phpBB vs IPB vs SMF vs vBulletin's picture


I know that there are thousands of topics like that on the net, but I would like to know what's the status in our group.

Please type your favorite BB software, and please write why you like it, and what you hate in it.

I personally use Invision Power Board 1.3, but I hate it. There's nothing good about it, the only reason that I use it the all my moderators like it, and don't want to deal with phpBB. (I can't wait to surprise them with DruBB) :)

Please share your experience,
Have a nice day.


I've never been particularly

Toe's picture

I've never been particularly impressed by IPB either. It doesn't seem to offer much over free alternatives like phpBB, at least from a user's standpoint.

phpBB 2.x I kinda view as the old standby. I have nothing against it, I've run it for years, but these days it really shows its age in terms of features & overall polish. phpBB 3.x will probably rectify this, but I haven't had a chance to play around with it. BTW, for anyone who didn't notice, is running 3.x now. That theme feels a little too blog-ish to me, and I'm not big on how they have the user info on the right instead of the left. The colors are soothing in some places and garish in others.

SMF has been at the top of the hill among the free boards in terms of features for a while now. It's really come a long way from its roots as a port of YaBB to PHP, much more elegant than YaBB was/is. Though I run phpBB 2.x on my own site right now, I'd recommend SMF over it for new deployments. phpBB 3 might reclaim the crown as best free option, though.

vBulletin is pretty much the 'everything + kitchen sink' of BB software. Whether that's a good thing or not is a matter of taste. Still, there's a lot of little things in vB that I find myself missing in other boards, like being able to hover my mouse over a thread title in the topic list & getting the first sentence or so of the post. I really hate the 'user info on top of the post' style they introduced in 3.0. It breaks up the flow way too much, hurting readability. It could work for a simple & light forum, but vB is anything but simple & light.


MrPrise's picture

I have used PHPBB for around a year. I used a lot of mods to achieve what I wanted and the upgrades were pain every time. But the mods were needed to get all the things I needed as the core doesn't have them.
Once upon a time I decided to switch, so I started to read reviews and that was them I first met with SMF. I gave it a try and I like it. It contains all the things I need, but if that is not enough easy to make new mods. So, I like SMF and I suggest to everyone who are looking for a great and free forum engine.

I'm using phpBB out of

arkepp's picture

I'm using phpBB out of habit, but I do like the end-user experience. My main objection is the way the output formatting is tied into the code. It saves a few function calls, but it makes it almost impossible to get around a looks-just-like-phpBB design and impossible to reuse any code.

But now that I have a few users to deal with, my focus has shifted to the moderator's perspective. These are the thing I want to highlight:

phpBB gives you a nice overview of what IP addresses a particular user has used, and what other users have come from these. The most annoying users have several accounts, these little tricks really mystify them.

I miss:
1) Temporary bans
2) A good user administration interface, somewhere I don't have to look up one user at a time, or can only see their nicknames.
3) If you're going to have a "Quote this" button, make sure it's disabled at the lowest level, so people don't use it instead of "reply".
4) People should not be able to reply to their own posts. Some people write one sentence at a time to bump the thread.
5) Karma of some sort, so that people can participate in the moderation.

Generally I'd say that SMF is a much better system, but there's something about it that hasn't convinced me. Could be just the default theme, which is a bit bulky and lacks nice icons.

I have been a vBulletin kind

Gman's picture

I have been a vBulletin kind of guy, but really want an all Drupal solution so I don't have to depend vbdrupal to tie things together (though it is a good product).


cburschka's picture

I'd really like to see something with Drupal's extensibility and phpBB's simplicity. I also think you can't really achieve that effect when the forum is only barely tied into Drupal through an integration module - the forum needs to natively be part of the Drupal engine so it can be properly extended.

vBulletin to drupal

LarryEitel's picture

I am the lead developer of, a site built on vB. I have embarked on porting the data over to Drupal. Thus far, I have succeeded in the ability to move all forums, threads and posts over to Drupal. I am currently working on an extended user/usernode registration/profile system. It's coming along although I am new to Drupal and an intermediate PHP guy.


Well, although it would be nice to see more vB/phpBB functionality in Drupal, existing sites will be hard pressed to abandon their current, hard earned, users and data.

I realize that vB and many others BBs are superior, however, BB-only sites have a growing need to provide better CMS functionality.

We have bitten the bullet at and are grinding away at it. At the present time, I do not have anything in a form that can be posted nor do I have a lot of time to devote to that. I have held off do so until a point where I could actually show a Drupal site ported/migrated from vB.

If anyone is interested in collaborating with me on this, please let me know. Please, only contact me if you are in a position to roll up your sleeves with me on this.

Thank you,

Larry Eitel

Surprise surprise ... I use

daniel.hunt's picture

Surprise surprise ... I use UIEForum ;)

I am using vbulletin with

toma's picture

I am using vbulletin with drupal, vbdrupal work great for me

I make registration only with drupal, so the forums/register.php is a 301 redirect to drupal registration page, when the user register to drupal it get his account to vbulletin, the user login in and you can redirect to the forum login page by node to go module

vbulletin is best for me as its easy to manage post with ajax, simple clic, i think you can do the same with javascript tools ..

I think in order to make a forum, it have to look like a forum not a comment to node, with quick reply, quotes, a nice and easy interface for users...

Vbulletin is easy to maintain, archive build for topics etc, easy navigation for users...

Can you share your forum's picture

Can you share your forum link with us?

its not public

toma's picture

its not public yet

Replace "www" with "nv5"

subdomain is http://nv5 dot biladi dot ma/forums

Its a future upgrade for my french portal so i don't want to post link here and get search engine indexed

For SMF i was using this forum with postnuke but its slow, not easy to custom and we will get a lot of spam !

NB : I am using drupalvb module with 3.6.5 vb (seo zoints pluging)
my drupal version is 5.1 in multisite plateform and its french

My favorite one is proprietary

GoustiFruit's picture

But I really like the forums of Opera Community (
They are simple, clean, yet effective and really nice thought and designed.
And I think something similar must be achievable using Drupal !? At least I really really really would like :-)

MyBB ?

GoustiFruit's picture

Anyone had a look at MyBB ?
Any opinion on that bulletin board ? From what I learned (today, never heard of it before !) it's some kind of a free clone of vB, with maybe the simplicity of phpbb2 for integration. Interesting or not ?

I've had a look at it

Toe's picture

I've had a look at it before. Not bad, but nothing special. See also punBB, XBB, Vanilla, and a host of others.

I know punBB, and I'm

GoustiFruit's picture

I know punBB, and I'm considering it as an option, but never heard about Vanilla or XBB: I could find anything on XBB (I only looked at the first pages on Google) and Vanilla doesn't look more advanced than... the vanilla drupal forum !

Mind you, I didn't say

Toe's picture

Mind you, I didn't say Vanilla was a good option... :P


GoustiFruit's picture

But you compared it to myBB !

So, you're confirming that Drupal forums are not a good option ? As they are just as good as Vanilla ? :-D

Categories Hierarchy

ScottB's picture

I've gotta say that no other platform comes anywhere close to the functionality of Categories Hierarchy - an almost complete deviation from phpBB, but at present built onto phpBB. It offers unlimited sub-forums and an authorization system that is unrivaled. It also offers a way to change its many panels (profile, etc) from within the Administrative Control Panel. All other platforms really are second-tier.

IMHO : )


Aurous-gdo's picture

Has anyone taken a look at phpBB3? It has most of the features out of the box and is really going to give vB some tough competition. vB is seriously over-priced in my opinion and almost all the vB boards look the same - all that is different are perhaps the colours, they range from blue to green to brown - the looks remain the same! :( phpBB has so many templates and mods too!

SMF is reasonably good, it being free - but doesn't pose any threat at all to phpBB which probably has the biggest support community!

Not been into IPB much, so I can't really comment. phpBB3 all the way though!


Unfortunately, none.

cburschka's picture

A few BBS

  • I started out with ezboard, which is actually a service, but uses its own custom software. Among the WTFs that it contains: Its developers clearly heard of the term "XSS Vulnerability", and realized that all XSS exploits use Javascripts. Which requires the use of a [script] tag. Which in turn requires the use of the word "script". The fact that their filter also guards the forum quite effectively against such obscene words as "description" is merely a side benefit.

  • UBB, in its current version, may be okay. I don't know. I've only had the ancient UBB.Classic 6 to evaluate. Suffice it to say that I built a live mirror (with Drupal) for that forum, which scrapes the data directly from its pages. This mirror is both cleaner and more stable than the original forum. The community has taken to calling the software "UBB'Nigurath" and speculating that it requires requires regular blood sacrifices to run.

  • IPB is a very smooth forum (as of 2.2, at least). But in all honesty, its admin panel is a mess. It looks pretty, but it is very hard to find the option you want, and there are often several links in different parts of the admin panel that lead to the same setting.

  • phpBB is nice, but its admin panel also isn't that great.

In summary, if I had to set up a new forum somewhere, I would choose phpBB, unless I was specifically told to spend money on prettiness, in which case I would pick Invision.

I'd pick neither of these if Drupal were half as good at being a forum as it is at everything else.

VBulletin is the best

drupalisme's picture

If money is not your issue then VBulletin is the best, period.

Not necessarily

Michelle's picture

No one app is going to be the best for everyone. If complete integration in your Drupal site is the most important qualification, then vB is not the best for you. If you need to run a super high volume site and integration isn't important then vB is likely the best. It all depends on your needs.


Drupal scalability?

David Latapie's picture

Nothing to add over your answer Michelle, except for a question: isn't Drupal heavy-load-friendly? Out of the box, it already has modules for coping with heavy load and on top of it, there are a lot of extra module which aims to improve this further (link).

Anyway, my goal is integration with Drupal so the question is purely academical for me.

Forums are a beast

Michelle's picture

There are a lot of things you can do to scale Drupal but core forum (and, by extension, Advanced Forum) has a couple of really nasty queries that tend to bog down if you have a lot of posts.

The other issue with high volume sites is that they tend to need more advanced moderation tools than Drupal provides. On a smaller forum you can get away with moving posts by hand. On a forum with thousands of posts a day, you'll quickly hit a wall trying to keep stuff organized.

Both of these are being worked on but we're not there, yet. At this point, most sites out there would be fine using only Drupal for the forums but there are some that really do need the better performance and advanced moderation that vB does and we just don't, yet.


Hello, i am seriously

zerobit's picture

Hello, i am seriously struggling from finding a good platform to create a forum.

So far i've found that all the Drupal-based forums are slow as hell. Haven't found one that loads pagas sub-second.

I've checked VBulletin, but i haven't seen subscription feature. Like you subscribe to a thread, and it displays the content as a facebook-type wall.

Checked PHPBB, fast as lightning, but could not see suscription feature either (maybe it exists i just can't see it anywhere).

IPB seemed the best, fast, has the subsrciption feature, but i am not sure how much i can configure it.

I can see that VBulletin lets you create a nice opening page, etc.

I'd greatly appreciate your expereince of the above from the perspective of the mentioned requirements.




Michelle's picture

VB and PHPbb both have subscription abilities. I know this as a user of sites that run them.

The advantage of using Drupal's forum is in having complete integration. If that isn't important to you, then VB is a better bet.


thank you for both comments!

zerobit's picture

thank you for both comments!


enthusiast225's picture

I have to agree with previous comments - I use VBullettin and I find it the interface clear and easy to use.

As an aside, in my experience the drupal forums load pretty quickly - none of the issues described in the previous post here! Thanks.


Slow or fast - depending on

zerobit's picture

Slow or fast - depending on your taste, working style etc.
For me, this forum loads about 2.5 sec, and it is not really complicated. I consider it slow.
The IPB or PHP BB engine likes to load sub 1 second for me.


Michelle's picture

VB has a lot of caching and they denormalize the data to make it load faster. Drupal stores the data neatly but it makes it a real bear to get all the information out quickly when you have to join a ton of tables. There are things you can do to make Drupal faster, and there's the forum2 project working on it as well, but it's not likely to be as fast as VB simply because VB is optimized to be a forum and Drupal is a CMS that has a forum as part of it.


Sorry to say this, as it's a

NeoID's picture

Sorry to say this, as it's a little bit off topic, but as I've been working with other software like phpBB and WordPress in the last couple of month, I also see this issue (as very critical). I've tried anything I know (using a linode account with 512MB RAM) in order to speed up my Drupal site, without luck. Searching the site, that is mainly a forum, may take up to 1-3 minutes to complete, even when using ApacheSolr.

In my opinion, Drupal is very similar to Windows Vista. If you have enough horsepower and/or knowledge how to make it work, it sure is fast, but for most users it's way to complex to be fast enough to use on a larger site. I've in the last years used and defended Drupal to be a very powerfull CMS, which is it, no doubt, but the lack of speed compared to it's competitors is surely a killer. I really which Drupal would be as fast as WordPress or other CMS.

awasson's picture

I'm not sure I can offer any solutions to your issue but over the last couple of years I've put somewhere in the range of 20 Drupal sites together on various servers ranging from IIS (2003 and 2008) as well as cheap LAMP shared hosting, more expensive Apache shared hosting and dedicated LAMP servers. RAM is only part of the equation. I have thrown heaps of ram at a Drupal site that works very efficiently on Shared Hosting (Site 5) but sucks on its dedicated server even though the OS and Apache configuration are identical.

IMO, it depends on the size of your pipe, number of processors (and speed) as well as RAM, buss speed and hard drives (+ HD speed).

That said, the site that runs slow as molasses on its dedicated server is lugging around a full blown civiCRM with a very custom search module and it can complete searches within seconds. There are no 1-3 minute searches.

Sorry I can't provide a solution but do check your connection and hardware.