If you’ve been a web user since before the days of social networking sites and “Web 2.0,” you probably spent a lot of time hanging out on discussion forums. It’s a little strange that, as much as the web has evolved, forum solutions haven’t changed too much. phpBB‘s development moves at a glacial pace and pricey paid solutions like VBulletin and the Invision Power Board are much the same as I remember them from the earlier end of the decade.
I recently checked in on the website for Vanilla, a new open source forum script. I was surprised by just how awesome it is. It uses HTML lists and a bit of CSS magic to construct board listings and forum threads instead of the tables that many forum packages still use. That’s just one thing it has going for it, though. It has a lot of nifty features that really set it apart from its competitors.
- You can allow forum users to log in with their Facebook, Twitter, Google or OpenID credentials so they don’t have to go through the bothersome registration process. This should help get more people to participate in the discussion.
- If a user views the forum in a mobile browser, a mobile version of the site is automatically served up.
- There is a WordPress plugin to integrate Vanilla and allow it to share usernames and passwords.
Vanilla successfully addresses the two biggest innovations in the modern web: social media and mobile devices. That alone is something that is long overdue in the bulletin board market, which has been a bit stagnant for the last several years.
Forums are cool again. Give Vanilla a look.