11 Best Open source Forum Software for Free Online Discussion (2023)

Apart from your website if you want a free self-hosted online forum software then you stumble upon the right place. There are lots of open-source forum software platforms available where you can start your online discussion board in no time. But things get stuck when you want to start your forum and are a little bit confused about which platform is best for you. Many forum platforms are available free of cost and easy to handle just like WordPress for creating an online discussion portal. Building an online community is not only beneficial to you but also to your readers who have lots of questions and doubts about your product.

For How2shout, first, we have started our forum on the free and open-source platform phpBB then we shifted to Vanilla forum software, and then finally stopped at the Question2Answer platform. Because we want something like Quora for our website where people just ask a question and get an answer from admin or community members. There are both best paid and free online Forum Platforms/Software available in the market but in this article, we are majorly going to discuss the free and open source

Contents show

Here is a list of the best Open-source Forum Software/Platforms in 2022


phpBB is the most popular best free and Open Source forum software that comes with an extensive database of user-created plugins and styles or themes. It is a free flat-forum bulletin board software that can customize easily according to user choice. There are also phpBB themes available online both paid and free.

The default interface does not seem too interactive like Discourse forum software but you can customize it by some developer to get better looks to suit your brand. The theming system is mediocre not like WordPress in terms of easy accessibility. Overall, if you talk about phpBB forums features and security then it is far better than free forums available. It has pretty much the same features as the paid Vbulletin which is around $250.

WebsiteLink to Download:

phpBB Key Features

  • Extensive database of extensions.
  • Can easily optimize for SEO.
  • Comes with anti-spam functionality.
  • Light and snappy
  • Theme support
  • Supports social login including Google and Facebook using an extension.

MyBB Forum platform

MyBB is another open-source forum software or platform that comes with extensive themes and plugins database. The default theme of MyBB is also like phpBB not much intuitive but you can use third-party themes to give it a more sleek and modern look.

With everything from forums to threads, posts to private messages, search for profiles, and reputation to warnings, MyBB features everything you need to run an efficient and captivating community. Through plugins and themes, you can extend MyBB’s functionality to build your community exactly as you’d like it.

Website Link

MyBB Key Features

(Video) Review: The Open Source Forum Software Discourse

  • Extend the capabilities using the plugin system to add new features to your forum.
  • It has a Template, Theme, and easy CSS editor for style customization.
  • Private Messaging for registered users.
  • Threads, Posts, and Polls
  • Calendars and Events
  • Give ratings and leave comments on other registered users and their posts.
  • Automatically promote users based on post count, reputation, or registration date.
  • Warning System that warns and punishes users when they act inappropriately.
  • Mass Mail and Newsletters to registered users
  • MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite database support

Vanilla-Free Forum software

We have tried this software after phpBB and it is easy to install. Vanilla provides both hosted and open source community forum software that can be self-hosted too. Most of the hosting providers have this forum software in their application database where you can install it with one click.

In our research, this is also one of the free & best forum software solutions available that support themes and plugins. Also, you can find a variety of themes and plugins to enable different features such as SEO, anti-spam, social login, emojis, FilterDiscussion, calendar, and a lot more. The database of themes and extensions is enough vast to fulfill your forum needs.

Download: Vanilla Forum

Vanilla Forum key features

  • Widget support
  • Roles and Permissions
  • Themes and plugins support
  • Social login support
  • Easy to Install
  • Community-supported
  • SEO supported

Simple Machines Forum

Simple Machines Forum (SMF) is a free professional forum software platform that can create a forum for enterprise online communities within minutes. Like phpBB, MyBB and Vanilla this is also offered to install in the application package of hosting providers, just select it from there and install it.

The Simple Machine forum gives you full control of the layout of your message board and lets your forum interact with each other. It is written in PHP and uses a MySQL database but supports PostgreSQL and SQLite too. The default interface is not much attractive and you need to modify it using themes to give it sleek and modern. Overall, all the essential features it provides those you need on a bulletin board.

Download Link: Simple machines

Supports themes and plugins

  • Light and PHP based
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Uses PHP and MySQL, PostgreSQL, or SQLite.
  • Multi-media output. (XHTML, XML, RSS, WAP)
  • Multi-language support from a large community.
  • Administrative actions require the user’s password (and do not rely solely on cookies.)
  • Major actions are time and IP locked, preventing ‘hammering’.
  • CAPTCHA system and more.

Discourse Forum Platform

Discourse is an open-source cross-platform and one of the best forum software platforms. This forum platform helps to set up an online community in a very interactive way. The interface of this platform is one of the best available free of cost. The UI is simply clear and straightforward. For checking out the conversation you don’t need to click again and again on the Next button instead of that just keep scrolling. The links to different websites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Amazon, GitHub, Twitter, etc. placed in the discussion are going to expand automatically to provide additional context and information.

This open-source free forum is responsive which means it looks awesome on both desktop and mobile browsers. The only drawback of this open-source software is that you should be a little bit technical as it only going to install using Docker. Also, it is resources heavy as compared to the best PhpBB forum software.

Download: Discourse

Discourse Key Features:

  • Responsive and clean interface for touch devices and desktops.
  • Dynamic notifications
  • Community moderation
  • Reply via email
  • Emoji
  • Social login using Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo accounts.
  • Like function for posts.
  • Support plugin system.

Learn: How To Install Discourse on Debian 11 Bullseye server

bbPress- A WordPress Forum platform

The bbPress is a forum plugin that can be installed on WordPress to provide forum capabilities. The above screenshot is taken from a dedicated Q&A WordPress forum theme that uses bbpress. If already a WordPress user and wants the same type of flexibility with your forum then bbPress is here.

(Video) Top 10 Best Online Discussion Forums in the world

bbPres is also a free forum software that can be used along with BuddyPress too. If you know a little bit about hosting and WordPress setup then you can easily set up the bbPress too. It is developed by the Automattic the mind behind the popular Jetpack plugin. It is focused on ease of integration, ease of use, web standards, and speed. Well documented along with a good database of plugins and themes both paid and free.

Website Link to download: bbpress.org

bbPress Key Features

  • Revisions
  • Favorites
  • Subscriptions
  • Topic Tags
  • Search
  • Post Formatting
  • Auto-embed Links
  • Reply Threading
  • Integrated Plugins: Akismet and BuddyPress
  • Supports Widgets, Shortcodes, and useful tools to repair your forum

FluxBB Forum software

FluxBB is another free and open source forum software platform that islighter and faster and can be an alternative to heavy forum software applications. It is easy to use and has a track record of stability and security making it a good choice of forum for your website.

FluxBB Forum software key features

  • Supports MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite databases.
  • User-selectable style
  • Admin panel plugins
  • Read topic tracking
  • Topic subscription
  • Forum subscription
  • Announcement
  • Post preview and many more.

CODOFORUM – Free PHP Forum Software Script

Codoforum is not much popular but it is very straightforward free forum software. It is a free PHP-based forum platform that has a clean divided section of question & answer and right sidebar. On the left side, you get all the topics and other information on the right side. It uses a MySQL database. There is no extensive plugin or theme database but Codoforum keeps pushing its community and developers to create plugins and themes.

Website Link: Codoforum.com

Codoforum Key Features:

  • Simple, clean, and impressive UI.
  • Easy to use and speed.
  • Live notifications
  • Markdown Support
  • syntax highlighting
  • Support for embedding images, videos, tweets, and other rich content.

Flarum Opensource Forum software

Flarum is the combined successor of esoTalk and FluxBB forums. It is a newbie in the forums world but still one of the best forum interfaces along with a sleek and modern look. The user interface is simple, fast, and free from clutter and bloats. Flarum is built with PHP so it’s quick and easy to deploy.

The interface is powered by Mithril, a performant JavaScript framework with a tiny footprint. Right now to installation this forum you need SSH access to the hosting server and install the composer. This forum is still in the beta stage so before using it for production you need to give it some time. But still, for your own experience, you can install and use it. After stable release, it can be proved the best alternative to the Discourse forum.

Website Link: Flarum

Flarum Opensource Features:

  • Beautiful and responsive design
  • Themeable
  • Dynamic notifications
  • SEO optimized
  • Touch devices optimized
  • Tags, replies, and mentions
  • Real-time discussion

LearnHow to install Flarum on Ubuntu 20.04 or 22.04 Server

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BuddyPress WordPress forum Plugin software

The above screenshot interface is a third-party BuddyPress compatible theme for WordPress called “Thrive”.

Just like bbPress, the BuddyPress is also a plugin that creates a community discussion platform for WordPress. It includes all of the features you’ve come to expect from an online community, like user profiles, groups, activity streams, notifications, and more.

Download link: buddypress.org

BuddyPress key features:

  • Users can create and update profiles, including the use of profile photos.
  • Private messages can send similar to those found on Facebook.
  • Users can form and join groups.
  • Administrators can choose to let their users create and join groups of common interest.
  • Follow activity streams.
  • Users can create blogs.
  • Full functionality of WordPress
  • Full-featured online publishing platform.
  • Users can participate in forum discussions.
  • Integrated with bbPress to enhance community forums.

ZetaBoards: A Free hosted Forum Platform

If you don’t want to dirty your hands with coding and all those technical stuff then ZetaBoards is the best option. ZetaBoards offers its pre-hosted forum software platform that comes with both free and premium services. But most of the services you need for your forum are free. You can also set your custom domain to show professionalism too.

Website Link:http://www.zetaboards.com

ZetaBoards key features:

  • Full Customization via CSS
  • Custom Profile FieldsFree Support for Custom Domains
  • Integrated Automatic Spam Prevention
  • Pinned (Sticky) TopicsWebsite Maker
  • ZetaBoards Integrated Shoutbox
  • Advanced Private Messaging System
  • Anonymous Login Option
  • Theme Selector
  • Collapsible Forums and Forum Statistics
  • Topic and Post search
  • Extensive BBCode Options and More…

Also, we want to include some best-paid discussion forum platforms too and here they are:

Best Paid Online Forum Platforms

vBulletin Connect Forum

vBulletin (vB) is the most popular premium forum software for creating an online community. It has lots of built-in an application such as discussion and forums, photo albums, groups, calendars, events management, polls, blog, and more. There are three versions of this paid forum software that can be selected according to need.

  • Publishing Suite
  • Forum classic
  • Mobile suite

vBulletin Key features:

  • Built-in Applications: Discussion Forum, Groups, Polls, & Blog
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Control Panels for Every Role
  • User/Member Management
  • Create a continuous Style/theme across Articles, Blogs, Forum and more.

Nodebbcommunity forum software

It integrates into your existing website and social media networks, allowing you to maximize your outreach and establish close relationships with your users.

NodeBB Key Features:

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  • Mobile Responsive
  • support, with over 50 language
  • SEO,semantic HTML with embedded microdata, and more.
  • Real-time Streaming
  • Social Integration
  • NodeBB’s Analytics Dashboard has real-time graphs and tools.


Zendesk Guide -knowledge base forum

Build an OnlineForum with Zendesk Guide which offers a smart knowledge base forum witha smart interface. It is basically for companies that want to interact with their customers and give them knowledge about their products.

Key Features:

  • Keep some content for your agents only, require registration, or open it up to the public.
  • Create articles including media like photos and videos with our WYSIWYG editor.
  • Restore deleted content
  • Supports 40+ languages and more…

Website: www.zendesk.com

Invision Power Board (IP Board)

The IPS Community Suite is a flexible, integrated set of apps for building great communities on the web. It provides Forums, eCommerce, Content Management, File Manager, Calendar, Image, Galleries, Blogs.

Invision Power Board Features:

  • Spam preventions
  • E-commerce
  • Apps
  • Moderation
  • Permission
  • Customization
  • Content discovery and more…

Website Link:https://invisioncommunity.com/

XenForo – Community Forum Software

XenForo is a commercial Internet forum software package written in the PHP programming language using the Zend Framework. The software is developed by former vBulletin lead developers. It was written PHP and supports the MySQL database.

XenForo key features:

  • Social Engagement
  • Recent Activity Stream
  • Easy Styling
  • Add ons,extensible and flexible community software
  • Alerts
  • SEO Built-in

Website: https://xenforo.com/


PlushForums integrates a blog, private messaging, member directory, custom profiles, paid subscriptions, and a polished set of forum features. You don’t need any technical knowledge, themes, plugins, security updates, etc. to configure it is hosted service and maintained by PlushFroums. The design of the forum is sleek, modern, and responsive for both desktop and mobile.

  • Real-timediscussions
  • Live notifications
  • an intuitive feedback system
  • Mobile-Optimized
  • Easily add tweets, videos, images, polls, smart quotes, hashtags, rich text, and more.
  • Free SSLsupport
  • built-in protection against bots, spammers, and hackers.
  • Integrated Blog
  • Private conversations
  • Question Mode and more…


Also Read:

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If you know any other best forum software which is free and open-source then please do comment and let us know…


Which is the best platform for discussion? ›

Best Forum Software [Free & Paid]
  • Vanilla Forums.
  • Codoforum.
  • phpBB.
  • VBulletin.
  • Invision Community.
  • Flarum.
  • MyBB.
  • inSided.
18 Mar 2021

What is a free forum software? ›

phpBB is flexible free forum software that enables you to create boards where registered users can post messages. Once you have a forum set up, you can make as many internal message boards as you want. Along with some basic functionality, phpBB enables you to use extensions to add new functions to the forum.

How do I create a discussion free forum? ›

How to Create a Forum Website
  1. Pick a location to host your forum.
  2. Choose a software to create your forum website.
  3. Organize your forum's structure.
  4. Design your forum's theme.
  5. Create user rules for your forum website.
  6. Start conversations with interesting discussion topics.
  7. Publish your forum on your website.
4 Aug 2021

Which is an example of forum software? ›


Discourse is forum software that's available as open-source, self-hosted or a hosted solution. Hosted solutions require a paid license but you can install the open-source Discourse on your own server for free, other than the cost of implementation.

How do I create an online interactive discussion? ›

Online it's even harder!
  1. 4 Things to Do. 1 – Create On-line polls. 2 – Create discussion breakout rooms. 3 – Use chat function. 4 – Use external quiz apps.
  2. 6 Software (& sites & platforms) to use. 1 – Padlet. 2 – Socrative. 3 – NowComment. 4 – Kialo. 5 – Backchannel Chat. 6 – Flipgrid.
  3. Conclusion.
27 Jan 2022

What is a discussion tool? ›

What is the Discussions tool? The Discussions tool provides an area for collaboration allowing learners to post, read, and reply to messages on different topics, share thoughts about course materials, ask questions, share files, or work with your peers on assignments.

Is Wix forum free? ›

Simply add Wix Forum (for free!) directly from the Wix App Market. Make your forum unique by customizing the layout and design to your liking.

Is Vanilla forums open source? ›

Vanilla provides cloud and open source community forum software that powers discussion forums worldwide with close to 1M downloads. Built for flexibility and integration, Vanilla is the best, most powerful community solution in the world.

What is a discussion forum? ›

An environment where participants can pose issues for discussion and respond to any contribution, thus creating threaded discussions that can spawn a discussion tree where the discussion branches out in many directions or subthreads.

How do I make a Google forum? ›

Creating a Gmail Forum
  1. Step 1: Visit the Google Groups website on your browser. ...
  2. Step 2: Tap the Create button.
  3. Step 3: Type in the name you want the Forum to be called into the box labeled Group name.
  4. Step 4: Type in some details about the group/forum into the Group description box.
10 Dec 2019

How much does it cost to make an online forum? ›

The cost of creating a custom platform can be largely variable, depending on the functionality and user experience required for your site. As an estimate, we've roughly determined that a very simple custom platform will likely cost $20,000, with the cost going up as additional features are added to the platform.

How do I create a discussion forum in WordPress? ›

  1. Install the bbPress Plugin. To install the plugin, go to your WordPress dashboard Plugins > Add New, and search for bbPress. ...
  2. Create a New Forum. ...
  3. Adding Topics to Your Forum. ...
  4. Integrate Your Forum Into Your Site. ...
  5. Get Your Forum Working the Way You Want.
23 Feb 2022

Is there a free version of discourse? ›

Discourse is a free and open-source Internet forum software.

Are Wix forums good? ›

Wix Forum is a great way to build an online community. It's easy to use and has all the features you need to create a successful forum. You can customize your forum to match your brand, and you can even use Wix Forum to sell products and services. Wix Forum is a great way to build an online community.

What are online discussion tools? ›

Online Discussion Tools
  • Padlet. Description: Padlet is a digital pin board software, a virtual wall and collaborative space, that allows users to gather a variety of objects into a single digital place. ...
  • Piazza. ...
  • Discord. ...
  • Dotstorming. ...
  • Flipgrid.

How many types of forums are there? ›

Forums are an element of social media technologies which take on many different forms including blogs, business networks, enterprise social networks, forums, microblogs, photo sharing, products/services review, social bookmarking, social gaming, social networks, video sharing and virtual worlds. Contents: 0–9. A.

How do online forums work? ›

In a standard Internet forum, a user creates a post. That post can be accessed by other users at any time. Posts can contain questions, opinions, images, videos, links, and more. Users can respond to the post, which creates a dialogue other users can participate in, also called a thread.

How can I improve my online discussion forum? ›

Online Discussions: Tips for Students
  1. Develop a thesis, argument, or question. ...
  2. Use keywords in your title. ...
  3. Encourage discussion. ...
  4. Make postings short, clear, and purposeful. ...
  5. Your stance need not be forever. ...
  6. Other practical considerations for discussion board postings. ...
  7. Make the context clear. ...
  8. Add value to the conversation.

How do you start a discussion post? ›

Tips for writing a good discussion thread
  1. Part 1: State what your thought or recommendation might be. In other words, answer the question, “What do you think?”
  2. Part 2: State why you think what you think. ...
  3. Part 3: State what you wish you knew or directly solicit the opinion of classmates (in other words, ask a question!)
13 May 2021

How do I create a discussion forum in D2L? ›

Create a Discussion Forum
  1. Select Discussions in the course navigation bar.
  2. Select New.
  3. Select New Forum from the dropdown menu.
  4. Enter a title [A].
  5. (Optional) Enter a description [B].
  6. Select Save and Close [C].

Is there a free version of discourse? ›

Discourse is a free and open-source Internet forum software.

Is discord a forum? ›

Default discord: A full solution for communities where small-talk, voice chat etc; A forum, FAQ, knowledge-base structure for gathering feedback (how many users have requested/suggested/reported something, reports etc) and for announcements; And the app-store for companies to sell their games/apps through.

Is Quora a forum? ›

Description: - Quora is a discussion forum cum question and answer website where people can ask and search for their queries and seek replies from the experts. Usability: - Quora aggregates questions and answers to topics.

What is the difference between discussion forum and chat? ›

Whereas chat rooms allow you to communicate with people in real time, forums are more suited for discussions where not all participants have to be online at the same time. Forums also tend to be more organized, with discussions separated into topics called "threads," which are moderated.

How many types of forums are there? ›

Forums are an element of social media technologies which take on many different forms including blogs, business networks, enterprise social networks, forums, microblogs, photo sharing, products/services review, social bookmarking, social gaming, social networks, video sharing and virtual worlds. Contents: 0–9. A.

What are online forums examples? ›

We've chosen five of the best chat and forums where you can ask questions, find info, and share your own stories.
  • Reddit. Reddit is lovingly known as the front page of the internet. ...
  • Quora. Even if you've been living under a rock, chances are you've heard of Quora. ...
  • Stack Overflow. ...
  • XDA-Developers. ...
  • GamesSpot. ...
  • Final Thoughts.
7 Jan 2019

Are Discourse forums free? ›

Discourse is 100% free, open source forum software.

Is there an app for Discourse? ›

Discourse already has a free app called Discourse Hub and is available on both Apple and Android.

What is the difference between discord and Discourse? ›

Discord is immediate and synchronous, while Discourse is gradual and asynchronous. Communities sometimes think these two very different styles compete with one another. Both platforms are great options for building online communities, and we believe they can work together quite well.

How do I get forum channels? ›

For those interested in getting a new forum set up for yourself, you will need to head over to the channel list on your Discord server and hover over "channel category". Then, a little + icon should appear. You will then see the option to "Create Channel". From here, select "Forum" and decide what you want to call it.

How do I create a forum channel? ›

Discord: How to Create a Forum Channel on Mobile
  1. Step 1: While viewing the channel list for a server, tap the plus icon (“+”) to the right of “Text Channels.”
  2. Step 2: Type the desired name for your Forum Channel.
  3. Step 3: Tap “Forum” in the “Channel Type” list.
  4. Step 4: Tap “Create” in the top-right corner of the screen.
15 Sept 2022

What is Discord forum? ›

Discord is launching its new Forum Channels feature today in a bid to help server owners organize conversations. Forum Channels act like threaded topics of conversation that direct Discord users to talk about a particular subject. They'll be useful for busy servers where it's easy to interrupt ongoing conversations.

How can I get Quora plus answers for free? ›

Open Quora Through Google Search

So instead, search for some questions on Google alongside the keyword “quora” or [site:quora.com] tag. You can then open related links to land on the answers directly.

What is a discussion forum site? ›

An environment where participants can pose issues for discussion and respond to any contribution, thus creating threaded discussions that can spawn a discussion tree where the discussion branches out in many directions or subthreads.

What is an online discussion forum? ›

An Internet forum, or message board, is an online discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. They differ from chat rooms in that messages are often longer than one line of text, and are at least temporarily archived.


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