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I'm only familiar with phpBB and wonder what the actual benefits of the vBulletin software are. I think phpBB has come a long way and has a ton of features nowadays. I think it has also improved in terms of secruity.
From my slight inquiries I figured that the main argument pro vBulletin seems to be scalability. But I've also seen phpBB boards with large communities. What do you know about it?

Thanks for sharing your wisdom :)

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2 Answers

It all depends on how far you need it to scale and in what direction.

I'm currently working on a moderately large vBulletin-based site. Some rough numbers:

  • >1000 forums
  • >1.3M threads
  • ~20M posts
  • >300k registered users
  • >50 page views per second at peak

There are plenty of bigger forum sites out there, but we're big enough to have run into scaling problems with vBulletin.

We're not running stock vBulletin and from anecdotal evidence many sites of our size or greater have modified their installs to account for particular issues they run into. For example, we modified vBulletin to speed up handling of long threads since stock vBulletin isn't really set up to handle threads with 100,000+ posts in them. Other forum sites will have made hacks to account for large numbers of users, or for fast-moving threads or whatever their particular bottleneck is. Anything I've seen from large phpBB sites would indicate that it's fairly common for them to do so too.

If you think your forum is going to be large, then you probably will run into scaling issues with the software no matter what you pick. Pick the forum software with which you have the most expertise or where it's easy for you to buy in expertise.

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Well.. if you change your point of view to a security based one the choice becomes pretty obvious (vBulletin).

I don't run anything big enough (vBulletin and SMF for a small amount of users) to comment on performance, but I know that a extremely large gaming site (mmo-champion.com) just switched to vBulletin to increase scalability.

Also - consider SMF. It's kind of stalled in development right now (getting 2.0 released), but from what I've seen it's by far the best free software out there for forums. I've played a little with it using nginx, php-fpm and apc and the speed is simply blazing - much faster than I ever could get my vbulletin.

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