Author: Corey Northcutt
Looking to start an online forum are you? Well then, you’ll need to find the right script – a task which involves a far more involved process than you ever realized. In the paragraphs that follow I’ll outline some of the major criteria for choosing the script that’s right for your site, taking careful consideration of web hosting environment, paid scripts vs. free scripts, and finally how to make a comparison.
Web Hosting Environment
Although there are some exceptions, the overwhelming majority of bulletin board scripts are designed using PHP programming language, and the MySQL database language. Although PHP and MySQL can both work in a Windows hosting environment, both of these technologies are developed for the open-source community first, and the closed-source Windows community second. Therefore, for the same reason you might choose to run an ASP site on Windows, it’s my very strong recommendation to consider Linux hosting for the PHP-based chat forum options.
Paid Forum Scripts
As you’ll soon find in your hunt for good forum software, some popular chat forum scripts such as Invision Power Board and vBulletin cost money, while others do not. As several of these companies have made it in business for quite some time, one is forced to assume people keep buying it, and that there are a number of benefits to paid forum software.
Probably the most significant benefit to these scripts is that a paid support staff is on-hand to help you at all times (after all, you paid them, right?). From there, it’s also very common to see a lot of integrated features in the paid forum scripts that are available. I don’t have a scientific explanation for that phenomenon, but if I had to form a theory, it seems that it would probably be necessary to compete with all of the free options that are available.
Free Forum Scripts
Free, open source development has definitely been good to the internet, which has left far more free bulletin board options on the market than paid. Although the popular free options such as phpBB and Mercury Board tend to provide a narrower library of features – it’s often worth pursuing the vast number of modifications that many of these free scripts have available, as many have literally hundreds under their belts. As the development communities surrounding open source projects tend to be quite large, it’s far more likely to find enthusiastic freelancers generating spin-off’s of the script’s original scope, in both modifications and re-branded projects, as well as helping users. When looking for a free forum script, it’s a good idea to look to everything the developers are doing, more than what’s packaged in the product itself.
How to Choose
If you’ve narrowed it down to whether or not you might want to pay for a chat forum script, you’re making progress, but there’s still a ways to go. An entire forum application is a fairly complex thing to deal with, and there’s no doubt that the vastness of the internet is loaded with others who are more than happy to compare, and share their opinions with you. One such medium which I would recommend in helping you compare all of the big forum scripts available is ForumMatrix.org, which stacks all of the major features of the popular chat forum options side by side for you to compare.
Of course features alone don’t do a script justice. Once you have an idea of what script is right for you in this realm, it’s time to take to the search engines. Try searching for big phrases such as “forum script reviews” and “bulletin board comparisons”. Once your faith has been affirmed by others experiences, you’re finally ready. Download the script that you should now be confident is right for you, and good luck with your new community!
About the Author:
Corey Northcutt is a community leader and programmer with respected Linux web hosting company Ubiquity Hosting Solutions, LLP (www.ubiquityhosting.com), where he helps support the endeavors of thousands of other webmasters.