10 Best Open Source Forum Software for Linux in 2023

A forum is a discussion platform where related ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged. You can set up a forum for your site or blog, where your team, customers, fans, patrons, audience, users, advocates, supporters, or friends can hold public or private discussions, as a whole or in smaller groups.

If you are planning to launch a forum, and you can’t build your own software from scratch, you can opt for any of the existing forum applications out there. Some forum applications allow you to set up only a single discussion site on a single installation, while others support multiple forums for a single installation instance.

In this article, we will review the 10 best open-source forum software for Linux systems. By the end of this article, you will know exactly which open-source forum software best suits your needs.

1. Discourse – Discussion Platform

Discourse is a free open source, simple, modern, incredibly powerful, and feature-rich community discussion software.

Discourse Forum Software
Discourse Forum Software

It works as a mailing list, discussion forum, long-form chat room, and so much more. Its front end is built using JavaScript and is powered by the Ember.js framework, and the server side is developed using Ruby on Rails backed by a PostgreSQL database and Redis cache.

It is responsive (auto-switches to a mobile layout for small screens), and it supports dynamic notifications, community moderation, social login, spam blocking, replies via email, emojis, and badges. It also comes with a trust system and so much more.

Above all, Discourse is simple, modern, awesome, and fun, and has a one-click upgrade feature, once installed.

2. phpBB – Bulletin Board Software

phpBB is a free open source, powerful, feature-rich, and highly extensible forum or bulletin board software. There are numerous extensions and a styles database (with hundreds of style and image packages) for you to enhance its core functionality and to customize your board respectively.

phpBB Bulletin Board Forum
phpBB Bulletin Board Forum

It is secure and comes with various tools to protect your forum from unwanted users and spam. It supports a search system, private messaging, multiple methods of notifying users of forum activities, conversation moderators, and user groups.

Importantly, it has an advanced caching system for increased performance. You can integrate it with other applications via multiple plugins and so much more.

3. Vanilla – Modern Community Forum

Vanilla is an open-source, fully-featured, intuitive, robust cloud-based, and multi-lingual community forum software. It is easy to use giving users a modern forum experience, allows users to post questions and polls; it has an advanced editor for formatting posts with html, markdown, or bbcode, and supports @ mentions.

Vanilla Community Forum
Vanilla Community Forum

It also supports user profiles, notifications, auto-save, avatars, private messaging, real-time preview, a powerful search facility, user groups, single sign-on and so much more.

Vanilla can be integrated with social networks for easy sharing, login, and more. It comes with numerous plugins and themes to enhance its primary features and customize its look and feel.

4. SimpleMachinesForum (SMF)

SimpleMachinesForum is a free, open-source, simple, beautiful, and powerful forum software that is available in over 45 different languages. SMF is easy to use and highly customizable, with a multitude of powerful and effective features. It comes with high-quality and reliable support.

Simple Machines Forum
Simple Machines Forum

SMF is highly customizable; it has many extensions/packages (under various categories such as security, socialization, administration, permissions, posting, theme enhancements, and more) to modify its core functionality, add or remove features, and a lot more.

5. bbPress – Forum Software

bbPress is a free, open-source, simple, lightweight, fast, and secure bulletin board software built in a WordPress fashion. It is easy to install, and configure, fully integrated, and supports setting up multiple forums on one site installation.

bbPress Forum Software
bbPress Forum Software

It is highly extensible and customizable and supports several plugins. It also supports RSS feeds and offers spam-blocking functionality for additional security.

6. MyBB – Powerful Forum Software

MyBB is a free open-source, simple, easy-to-use, intuitive yet powerful, and extremely efficient forum software. It is a discussion-oriented application that supports: user profiles, private messages, reputation, warnings, calendars and events, user promotion, moderation, and more.

MyBB Community Forum
MyBB Community Forum

It ships with a number of plugins, templates, and themes to extend its core functionality and customize its default look and feel, allowing you to set up a fully customized and effective online community forum with ease.

7. miniBB – Community Discussion Forum

miniBB is a free open-source, standalone, lightweight, fast, and highly customizable software for building a web forum. It is suitable and effective for setting up a simple and stable community discussion platform, especially for novices. It allows for dynamic and content-rich discussions, and you can enable it to be responsive via the mobile template.

MiniBB Community Discussion Forum
MiniBB Community Discussion Forum

It can easily be integrated with your website, allowing you to change its layout to the look of your website. In addition, miniBB offers facilities for you to synchronize with an existing membership system. Importantly, it supports guest posts and quick moderation.

8. Phorum – Forum Software

Phorum is a free open-source, simple, highly-customizable, and easy-to-use PHP message board software. It has a very flexible hook and module system for you to customize your web community discussion platform.

Phorum Forum Software
Phorum Forum Software

You can easily change its default using HTML templates that have simple-to-understand text commands built.

9. Flarum – Forum Software

Flarum offers a delightfully straightforward discussion platform for your website, combining speed and user-friendliness with essential features for successful community management.

It’s intentionally crafted to be:

  • Swift and Effortless – Free from clutter and complex dependencies, Flarum utilizes PHP for quick deployment and Mithril, a lightweight JavaScript framework, for a responsive interface.
  • Elegantly Responsive – Designed with a human-centric approach, Flarum ensures a consistent and intuitive experience across different platforms right out of the box.
  • Empowering and Adaptable – Unleash the full potential of Flarum by customizing, extending, and seamlessly integrating it into your community. Its flexible architecture and robust Extension API provide powerful options for tailoring your forum to your needs.
Flarum - Forum Software
Flarum – Forum Software

10. PunBB – Bulletin Board Software

PunBB is a free open source, lightweight, and fast PHP bulletin board software. It has a simple layout and design, like most forum software listed above, it supports private messaging, polls, linking to off-site avatars, advanced text formatting commands, file attachments, multi-forums and so much more.

PunBB Bulletin Board Forum
PunBB Bulletin Board Forum

That’s all for now! In this article, we reviewed the 10 best open-source forum software for Linux. If you are interested in setting up a forum for your site or blog, by now, you should know which open-source software to use. If your favorite software is missing from the list, let us know via the feedback form below.

Aaron Kili
Aaron Kili is a Linux and F.O.S.S enthusiast, an upcoming Linux SysAdmin, web developer, and currently a content creator for TecMint who loves working with computers and strongly believes in sharing knowledge.

Each tutorial at TecMint is created by a team of experienced Linux system administrators so that it meets our high-quality standards.

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9 thoughts on “10 Best Open Source Forum Software for Linux in 2023”

  1. Hei! If you want something simpler and more unique, check out Flarum. This is lightweight forum software that is mobile-friendly and fast.

  2. Just like bbPress, there is another WordPress based forum which is BuddyPress. Both are dependent on WordPress, though.

    Also, NodeBB is another open source forum software which is based on Node.js.

    • @Ivo

      Discourse is 100% free, open-source forum software only if you set up and manage your own hosting server. Managed forum hosting comes at a price, however, you can apply for free hosting if you run an open-source project, as clearly indicated on the Discourse official site.

  3. While not quite ready for this list, Flarum is worth a serious look. It is currently still in beta but is definitely promising. Thanks for sharing this comprehensive list.


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