Free PHP Forums

Discussion boards, message boards, bulletin boards PHP Scripts

Free Forum / Message Board / Bulletin Board / BBS PHP Scripts

Forums, also known as discussion boards, bulletin boards ("BBS"), message boards, or community forums (and possibly some other names that I've missed out), have always been popular. They allow visitors to your site to interact with each other and discuss the various topics relevant to your website. An active forum site also gets return visitors to your site, since members feel that they can get answers there, or contribute and help others in some way, and/or a myriad of other reasons (depending on the purpose of your site).

The forum software listed on this page are the PHP versions. If you want Perl versions, please see the Free Forum Perl Scripts page instead. Most, if not all, of the forums listed on this page require your host to have SQL support (usually MySQL).

Please note that installing a forum is not quite the same as designing a website with a web editor like Microsoft Expression Web or BlueGriffon, or even installing a feedback form. Be prepared to invest a fair bit of time learning how to set it up properly. They also consume a fair amount of resources, both in terms of processor time as well as disk space, so if your forum becomes very popular, you may find yourself looking around for a dedicated server. (No, don't do it just yet. A regular shared web host is usually more than sufficient if you're just starting out.) Another thing that you'll need to remember to do is to back up your forum database daily (if not more often) in order to minimize your losses should your web server's hard disk crash or some such disaster. If you don't know how to do that, find out how. (The documentation that comes with the forum software may give some information on this.)

For those who find installing a forum too difficult, another alternative is to use one of the free forum hosting services available on the Internet. While you lose some control over the board that way, it saves you the need to host and install it yourself. Personally, though, I think it's best to install your own.

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Free PHP Forum, BBS, Message Boards, Discussion Boards Scripts


Unlike the other forum software listed on this page, bbPress is meant for WordPress users (see the Free PHP Blogging Scripts page or the WordPress setup guide if you don't know what WordPress is). It is a WordPress plugin that integrates into your existing blog. It supports public, private (for logged in users only) and hidden (where only moderators can see and post to) forums, sticky posts, themes, plugins, etc.


ElkArte is an open source forum software based originally on Simple Machines Forum (also listed on this page). It adds modern features to the original software such as "likes" for posts and topics, drafts, OpenID 2.0 support, responsive design themes that also work on smartphones, drag and drop file attachments, built-in support to block link spam and robots, posting by email, etc. Like most forums, it has support for addon mods and themes.

Simple Machines Forum

Simple Machines Forum, or SMF, is a PHP forum software that uses a MySQL database. Its visual layout is controlled by templates, so you can customize its appearance by changing the template. It features the ability to group sub-forums, or boards, into categories; assign moderators to each board; create member groups and assign users to one or more of such groups; assigning certain member groups to certain boards/forums; controlling the permissions for each member group; board statistics that let you track topics, messages, new members, individual member statistics; banning members based on usernames, email address, IP address or hostname; support for polls, calendars, attachments; etc.

phpBB Forum

This PHP based forum or BBS requires you to have MySQL, MS-SQL, PostgreSQL, or an Access/ODBC database server. It purports to be customizable, has a search utility (allowing your BBS visitors to be able to search the forum), private messaging system, unlimited forums and posts, multiple forum moderators, IP tracking on posts, an installation script, the ability to turn on/off HTML in posts, and so on.

Phorum Message Board

Phorum is a PHP based message board with support for threads and interfaces with MySQL, PostgreSQL and possibly others.


MercuryBoard is a bulletin board script written in PHP. It uses a MySQL database and supports emoticons, search engine, help engine, an admin control panel, etc. This software is apparently "no longer actively developed" (according to their website).

Quicksilver Forums

This is a PHP forum script that uses a MySQL database. Features include the ability to format posts using BB code, add attachments to posts, embed images in posts, send private messages (PM), get RSS feeds on posts, insert polls, etc. Administrative facilities include a variety of spam protection mechanisms, such as to require (if you wish) validation by email on registration and adding "nofollow" to links, banning members as well as IP addresses, censor inappropriate words, restrict access to different areas of the forum, restrict who can start new topics (etc), move, split, pin and lock topics, customisation ("customization" in US English) of the forum "skins", install your own emoticons and post icons, award special titles to members, backup and restore the forum, etc.


FUDforum (which stands for "Fast Uncompromising Discussion Forum") is a PHP-based forum that can work with MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, SQLite and other databases. It supports internationalisation (i18n), templates, private messaging with optional file attachments, polls, topic/forum subscription, filters, IP tracking, splitting of topics/messages, blocking of users from seeing and accessing certain forums, importing of XML feeds, archiving/posting to Usenet NNTP newsgroups, search, BBcode, avatars, smilies/emoticons, user ranks, filters (for censoring and replacing offensive words, etc), and so on.

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