Feature
Post

Category
Publishing


Help Me Pick: Vanilla vs. bbPress

I need a forum for an upcoming project, and I need to decide which one. I should’ve done this a long time ago, or at least a last week, but I’m having a hard time making up my mind.

Vanilla vs. bbPressThis is where you come in, dear reader! I’m asking you, which forum should I choose: Vanilla or bbPress?

I came to the conclusion that it would be one of these two forums after contemplating these criterias:

  1. It has to be opensource and free. Lots of good commercial solutions are out, like vBulletin. Not a money issue, more like a principle…
  2. I want a PHP forum running MySQL (or similar). This is because this is something I know something about, and most hosts provide decent service.
  3. I want the forum to be pretty lightweight. Basically, I’d rather add plugins for special features, than have everything crammed in there at once.
  4. The forum needs to be pretty easily customized. So phpBB is out, and so is PunBB. Not that these are necessarily bad forums but phpBB is pretty clunky, and PunBB won’t commit to CSS full-time until the next version.

After much consideration, I went with Vanilla or bbPress. Both are opensource, lightweight, and cool new players. Also, I like the tag support.

So which one?

Pros & Cons: Vanilla

Let’s start with the good:

  • Seems to have decent support and a fair amount of extensions.
  • Easily integrated with X, including WordPress, which I’ll be doing for a client soon enough.
  • Nice “new” forum layout to build from, always a good thing.
  • Good reputation online.

Then the bad:

  • Nobody I know have styled nor run it, so I only have second-hand opinions.
  • Documentation could perhaps be better?
  • The nice “new” forum layout could mean that I have to reshape everything whenever I want a more customary approach.
  • Not sure about the theming…

Pros & Cons: bbPress

Starting with the good things again:

  • Automattic, makers of WordPress, is backing bbPress, which feels safe.
  • I have run several bbPress forums for editorial groups and such. Small, but they’re working OK.
  • Very fast and lightweight!
  • Akismet spam protection, thank you very much!
  • Theming to be close to WordPress, which is familiar to me.

And the bad things:

  • It’s not in 1.0 yet. Who knows what will happen? Is it really ready for a public site? (Probably.)
  • Maybe too lightweight? Everything besides writing forum posts is a plugin, not even support for private forums. That’s not good.
  • I’ve had issues with upgrades when using the Swedish language. This is a problem that should be fixed, but it could theoretically be an issue until 1.0.
  • The admin interface is poor at best.

Help Me Pick: Vanilla or bbPress?

I’d like to hear what you guys think, since I’ll be spending some time playing with whichever it’ll be, and that means possible tutorials and more for Devlounge. Might even release a theme or two, we’ll see…

Which one and why? And remember, it’s either Vanilla or bbPress, nothing else I’m afraid.


  1. By sharow posted on May 8, 2008 at 8:59 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    I recently found out that simple forum solutions such as bbPress existed… So, I wouldn’t know for sure. bbPress also gives me some confidence because is from WordPress creators.

  2. By PChere posted on May 8, 2008 at 9:02 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Here are my votes for bbpress

  3. By Rick posted on May 8, 2008 at 9:05 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    See what they’re saying on Twitter…
    http://summize.com/search?q=bbpress&lang=en
    http://summize.com/search?q=vanilla+forum&lang=en

  4. By MikeonTV posted on May 8, 2008 at 9:07 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    I would have to suggest bbPress based on the one fact that it is run by Automattic and has compatibility with WP. Who knows. There may one day be a WP release that has bbPress included and you’ll already be configured!

  5. By Chris Vincent posted on May 8, 2008 at 9:08 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    If you think carefully about how your forum design will work exactly within this website I would probably choose Vanilla. It uses one of those designs that has already been proven to work well with DevLounge, and should work again.

    More good things to think about with Vanilla…
    - most of the original community is still living in their forums and are always enthusiastic to help
    - If your able to modify the look slightly from the default, it already won’t look like a standard forum
    - There’s a large and long list of addons in the one place and you don’t need to pay for any

    …and the bad…
    - sometimes without caching the overhead can be a little bad
    - if your REALLY into your altering of the source, the learning curve can be a bit of a steep hill
    - as with bbpress (but not as much) some users may cry mutiny with the default installation’s lack of features before you realise what they really want

    i think that’s my 2c…. or maybe 3…

  6. By Fyorl posted on May 8, 2008 at 10:23 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    I’ve used both and, as you’ve said, they both have advantages and disadvantages. I ended up choosing Vanilla because it is a more-comprehensive system. The way it works as a forum definitely breaks the mould and the community forum often sees a lot of requests for extensions to turn Vanilla into the traditional model (there are several that get part of the way there). In fact most of the forums I’ve managed started off with users complaining about the forum model. They get used to it pretty quick though and then even start liking it.

    The documentation may be thin but I wouldn’t know since I’ve never had to use it.

    Theming perhaps could be better as you’ve said. If you keep your head, a lot of the time theming is easy as you’re essentially just moving code around within the (X)HTML structure (and modifying a CSS file). If you want to do more than that then you need to understand what’s going on in the code. In that respect there could be more documentation. Although I’ve never tried it, other people have managed to come up with several decent themes so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

  7. By TDH posted on May 8, 2008 at 10:31 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    The score is 1-3 at the moment, in bbPress’ favor. Thanks for you comments so far, guys!

    @Chris Vincent,
    I most certainly will theme the forum to my liking, be it fitting it into Devlounge or something else. Just putting a forum up there isn’t an option in my opinion, I like it to have its own flavor and style.

  8. By Austin posted on May 8, 2008 at 10:54 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    If you want anything more advanced than a simple support-ticket format, like the wordpress.org forums, then I would recommend Vanilla. Both systems are generally-speaking easily extensible, but it seems to me to be easier and faster to extend Vanilla in advanced ways.

  9. By TDH posted on May 8, 2008 at 10:57 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    @Austin,
    I thought so first as well, but then I saw 9rules Notes, and I figured it was pretty flexible after all. But maybe I got it wrong?

  10. By Austin posted on May 8, 2008 at 12:51 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    They’re both flexible, and I’m sure with enough time you can can do almost anything with either. But I think Vanilla’s approach makes it easier to customize without modifying core code (something I’m not sure the 9rules Notes hasn’t done). But that’s just my experience.

  11. By Justin posted on May 8, 2008 at 6:21 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    I created a Knowledgebase based on the Vanilla forums and had a blast with it. Support from the community got me past the initial learning curve – which wasn’t bad at all since it was intelligently and beautifully coded. I could mess around with the theme knowing that the core files would remain intact. My vote, Vanilla.

  12. By TDH posted on May 9, 2008 at 2:46 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    If I’m counting Austin’s comment as pro-Vanilla in the battle, if changes the standings to 4-3 in Vanilla’s favor. Interesting!

    Anyone else want to ship in here?

  13. By Logan posted on May 9, 2008 at 9:11 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Neither. For a wordpress site I would use.

    1) PunBB
    2) Simple:press

    However between the two I would choose Vanilla, even thou bbpress is probably easier to integrate.

  14. By David posted on May 9, 2008 at 9:15 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    bbPress vote here :)

  15. By Ty posted on May 10, 2008 at 10:17 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Vanilla, judging by the community. MODx uses Vanilla, or did. I don’t know much about bbpress.

  16. By Matt posted on May 13, 2008 at 8:47 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    I also recommend checking out punBB. It has used by the Godbit forum (over 800 users and 22,000 posts) for several years without any problems. It believe it also supports Akismet.

    Regardless, Vanilla and bbPress are both good alternatives.

  17. By TDH posted on May 14, 2008 at 5:29 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    6-5 in favor of Vanilla (got a vote via Twitter). I’ll decide this week, so do chip in if you like, there’s still time! Devlounge articles on the topic is guaranteed!

    @All,
    Yep, PunBB is great, I’ve used it for several projects in the past, but today I feel the table structure is too dated and too much of a hassle to work with. The new version looks promising, had it been out I’d give it a go, but it isn’t. Otherwise, yeah, it’s a great option for sure. Just not in the game this time around. :)

  18. By TDH posted on May 14, 2008 at 9:45 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Another one for Vanilla, so it’s 7-5 in favor of Vanilla. Poor bbPress, getting a bashing. Still time to pitch in.

  19. By TDH posted on May 16, 2008 at 8:05 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    8-5 in Vanilla’s favor right now.

  20. By TDH posted on May 19, 2008 at 3:14 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Vanilla leads 8-6. Decision will be taken today, last chance to say your piece in the matter!

  21. By Terry Ng posted on May 19, 2008 at 7:29 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    My vote goes to bbPress. There’s quite a bit you can do with it and it’s very similar to WordPress. ;)

  22. By TDH posted on May 20, 2008 at 2:44 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Decision time!

    Collecting votes from around the web (i.e. sent to me on Twitter and Pownce), via e-mail, and the comments above, we’re at…

    *drumroll*

    Vanilla: 14 votes
    bbPress: 15 votes

    The winner is bbPress!

    Quite a last lap for bbPress I’d say. Expect follow-ups on this post.

    Thanks all!

  23. By chicago web design posted on June 1, 2008 at 5:02 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    I was trying to make the same decision so I found this page searching for vanilla vs bbpress. It looks like essentially a draw here, with 14 to 15, but my bias is towards bbpress too because I think it would probably integrate better with WordPress.

  24. TrackbackWelcome to the New Devlounge | Devlounge