Forum Platforms

Today’s Best Self-Hosted Forum Platforms

If you’re looking for a self-hosted forum platform that you can install on your own server, there are several options available. Here are a few popular ones:

  1. Discourse: Discourse is an open-source forum software that is modern, user-friendly, and highly customizable. It has a responsive design, supports real-time updates, and is built with Ruby on Rails.
  2. Flarum: Flarum is a fast and lightweight forum software built with PHP. It features a simple and elegant design, and it’s extensible with a variety of community-contributed extensions.
  3. NodeBB: NodeBB is a forum software written in Node.js. It’s known for its real-time updates, social media integration, and extensibility through plugins.
  4. phpBB: phpBB is a classic and widely used open-source forum software written in PHP. It’s feature-rich, customizable, and has a large user community.
  5. Vanilla Forums: Vanilla Forums is a flexible and extensible community forum platform. It’s built with PHP and is known for its clean and modern interface.

Before choosing a forum platform, consider factors such as the programming language it’s built with, ease of installation and maintenance, community support, and the features that are important for your specific needs. Also, make sure to check the system requirements and installation instructions for each platform to ensure compatibility with your server environment.

Which of these has an upvote/downvote system?

Among the forum platforms mentioned, both Discourse and Flarum support the use of upvote/downvote features. These features are commonly used to allow community members to express agreement or disagreement with a post, and they can influence the visibility and ranking of content within the forum.

  • Discourse: Discourse has a built-in voting system where users can give posts a “like” (upvote) or mark them as “off-topic” (downvote). The platform uses this information to calculate a user’s trust level within the community.
  • Flarum: Flarum, similar to Discourse, includes a voting system where users can “like” posts (upvote) or mark them as “inappropriate” (downvote). The voting system contributes to the reputation of users in the community.

Before making a choice between Discourse and Flarum, you may want to explore both platforms to see which one aligns better with your preferences in terms of features, user interface, and customization options. Additionally, keep in mind that the features and capabilities of these platforms may evolve over time, so it’s a good idea to check the latest documentation or community discussions for the most up-to-date information.

Which of these supports the use of emojis?

Both Discourse and Flarum support the use of emojis in posts and comments. Here’s a brief overview of emoji support on these platforms:

  1. Discourse: Discourse has native support for emojis. Users can easily insert emojis into their posts by using the emoji picker or typing standard emoji codes. Discourse also allows custom emoji sets, giving communities the flexibility to define their own set of emojis.
  2. Flarum: Flarum also supports emojis in posts and comments. Users can either use the built-in emoji picker or manually insert emojis using standard emoji codes. Like Discourse, Flarum provides a range of emojis by default, and additional custom emojis can be added.

Both platforms recognize the popularity and expressiveness of emojis in modern online communication, and they integrate emoji support to enhance user interactions and expressions. Keep in mind that the features of these platforms may evolve, so it’s a good idea to check the latest documentation or community discussions for any updates related to emoji support.

Are both these platforms free?

Yes, both Discourse and Flarum are free and open-source forum platforms.

  1. Discourse: Discourse is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). The software is freely available, and you can download, install, and use it without any cost. It’s designed to be a modern, feature-rich, and community-friendly forum solution.
  2. Flarum: Flarum is also an open-source forum platform released under the MIT License. It’s designed to be lightweight, easy to use, and extensible. You can download and install Flarum for free, and it has an active community that contributes to its development.

While the core software for both platforms is free, you should be aware that there might be associated costs for hosting, domain registration, or any additional features or plugins you choose to incorporate into your forum. Always check the licensing terms and any associated costs when considering forum software or any other open-source solution.

So, which is the winner?

The choice between Discourse and Flarum depends on your specific requirements, preferences, and the nature of your community. Here are some factors to consider when making a decision:


  1. Maturity and Community Adoption: Discourse has been around longer and has a larger user base. It is widely adopted by various communities and organizations, which may result in a more extensive range of plugins, themes, and community support.
  2. Feature-Rich: Discourse is known for its feature-rich platform, including real-time updates, a flexible theming system, trust levels, and a robust plugin system. It supports extensive customization.
  3. Scalability: Discourse is designed to scale well, making it suitable for both small communities and large forums.
  4. User-Friendly: Discourse has a clean and modern user interface that is designed to be user-friendly, providing a seamless experience for both administrators and community members.


  1. Simplicity and Ease of Use: Flarum is often praised for its simplicity and ease of use. It has a minimalist design and aims to provide a straightforward and intuitive user experience.
  2. Extension Ecosystem: While Flarum’s extension ecosystem might not be as extensive as Discourse’s, it has a growing library of extensions that can enhance functionality. Flarum emphasizes a modular approach with extensions for additional features.
  3. Modern Design: Flarum features a modern, responsive design, making it visually appealing and accessible on various devices.
  4. Resource Efficiency: Flarum is known for being resource-efficient, which can be beneficial for those with limited server resources or those looking for a lightweight solution.

Ultimately, the best choice depends on your specific needs, the size and preferences of your community, and the level of customization and features you require. If you value a feature-rich platform with a large community and extensive customization options, Discourse may be the better fit. If you prioritize simplicity, a modern design, and resource efficiency, Flarum might be more suitable. Consider testing both platforms and assessing how well they align with your goals before making a final decision.

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