I am in lookout for a forum that gets installed on an Apache-based server (like WordPress does). The following features are desirable:

  • No ads
  • Fully customisable or an option to choose from various themes
  • PhpMyAdmin compatible
  • Social logins (Facebook, Twitter, Google+)
  • A clean looking responsive interface
  • Preferably free

What I'm looking for isn't a question-answer plugin, rather a web-app where one can post a particular topic and people can login and have discussions on it.

My server uses PHP/MySQL.


4 Answers 4


You don't run a forum on apache alone, you need a php and mysql install too. You aren't going to need phpmyadmin unless you're directly working on the database or for initial install. I used phpmyadmin for my first install but I do it correctly these days.

Simple Machine Forums is what I tend to use - it's freeware with no ads, works on shared hosting, or proper hosting with the appropriate versions of php and mysql (If you're running a host that runs php 4.x, you need a new host anyway).

It has a really nice installer, an internal package management system for handling updates and plugins, with both official and additional repsitories and is nearly handsfree once you set it up initially.

SMF also allows openid logins (for 'social' logins) or there are third party social login plugins

It has entirely custom themes as an option and lots of layouts you can install through the package management systems.

I've been told it also handles better under large numbers of users than phpbb (I knew a guy who ran a large forum, and tried a few different things), but your mileage may vary.


I've always like PHPBB (from a management standpoint - though I haven't dealt with more than hmm 3 or 4k registered users (ie a max of a hundred active users))

To run down your features:

  • No ads: Yep none of that ugly stuff.
  • Fully customisable or an option to choose from various themes Open-Source and fully customizable - and has a massive amount of themes/user styles available.
  • PhpMyAdmin compatible: It uses PHP & MySQL so yes although you really shouldn't use PhpMyAdmin to manage db applications - much better to use their built in management tools since otherwise you can easily mess things up royally if you don't know what you are doing very very well.
  • Social logins (Facebook, Twitter, Google+): Not natively; however PHPBB is highly highly extensible and there are literally thousands of plugins available (and lots more in other locations - like SourceForge or GitHub. I haven't used them but I have heard good things about OpenID for phpBB (open id based login) and ConSof phpBB Alternative Login (probably better: it supports OpenID login, Facebook login and a bunch of Facebook communication options, and Windows Live login).
  • A clean looking responsive interface: Clean looking hmm I'd say so but UX is a challenge for me since I don't think the way many simple users do.

You can also test it freely on their servers. (see the last paragraph)

  • +1 for PHPBB, I use a plugin for PHPBB for facebook and twitter, Though the twitter version is slightly outdated now
    – exussum
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 16:18
  • @user1281385 Login plugins or something else? If for login got a link? (since that was specifically asked nice to be able to include extra information that is slightly outside of my current experience level). Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 16:19
  • phpbb.com/customise/db/mod/oa_social_login seems a more upp to date one, Mine only supported 2
    – exussum
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 22:43

I have always liked MyBB as a free forum board choice. It combines a great default UI and an excellent looking Admin Panel. I prefer MyBB over others because of the easy to use UI for myself, the administrator, and the users.


  • Nope, no ads
  • Runs on php 5.1.0+ and phpmyadmin compatible (so yes on apache assuming you have php, and MySQL 4.0+ installed on your server)
  • 100% customizable and you can browse a large list of user-made themes here
  • Social login capability through third, party, plugins
  • Lots and lots of plugins to help you and your users have a fun experience with your forum
  • An excellent UI in my opinion. Very easy to use from both an administration, moderation and user perspective. Of course you are not getting the amazing features and UI as a paid forum, but it's pretty darn close

I wouldn't know if it does handle large forum boards (as I have only had a few hundred users) easily but I am assuming it does.

The only downside I notice about MyBB, is that its rather annoying to install plugins. I wish that it natively came with a plugin installer via web interface rather than uploading it through FTP and then activating it in the ACP. There is, of course, a plugin that does this, but I find it a bit ironic that you have to install a plugin, to easily install more plugins.


Invision Power Board

  • Runs on PHP 5.2.0+ and MySQL 4.1+
  • Very customizable with lots of plugins
  • Great support when you run into issues
  • Facebook and Twitter connect available out of the box, Google with a plugin
  • API allows you to develop pretty much anything you want to
  • Clean default UI with lots of themes (free and paid) to choose from
  • Familiar to the user as this forum is used by many large forums


  • Costly; currently starting at $175 for the license and $25 every 6 months for renewal
    • But there's a free demo you can try out to make sure it fits your needs before paying anything.
  • Admin panel is sometimes a bit of a maze
  • Unfriendly towards BBCode sometimes (WYSIWYG editor by default)

I always used SMF or phpBB in the past, but once I tried out IP.Board, I never looked back. I've been using it for two different communities already and it's served me well.

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