Why I Use VBulletin

I’m often asked the question, why do you use VBulletin?

When WPTavern was under construction, I had the chance to try out a few different pieces of forum software. During my experiments, I used phpBB3, SimplePress, and I think I gave bbPress a look through as well. At the time, phpBB3 didn’t have syndication built-in which was a deal breaker for me so I didn’t use it. SimplePress was nice but it was a real pain to style so it matched the design of the website. Previous to WPTavern, I’ve had the pleasure to use VBulletin in the past for various projects. I figured that if I was going to start a community forum from the ground up, I better use software that I most likely won’t need to migrate from due to lack of features or some other reason. Also, I’ve been looking for any reason to finally purchase a VBulletin owned license since I enjoy using the software so much. In no particular order, here are some of the reasons that I went with paid non GPL software to power the forums.

Inline Administration – I can do most administrative tasks without logging into the administration section of the forum. The best part about some of these inline administration tools is that they use AJAX meaning there is no need for a page refresh. For example, I can double-click a forum thread title and edit it inline and save the edit without reloading the page. Last but not least, most of the tools I need to administer the forum are a drop down box away.

Most Of What I Need – When comparing my options, it was easy for me to see that VBulletin provided the most of what I needed from forum software straight out of the box. This includes multiple options for content syndication, email notifications, easy user group management, easy to use permission system, etc. To date, I only have four plugins added to the forum.

It’s my opinion that VBulletin is the best forum software available whether it be paid or free. If my knowledge on other forum solutions is not accurate, it’s because VBulletin has yet to give me a reason to look into other options. Don’t get me wrong, I love open-source solutions but just because something is open-source doesn’t make it the best option available.

So what would make me switch to something like bbPress? Tough question considering I just recently purchased the owned license for VBulletin 4.0 but if I were to be swayed, bbPress would need to provide easy integration between the blog and the forum. I would also like to have the option to replace the commenting system in WordPress with the forum system in bbPress. Each post I publish on the blog side of things becomes a new thread in the forum with the comments acting as thread replies. This provides the flexibility of steering the conversation on the blog side of things while the community still has the ability to start conversations of their own. A killer feature for bbPress which the VBulletin publishing suite recently added is widgets. Seems like a no-brainer to me that bbPress themes should be able to support widgets just as WordPress themes do.

Overall, I’d like to get the same user experience out of bbPress that I get out of WordPress. With WordPress I can install themes, plugins, perform auto upgrades all from the backend. I want to do that in bbPress as well. Also, I’d like to see bbPress become more of an end users forum software rather than a developers toy box. WordPress appears to do both quite well.

Those are just a few ideas that might get me to think about switching from VBulletin to bbPress. Of course, the last thing I would need for it to ever happen is a migration tool that works.

9 Comments


  1. Not to be a stickler, Jeff… but the people freak out when “phpBB3” is not put right. Just like WordPress people do when its WordPress or wordPress or stuff like that… thought I would let you know so you don’t offend people. :P haha

    I tend to use phpBB3 or bbPress, since they are free. But I do like the ease of vBulliten, however I do find phpBB3 styles are easier to use and create. Just my two cents…

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  2. About a year and a half ago I had the same choice to make. I was very familiar with vBulletin as it’s the software in use at most forums where I participate and I’ve been an admin of a few. I knew what to expect with vBulletin.

    I thought it worth exploriing other options and the one I was hoping would be the best of those options was bbPress. I still have high hopes for it, but then and now it’s not on the same playing field as vBulletin. I think if the WordPress community can get around it then most of what you’re wanting will find its way in. I do still have high hopes for it and plan on using it for another project.

    However a year and a half ago I chose to go with vBulletin for the same reasons you mention. I downloaded version 4.0 a couple of weeks ago and want to play around with it before upgrading. I’ll probably buy the license for the vBulletin publishing studio in time too.

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  3. For a professional forums as is the case with WPTavern or hosting forums etc, vBulletin is the best solution.

    However, if you’re running a free site of support forums, then you need a free alternative. I’ve found SMF to be the perfect solution for all my needs.

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  4. I think it is worth pointing out that the new owners of vB have treated their users and the original employees (the people whose hard work over many years made vB the best forum software on the market) in a spectacularly shoddy fashion.

    I don’t dispute that it is technically good software and, of course, when you are attempting to kickstart a community, you want to give yourself the best possible chance, but, looking ahead, they may have killed the golden goose that made vB what it was.

    Two years ago, I would have argued for vB over other options because I believed that it was the best investment of my time – the money involved is a very minor consideration when you consider the thousands of hours you will pour into running a forum, anything that lessens the headaches is worth it and, back then, the gap between vB and the other options was considerable.

    Then, following the sale of the company, development went in a strange direction. The original developers, based in the UK, had, through supporting and interacting with their customers over many years, formed a clear idea of where they wanted to go with vB4 and the users were stoked about that. Sadly, differences of vision started to emerge, with the US-based management pulling in a different direction. This, combined with the decision to change the licensing structure (screwing their existing users) resulted in the best devs leaving last year and the vB4 project being started entirely from scratch, only now emerging from an insufficient beta period and missing many of the most eagerly anticipated features.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, it is still very good forum software, but I believe they missed out on two years worth of development and, in the meantime, the competition have caught up. In terms of social feature, which were originally meant to be the main focus of vB4, they are completely outclassed by BuddyPress, especially the impending 1.2 iteration. I understand the doubts about bbPress (another project that has suffered from disruptions and it only now starting to get its act together) but, frankly, if I were starting a community of WordPress enthusiasts, I would use it as my forum, simply because BuddyPress adds so much and has a much clearer future path. The key is momentum and, while vB has thrown away it’s vibrant modding community, BuddyPress has gained serious momentum.

    I say all this as a vB license holder, but my license will remain unused because I no longer trust the company and will not spend my time developing skills that are locked into their proprietary structure, for which they can change the pricing again at any time – I could become the world’s best builder of vB-based communities, but I would be locked into their decisions every time. From a business perspective, it makes much more sense to invest my time in a system that is open.

    Jeff, I think that you and your mods have done a great job with the tavern, but I do think that, in deciding to go with vB, you have left a gap for a competing WP-oriented community, based upon BP, to emerge.

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  5. Well put, Donnacha.

    Jeff, when BP 1.2 comes out later this month, I think it’ll really move BuddyPress (and, by connection, bbPress) to a whole new level. I agree that there’s a strong likelihood that someone will build a WP-centric community on that platform — possible WordPress.org itself. But I would love it if you took the lead and beat everyone else to it.

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  6. i really really really dislike what vB did with their new licensing scheme. i had to pay $190 for vaporware, rather than the normal $70 renewal. :\

    i have a couple phorum installs that seem to work well. i’ll likely be using that more in the future.

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  7. IPB is my weapon of choice when it comes to running a forum. I haven’t looked back since I bought my own license about five years ago. They have always been ahead of the game when it comes down to comparing with VBulletin.

    Even when comparing the change IPB did from 2.3.X to 3.0 was perfect. Clean frontend interface and a clean backend interface. I won’t deny that occasionally I’ll get confused with the backend here and there but nothing a quick search can’t resolve.

    VB just has nothing going for it straight out of the box. It does have a lot of great mod support, I’ll give them that.. But nothing is intuitive with their product. Even with 4.0, they’re still behind the times. I was turned off even more when they felt it necessary to but forth more energy into screwing over their customers with the licensing change, versus making their product something to give IPB a run for their money.

    To each their own though :)

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  8. I think it was a great decision to go with vbulletin as your forum of choice here. I have used vb for years now and swear by it. I have just found that no-one is even close to the power of vbulletin and I have tried them all as far as I know.

    As with many other people I was furious when they sold vb and went a completely different direction. I’ve played with 4.0 and it’s a load of crap thrown together pretending to be a forum when compared to the 3 series. I’m not even going to get into how angry i was when they changed the upgrade policy as well. Considering I probably own as many copies of vb as anyone online, this hit me hard. My bottom line is that I probably will never change to 4.0.

    Now if bbpress would just get a clue and throw some development into their product, then I would consider switching. But for the moment, bbpress is a complete joke when put side by side with vb and it’s feature set. I can only hope they continue development of bbpress, esp as buddypress continues to grow.

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  9. I have looked at bbPress but was disappointed that had so little functionallity compared with phpBB which I have used elsewhere.

    How do you rate SimplePress, the fact it is said to intergrate with WordPress registration is an attractive option for me.

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