Every time I visit a forum or website dedicated to forums, their always having some heated debate about which forum software is better. Well, its time for me to post my opinions.
I'm going to be debating the three most (arguably) popular PHP forum software to date. MyBB, Simple Machines Forums (SMF), and phpBB.

Latest Stable Release: 3.0.4
License: GNU General Public License
First Stable Release (1.0): December 9, 2000
Supports: PHP 5 with MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, PostgreSQL, SQLite, Firebird, OpenLink Virtuoso, and other ODBC-accessible DBMS

In the Web 2.0 look, phpBB was the first forum software not to use tables in its design. The table-free source code makes it easier for SEO purposes, but also makes it harder to skin. phpBB tends to be the slowest of the three boards, too. Security wise, it is considered very secure, and there are few threats. However, feature wise, the Admin CP is missing a lot that other Bulletin Boards have.

I found editing styles and such extra annoying, and I cannot stand the way you set permissions. It's a very slow process.

A positive thought is that phpBB has a large modification community, so you are sure to find what you are looking for.

Conclusion: I think that phpBB is not the best of the three software. It is very behind feature wise, and I believe that the only reason it is so popular is because of its age.


Simple Machines Forum
Latest Stable Release: 1.1.9
License: Simple Machines License (?)
First Stable Release (1.0): September 30, 2003
Supports: PHP 5 with MySQL (multi-database support is being developed for version 2.0)

Simple Machines has the award for the best looking out of the box. It also has a huge modification database.

There are a few things, though, about this software, that upset me. Firstly, you cannot edit themes via ACP. This means that if you wish to make any changes, you need FTP access. You are able to upload themes via the ACP, but not edit them. SMF doesn't have a plugin manager either, so you won't be able to manage plugins from the ACP (at least before you install them). SMF doesn't have features like a Warning system either, only a ban list. They do have a reputation, or Karma, system.

Conclusion: This forum has a lot of potential. Besides lack of ACP features, I could say this board is amazing.

Latest Stable Release: 1.4.6
License: GNU General Public License
First Stable Release (1.0): 2002?
Supports: PHP 5 with MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite

MyBB (Previously MyBulletinBoard) started off from XMB and DevBB. MyBB was originally a forked version of XMB, became DevBB, and is now MyBB. MyBB has recently changed its license from a custom one to the GNU GPL lvl3.

MyBB is the best of the three software, in my honest opinion. It has a built in templates/css editor that is very easy to use. However, it does not have a macro/image editor built in, so you need FTP for that. This is good, because the default skin looks horrible.

It has a global plugin manager, and has many hooks built into its code, so plugins are easy to make. However, the mod community is still small, as MyBB has not had much exposure. I currently make themes for MyBB however, so contact me if you are interested in buying a custom one

MyBB has many features built in, including a warning, reputation, mod tools, custom MyCode (known better as BBCode), custom profile fields, support for multiple calendars, and RSS Syndication.

Conclusion: MyBB has kind of the opposite stature as SMF. It does not have a good theme, but the theme is easily editable. While having a smaller mod community (still has lots of great mods), it has lots of core features you wouldn't even find in payed solutions.


Based on the above three analysis, I suggest MyBB to all forum administrators. Currently, they are still developing ways to transfer your forum to MyBB 1.4 from other forum software. They do already have a transfer to 1.2, which you can then upgrade to 1.4.

I recommend everyone share their opinion below, and their experiences with other bulletin board software.