Improve productivity with your team and other collaborators by installing an online discussion forum. These solutions come with diverse plugins and modern UI.

pen source forum software


In the recent past, we wrote on various open source discussion forum software by covering topics such as how to integrate discourse forum with WordPress, how to use Discourse as a Knowledge Base for business, and a beginners guide on Vanilla Forum integration with WordPress and some more. In the modern age of technology, everyone is connected with one another through the internet. Everyone is approachable easily through various software. Either it is a business-to-business relation or business-to-consumer, it is highly important to conduct two-way communication. There are many online discussion platforms developed by the open source community that enables users to conduct discussions by initiating a discussion or by creating a topic.

These online discussion forums come with role-based user interfaces where users can create, read and edit the topics depending on their access level. In the education sector, it has gained much popularity where teachers and students can use these software to increase the interaction time. Students may feel confident to raise any topic. Hence, teachers also find considerable time in formulating the response. Topics can be public or private and the users can share the URL of the public topics with anyone so that everyone can know the insights. In this blog post, we will go through the following most popular open source forum software


Discourse is a widely-used open source discussion portal. It is highly adaptable software that provides various tools and provisions for community discussions. There are almost all features available in Discourse that big social media platforms offer such as mentioning participants and more. Further, it supports community discussions, chat rooms for teams and friends. Above all, this free software is written in Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL, Ember.js, Redis and comes with all the documentation regarding development and deployment. The requirements to set up this free discussion board are Ruby 2.5+, PostgreSQL 10+, and Redis. Therefore, all the source code is available at Github.

Following are the prominent features:

  • Free themes
  • Single Sign-On
  • Summarize Topics
  • Comprehensive API
  • Social Login

Learn more about Discourse


Flarum is another free topic creation platform that is a good Discourse alternative. It is a cross-platform that works perfectly on mobile phones, desktops, and tablets. The architecture of this open source forum software is highly flexible and extensible. There are many rich features such as a smart notification system, powerful extension API, and permissions. Further, it is lightweight, reliable, extensible, and developed by developers of esoTalk and FluxBB. There are easy steps to install this free tool. Moreover, Flarum is written in PHP, MySQL and comes with all the documentation regarding deployment and development. Therefore, all the source code is available at Github.

Flarum has the following key features:

  • Modern UI
  • Huge Community
  • Built with Less
  • Fine-Grained Settings
  • Quick Previews

Learn more about Flarum


Vanilla forum is an alternative free open source discussion platform. It comes up with a huge plugins pool and offers enterprise-level features such as rich chat options like attachments, online/offline status, and private messages. In addition, it provides a smooth experience by helping in improving customer support and loyalty. This free discussion board is written in PHP, MySQL / MariaDB, and comes with all the documentation regarding deployment and development. The system requirements to set up Vanilla are PHP 7.2+ and MySQL. Therefore, all the source code is available at Github.

Vanilla Forums offers the following important features:

  • Developer Friendly
  • Simplified Theming
  • Multi-language Support
  • CSS Hooks
  • Warning System

Learn more about Vanilla Forums


NodeBB is another open source, free discussion board that is another Discourse alternative. It is powerful, comes with social web features and integrations such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook. There is a robust communication mechanism that helps in instant notifications, posts, and real-time chats. This open source forum software offers an intuitive dashboard where users can drag & drop widgets. Further, NodeBB is written in Node.js and MongoDB / Redis and comes with all the documentation regarding deployment and development. The requirements to set up this open source topic creation platform are Node.js, Redis, MongoDB, and Nginx. Therefore, all the source code is available at Github.

NodeBB comes up with the following key features:

  • SEO Friendly
  • User-Created Groups
  • Social Integration
  • Built-in Realtime Chat
  • Advanced Search

Learn more about NodeBB


phpBB is also a widely used open source online discussion forum. This internet bulletin board software provides high-security features that let you block irrelevant users. This online discussion platform has a strong community with a wide range of plugins. Moreover, users can customize this software according to their business needs. phpBB supports integrations with popular CMS such as WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. Further, it is multilingual and provides support for many languages. phpBB is written in PHP and comes with all the documentation regarding deployment and development. Therefore, all the source code is available at Github.

 phpBB offers the following key points:

  • Private Messaging
  • Data Management
  • Plugins
  • Moderators
  • Caching

Learn more about phpBB


To sum up, customer engagement has become a must-have component of an online business. An open source forum software provides a comprehensive system of two-way communication where both parties establish long threaded and effective conversations. Participants can save their time and resources by installing good discussion forum software. There are provisions to save the old topics so that anyone can go through them by looking into the archives. This blog post will really help you in making the right choice among online discussion platforms. It is up to you now to see which open source forum software fits your requirements.

Finally, has been writing on further open source products. Please stay in touch with this Discussion Forum category for regular updates.


You may find the following links relevant: