Discussion forum · Saas

Recommendations for discussion forum software?

Valerie Lanard Senior Software Engineering Manager at Salesforce

June 6th, 2013

Hi folks. I was wondering if anyone could recommend discussion forum software?  

I'm currently inclined towards finding a cloud-hosted service if a good one exists, as opposed to reinventing the wheel myself, or downloading/buying software then self-hosting (though if the best candidate is self-hosted, I would consider it).  There's only so much time to specialize, so I'd rather leave this to a 3rd party *if* an affordable cloud-based plug and play option is available.

I was imagining something like UserVoice meets Twitter in terms of interface, and it would be important that it integrate with my existing authentication and user profile data, so from a user perspective the login/identity/avatar would feel seamless. The use cases are pretty simple - topic-based discussions forums that I would like to present either(1) singly- where users enter directly into a discussion category or thread, or (2) the typical top-level browse/search entry point. 

Any thoughts? Endorsements? Complaints? 

Thanks a ton!

Dmitri Zagidulin

June 6th, 2013

I would second the recommendation for http://www.discourse.org/ -- those guys are amazing.

Preetish Panda Growth Marketer

March 17th, 2020

Check out Tribe -- built with modern social media best practices. Powerful API, integration, and extensive customization options.

Bill Kelley

June 6th, 2013

If you go to big-boards.com, you'll find out about 80% of the largest forums use vBulletin.

There are quite a few others as well, like phpBB.

vBulletin is large and complex, with over 200 plug-ins available. Having only been a user, but not hosted, I cannot make a recommendation.

Kristann Orton Helping clients design at the intersection of business goals and technology needs | Innovation Catalyst

June 7th, 2013

Valerie, the discussion forums suggested focus on tracking conversations rather than building a knowledge base. But reading between the lines it seemed that in your use case you wanted to engage in topical discussions, where you were presenting the topics for discussion.  Kinda like blog commenting but with a twitter engagement style.  Is that right?  If not, can you give a deeper use case example?
Thx, Kristann


June 6th, 2013

Check out Vanilla Forums (which has both open source and hosted versions and is very easy to integrate).

Joseph Hsieh Growth Marketing & User Acquisition Specialist

June 6th, 2013

Valerie, there's definitely no "shortage" of forums/discussion software. But so far, I'm quite impressed with VanillaForums.com which is hosted in the cloud with full API, plugins for popular CMS, and single-sign on (SSO) integration with your authentication. They also have an open source version for self hosting without the bells/whistles: Vanillaforums.org Joseph Hsieh http://twitter.com/webjoe

Douglas Tarr Entrepreneur and Software Architect

June 6th, 2013

I've been playing with Discourse.  It is cool and innovative.  But it is not ready for primetime in many ways.  In their own words...

First of all, it is not really advisable to install a live Discourse forum in the first six months after launch. This is at best beta software, and very very early beta. We plan to make tons of changes after lauch in the process of hosting our "rule of three" white glove special friend forums here on our servers. See http://www.discourse.org/buy/

Jesal Gadhia

June 6th, 2013

I would recommend http://www.discourse.org/

Etienne Bruin Partner & CTO, Monk Development, Inc.

June 6th, 2013

I would highly recommend Realtidbits: http://www.realtidbits.com/

Valerie Lanard Senior Software Engineering Manager at Salesforce

June 7th, 2013

Thanks guys. David or Joseph, have you tried Vanilla Forums? Certainly looks polished so I was wondering if anyone had first hand experience on ease of setup/maintenance.
And I'll check out Discourse! Hadn't heard of that one.

Kristann - some topics will be seeded and tied to a page (e.g. about a specific exercise program users are involved in), other topics will be user-generated. I hadn't thought through the implications of cloud hosting on having full access to the data, though it's a given that I'd need to own and be able to export the data as needed with a cloud provider. Important point.