (WBB Start License), you can run one instance of the forum script and have access to all its current fixes and updates; however, you will not be able to upgrade to a newer version of the forum. The start license will cost you 25 Euros (roughly $30.75 USD). After which, you have the professional license, which grants you all the same access as the start license, except you now receive one year updates. The professional license will cost you 50 Euros (roughly $61.50 USD). Professional which offers three years of updates, and platinum which offers unlimited updates, will cost you 99 Euros ($121.75 USD) and 199 ($244.70) Euros respectively.

    PhpBB remains free the same under GNU GPL.



    Features
    Assuming that if the above forum scripts are the same price, when selecting the script of their choice, features is what a typical forum admin / webmaster will take into consideration. Since phpBB 2.2 is not released at the time of writing, we will use phpBB 2.0 to compare features. After comparing each of the forum scripts; it is evident that phpBB does not have any unique features the other two does not have. Standard features such as spider crawl-able archive (“LoFi version” as IPB calls it), built in skinning tool, and subscription manager which comes in default for vBulletin and IPB is not part of phpBB; those are just a few to name.

    vBulletin comes default with a lot of unique features. For example, it offers different levels of administrator access for its forum administrators. This will allow the administrator of a board to limit his sub administrators’ access to just certain aspects of the admin control panel. vBulletin also offers the forum administrator to manage the attachments posted by their users so the forum admin can easily purge all files uploaded by a certain troublesome user, or many other different search patterns. Of all the features which comes default, vBulletin offers a very unique feature called “Tachy Goes to Coventry” which allows the admin to render all posts from troublesome users to be invisible.

    IPB also comes with a few unique features. Post office allowing the admin to mass email forum members in packages creates a balance in both efficiency and stability. Sending email to thousands of members at once will not crash the mail server, nor will it create heavy delay on the server. But, of all the features IPB offers, inline moderation is one of my personal favorites. This feature allows forum administrators to easily moderate a forum / thread by giving him the option to select threads/posts to perform moderation tasks quickly without having to go to a different moderation panel.

    With price drop, comes feature drop; while WoltLab Burning Board costs significantly cheaper than vBulletin and IPB, there is also a slight bit of decrease in features. For example, you cannot send emails to just selected group(s) of your member. Should you wish to send your members an email, with the latest release, you will have to email all of them at once. And although the moderation system isn’t that great, there is still quite a bit of options enabling the forum administrator to admin the board.

    Comparing the admin panels, you will also notice that the admin panel of phpBB 2.0 offers near no option what so ever in comparison with the other software. Although phpBB have some options (such as group moderation) on its front end, the options provided for an admin to administrator the forum is very limited.



    Support
    All of the reviewed forum software developers offer support to their customers to some extend.

    vBulletin offers free support through their support ticket system, user guide, and community forum. The free support typically have an average response time of lesser than 30 minutes, and most of the time it is around 15 minutes. For as little as $60, you can also get toll-free telephone support from them at 9am - 5pm PST (GMT - 7), Monday to Friday. vBulletin also have dedicated forums for hacks (add-on programs to your vBulletin script), templates and skinning.

    IPB offers email/ticket, user guide, and forum to its users. If you have a problem which requires voice support, you can contact the email/ticket support, leave them your phone number, and they will even call you up to walk you through your problem; however, they can only call you during their hours of operation. For North American customers, that would be Monday - Friday: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and Saturday: 11:00 am to 4:00 pm; while for European customers, that would be Monday - Friday: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Of course, the phone support is not available on statuary holidays.

    WoltLab Burning Board offers online documentation, and support forums as their means of providing their customer support. For the moment they do not offer technical support for their products through email, so you are basically stuck with the support forums and hope that the developers does respond to your thread in a timely fashion.

    phpBB offers flash tutorials, user guide, knowledge base, and forum to its users. You are completely dependant to these online support sources and are required to read through them on your own. If you have any questions that’s not listed, you will need to post in their support forums and hope that the developers does respond to your thread in a timely fashion.



    Bottom Line
    Personally, I believe that phpBB lacks far too many administrative features for a professional sized discussion board, so when finically granting, I will consider either IPB or vBulletin; and until IPB contact me about removing my free trial 2.0 boards or purchasing a license for it, I am going to stick to IPB 2.0 for my personal boards. If they do hunt me down, then I may consider using WoltLab Burning Board for my personal sites, or remove the feature all together. However, when it all boils down, it is still your decision on which forum script to use for your discussion board.
    Last edited by Andy Huang; Mon 27 Sep '04, 5:34pm.
    Best Regards,
    Andy Huang

  • #2
    Hope the above post doesn't offend anyone; and if it is in the wrong forum, please move it to the appropriate one, thank you

    LOL, just a side note; I copy and pasted the same post to post on IPB's forum, it got deleted in like 10 minutes! Talk about great job covering up other forum scripts out there that's competing with their own...
    Last edited by Andy Huang; Mon 27 Sep '04, 11:35am.
    Best Regards,
    Andy Huang

    Comment


    • #3
      I think your mixing up vB and IPB or at least it´s not really distinguishable to me. Which one has the ladder licence thing? And it sounds like vB was being offered for 149, but I think you mean IPB.
      Last edited by Manannan; Mon 27 Sep '04, 12:02pm.

      Comment


      • #4
        Oops, you're right; for whatever odd reason, I modified that paragraph before posting and didn't read it over... the second licensing section is on IPB...
        Best Regards,
        Andy Huang

        Comment


        • #5
          Why didn't you include other commercial and more freeware forums? UBB is still holding a solid position in the BBS market, and other free bbs solutions are becoming better and better. Including them makes it more objective and more accurate.

          Each additional year of member area access will cost the owned license holders $30.
          This is optional. You get 12 months, after they expire you are not forced to renew it if you don't need the latest files. You even get any new version (like, between 2 and 3) for free if it is released, a license isn't limited to a version.

          IPS offers member area access for as long as your license is active
          I am not sure how accurate that is, but with vBulletin you will always have member area access, despite the status of your license (active, inactive, revoked, etc).

          Post office allowing the admin to mass email forum members in packages creates a balance in both efficiency and stability.
          Post office is just their unique name for what Jelsoft introduced as first on the market, since version 2 you can mass email your members. In version 3 you can mass email everybody, per usergroup and mails go in batches.
          Last edited by Floris; Mon 27 Sep '04, 1:53pm.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Floris
            You even get any new version (like, between 2 and 3) for free if it is released, a license isn't limited to a version.
            Err, so I only need to pay the 30 $ when 4.0 comes out? The updates in between are free..?

            Comment


            • #7
              That is the current price to renew download access, yes.
              Steve Machol, former vBulletin Customer Support Manager (and NOT retired!)
              Change CKEditor Colors to Match Style (for 4.1.4 and above)

              Steve Machol Photography


              Mankind is the only creature smart enough to know its own history, and dumb enough to ignore it.


              Comment


              • #8
                Well, "renew download access" could still mean both. When I buy 3.0 now, will I get all updates for free, even if it´s a version 3.9 in, say, two years?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Any version released within the 12 months you have access to the download area.

                  If it expired, and you wait a year before you chose to renew it, and version 4 comes out in 2 years and then renew it for $30 for another 12 months, you get to download version 3.9, 4.0 and whatever is released in those 12 months.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    So, that was a "No." If 3.x comes out in 15 months, I´ll have to pay the 30 bucks to get it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Manannan
                      So, that was a "No." If 3.x comes out in 15 months, I´ll have to pay the 30 bucks to get it.
                      Yes. You can download 'any' version released within the 12 months you have access. For me that was every 2.3 release and every 3.0 release.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Ok, that´s what I understood wrong.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Floris
                          Why didn't you include other commercial and more freeware forums? UBB is still holding a solid position in the BBS market, and other free bbs solutions are becoming better and better. Including them makes it more objective and more accurate.
                          I sure will look into that and write more after I get home and finish this stupid math assignment due in 15 hours (I'm suppose to be doing that now, but vB is so much more interesting than linear algebra)...

                          This is optional. You get 12 months, after they expire you are not forced to renew it if you don't need the latest files. You even get any new version (like, between 2 and 3) for free if it is released, a license isn't limited to a version.

                          I am not sure how accurate that is, but with vBulletin you will always have member area access, despite the status of your license (active, inactive, revoked, etc).
                          Hm... this confuses me... So after the 12 months, will I still be able to download 3.0.3 etc? Because it was my understanding that I can still access the member area after my one year access runs out, but can I still download stuff?


                          Post office is just their unique name for what Jelsoft introduced as first on the market, since version 2 you can mass email your members. In version 3 you can mass email everybody, per usergroup and mails go in batches.
                          Yes, but one thing I notice with vB is that it doesn't seem to have the options as IPB offered. With IPB, the forum admin can select how many address to send at once. I think it's allowing the admin to BCC 500 address, 250 address, 1000 address etc. based on the server's capability; I know my shared account server maxs out at around 800 address and then exim crashes... Is the same feature included in vB 3.0?

                          Any version released within the 12 months you have access to the download area.
                          I got my license second hand (sorry, 130 was a better deal than 160 :P) on July of 2004. I seem to have access to 2.3.5 which was released a long time ago... How will this change as you release 3.1 etc. should it be within my license valid timeframe? How will this change as I renew my access?
                          IE: What kind of download(s) will I have assuming that I have 2.3.5 download and 3.0.3 download right now and:
                          1) You release 3.1 and my license is still active?
                          2) You release 3.1 and my license is expired?
                          3) You release 3.1 and my license is renewed?


                          Many thanks for the info

                          Oh, and senstive topic...
                          IF, my owned license member area access is expired, and you release 4.0; I know for a fact that I can* upgrade to 4.0 if I get it from a third party. However, would I get my license revoked like that? It is my understanding that you guys check only the license with the domain (regardless of the version number) when someone reports for piracy; if I were to do the above, and someone reports me for piracy, would my license be revoked?

                          *there's a difference between can, and legally allowed... I am aware that LEGALLY I cannot download the software from another source other than vBulletin, and thus I will not do it... but the question just poped up and I really wish I can get it answered so I can sleep at night...
                          Last edited by Andy Huang; Mon 27 Sep '04, 3:03pm.
                          Best Regards,
                          Andy Huang

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Alfarin
                            Hm... this confuses me... So after the 12 months, will I still be able to download 3.0.3 etc? Because it was my understanding that I can still access the member area after my one year access runs out, but can I still download stuff?
                            No, that's not correct. The access to download new versions expires one year after the purchase or renewal of the license.
                            Steve Machol, former vBulletin Customer Support Manager (and NOT retired!)
                            Change CKEditor Colors to Match Style (for 4.1.4 and above)

                            Steve Machol Photography


                            Mankind is the only creature smart enough to know its own history, and dumb enough to ignore it.


                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Steve,
                              That's what confuses me... As you can see, I am already a member, and I have the proper owned license information associated with my profile. Right now, I can download vB 3.0.3 and 2.3.5 (I think... I am not at home and I don't remember my long login username + password) from the member area. From what I can read, 10 months later, my access is expired, I can still login, and I cannot download any newer versions. That I understand. However, will I beable to download 3.0.3 and 2.3.5 still? Or would an renewal be required?
                              Best Regards,
                              Andy Huang

                              Comment

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