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Taking HostingDiscussion to the next level


Staff member
Dear members,

Recent and almost simultaneous hacks of at least a few communities owned by large media companies served as a push for more immediate (than previously planned) changes.

I wanted to start this thread in order to accomplish two primary objectives: to have a discussion about what next steps to take in picking a new communication platform and have an honest dialogue about what proposed changes might affect. In spite of any potential damage HostingDiscussion might take in the process (loss of traffic, loss of search engine ranking or less features), I am looking at this as a long-term investment, because members' safety and satisfaction beats any commercial benefit the site might provide in the short term.

I don't expect all to agree, but as long as most understand the direction I'd like to go, I am happy.

Since the hacks

When the news of the first hack became public, I started to educate myself on the subject. I retained the services of a security-oriented vBulletin developer to assess our risk, perform a complete security check, to apply officially released patches, as well as to stay as an advisor and a support resource while we are going through this transition (glad to report there were no signs that our forum has been infected or backdoored). At the same time I started to investigate all community-based applications on the market today.

Reasons to move away from vBulletin

Let's put it this way. If we stick with vBulletin, we have two options: either to upgrade to the latest 4.0 version available or go all the way to version 5.0. Normally people would always recommend to run the latest version of any released software (although in this case it appears that 4.0 is relatively more safe than 5.0). However, regardless of security, if there was anything consistent about vBulletin 5.0, it is the number of bugs and negative feedback voiced even by their biggest fans. Even if and when the company plugs all the holes, the latest release breaks not only the look of the community (a brand new theme will have to be designed), but some of the custom plugins we have in use. Which really begs the question: if we are forced to change all common elements of a forum, do we even have to stay with vBulletin? Considering the circumstances and the increased security risk, me thinks not.

Times have changed

Don't get me wrong, I've been a huge fan of vBulletin for many years. The thought of migrating to another software has never developed into a serious one. However, recent events have almost served as a wake up call to look around. And what a different world it is today! The social landscape is changing and with it, change the socially driven products. The more I looked around, the more fun discoveries were made. The realization that I kept on having time and time again is that just like Blackberry, Yahoo!, Kodak and Blockbuster did not innovate in time, looking at the forum software market today, I see vBulletin intensely lagging behind.

The way people interact and seek help today differs from 10-15 years ago. If someone is looking for quick help, he/she is less likely to spend time signing up for an account that then needs more time to get approved before they can even ask the question (unless they are joining with intention to be around long-term). They are more likely to search Google for similar issue(s) in hopes to find the right answer. So if there was an option to login with an existing social account (Twitter or Facebook), they'd probably go for that, if it means less work to get to the desired result. Additionally, people have less time looking for answers in the first place. As such, they'd be less motivated to scroll through pages and pages of a conversation, looking for the best answer. Wouldn't it make more sense if the stronger, more accurate answer (as voted by other members and staff) was also available at the top of the discussion, giving the author the respect and the exposure in the process? These are just some of the ideas among the many that are adopted across the web.

I am not even talking about primitive user engagement features such as various reputation systems, award badges, ability to build a personal following for your company within the community, involving each other into conversation with a simple @ call sign, having a private messaging experience in a threaded format (personally I've been dying for that one), among others.

Most of these features are not found in the old school forum software packages anymore, unless possibly through third-party add-ons or plugins (which is a battle of its own to keep them functioning right with every software update). But very few have them intuitively built in and taken advantage of. vBulletin has certainly missed many.

Once we open our mind to the possibility of life without vBulletin, suddenly few exciting options are possible.

What's out there

In the mildly modified words of Kenny Powers, new hip social platforms are in, old school forums are out.

vBulletin, phpBB, XenForo, SimpleMachines, PunBB are all dinosaurs to me. Programs like MyBB or FluxBB are difficult to put all your trust in.

What I found interesting were applications like VanillaForums, Discourse, Flarum, NodeBB. The problem with these, however, is that some of them are still in beta (Flarum - tested it myself, very unstable) and most do not yet have a very long track record. I'd go with a wild guess by saying VanillaForums is the most established out of this group and very well received. However, I've been following it for a long time and major updates take a painful amount of time to release. Overall, I love these apps, they have killer ideas and lots of potential. But while some may be a good choice for startup communities, it feels like some of these teams don't have the financial muscle to throw large development resources behind them, while others, sadly, primarily target the enterprise.

So, how do we find an app that can do both: provide exciting innovative features and persuade a level of financial stability? I may have found the perfect middle ground. The only traditional forum-based solution that I remember for as long as I've been involved with forums and the one that I suddenly like today is IPS Community by InvisionPower.com. Suddenly, because I've never before been a fan... was always a vBulletin kind of guy. But to my big surprise, IPS Community has done an excellent job to evolve with time. Behind what can seem like a traditional forum look, there are multitude of built-in features that I talked about above with such an appetite:

- single sign-on integration opportunity;
- better visibility of quality content and top contributors;
- choice of reputation methods and built-in award badges;
- socially-driven profiles (build a following of your own within a community);
- post editing with active member mentions, auto-embedding, drag and drop uploading and auto-saved drafts;
- threaded private messaging conversations;
- easy content discovery with a wide range of filters;
- redesigned moderation tools that seem more centralised and effective compared to what we have today.

There is definitely a learning curve, but I think it is an exciting one.

Most importantly, Invision Power Services has a long historical track record and there is security in the fact that they equally cater to enterprise, which keeps the product well maintained.

There will definitely be epic challenges in this transition, like potentially losing the search engine ranking that HostingDiscussion is enjoying today, and for how long; losing some existing custom plugins we have employed on this forum; or having to come up with a fresh new design. But with your support, I think all is possible to accomplish, one step at a time. We just need to know that most of you are up for the adventure.

To bring in the fresh and the new, to make things exciting, software that is social and engaging is next. Could this be the common-ground between traditional and radical new? What do you think if we were to make a move to the IPS Community software?

Warmest wishes to all,


New member
I feel your pain. Until recently I was the owner of a vBulletin based community with over 31,000 members and almost 4 million posts. Due to it's size and customisations we didn't upgrade past 3.6.X. We ran vB 5 on our test site and hated it. I've always been a vB guy so I stuck with it in the hope of improvements but things went from bad to worse.. it was harder to maintain, the site looked dated, the tempting system is awful, though luckily we didn't have any hacks to worry about.

We tried 'integrating' modern/social tech but it always felt plugged in as appose to being a natural part of the site and every day we were losing members to social media.

I decided to part ways earlier this year as I didn't have the time to modernise the site.

I think ditching away from vB is a smart move. I am a member of a community that uses IPS and it is light years ahead of vB. I can't speak for administration tasks but definitely a better user experience. One thing that does stand out is that it feels quite 'heavy'.

Whenever we need forums now we use Xenforo, and I advise you to try the demo and consider it. Most communities I visit have migrated to Xenforo and with good reason... It is very easy to style, customise and has modern social aspects. Most importantly, it's lightening fast.

Good luck with the migration - I'm sure you have a great team behind you, however if you are ever looking towards the community to pitch in I would be happy to do so.


HD Moderator
Staff member
You know, I really only have experience with vBulletin and Xenforo. I have complete faith in your ability to select whatever you deem best for Hosting Discussion, Artashes.

I wouldn't call Xenforo a dinosaur though, as I see a lot of forums converting from vBulletin to Xenforo, and I think for good reason. In the short period of time that I ran my own forum, I never experienced as much as one issue.

I'm looking forward to the new Hosting Discussion. :D


New member
This is an interesting discussion, and a very interesting discussion forum. How would the migration affect current user base from the back end? The GUI look/ feel, I'm sure everyone can adapt to. Also, What about data? It's a shame a previous version is more robust and safer then the newest release, however building communities like these is no easy task, the security team and founders should really consider and make it a top priority from their end as well. There's a lot of time and resources involved, so which ever direction you choose. Ensure you do your homework. This is always a major challenge, specially considering that this forum holds multiple prodigies within well exactly that, Tech. Catch 22 at it's best.


New member



I only briefly looked over both / but IPS has come miles ahead of when I checked it out almost 10 years now I guess / seems that way anyway... Really just the surface of their own forum looks very promising.

Will dive into the two more and comment but yes Invision Power looks solid / I would say just the forum module / but nice to know the other features are there.

A Big commitment will be from the "current" supporters and community of HD - I have seen other boards change their forum script and lose the momentum or the community does not return / but I think the detailed info you provided and the invite to comment will help retain our current members / I for one will be in 100% support. What would be interesting is does IPS have a user dbase conversion path?



New member
I would agree IPS does feel heavy for some reason / I know the hosted version is big bucks per month and their model is based on how many users at any one point in time / right off it gave me the impression of a heavy app / vs the XenForo as XTM_Mike mentioned / but that is just from an 5 min impression


Active member
My 0.02 here

XenForo isn't as antequated as you think. It's got a ton of what you're looking for (features needed), and has a much fresher feel than vBulletin , by default. The default template is just great, and editing it is a blast!

I looked at IPB for a while, but the company is clueless when it comes to customer relations. They may look a bit more 'social-y' , but you can honestly do that with XF rather easily as well. It just takes a plugin or three, and it's done ;) . It really does depend on what you want to do with it.

I agree with the sentiment re: vBulletin. It's antequated. They haven't bothered to keep up with the times, or to update their software in eons. XF seems to be doing rather well though, with a number of updates in the past few months. Yes, it's not as mature as IPB, but that's to be expected. it is much newer.

Alex - A2 Hosting

Active member
Reading this I was also hoping the end result to be XenForo. IPB is great and all but I agree with the above, it feels heavy. XenForo seems light yet very powerful and at the same time, offers most of your requirements above (plugin or not).

I'll stick around no matter the choice though I think the best general direction for HD would be XenForo at this stage. Maybe some custom development is needed, maybe not. But it is a great system overall, probably one of the best if not the best.

Also, I haven't looked at the IPB development ecosystem but XenForos is huge, you can find pretty much anything you may need.


New member
I would love to go over the whole story but to make it short, personally I would suggest going over to XenForo from the start. I used to be a long time user of IPB (I followed Matt Mecham since Ikonboard days) and while they do have a great product, I don't think it is what you are looking for HostingDiscussion.com. Their product has gone a little bit further than being a community system to be a whole ecosystem with features that take away from the actual focus of a forum (user discussion).

XenForo is created by the original creators of vBulletin and some new promising staff. They are already on the way for v2 and looking to improve the modding community and make XenForo more flexible and modern, which most forum systems are lacking. If you are unsure, I would suggest waiting for XenForo v2 to take a look and compare with IPB, then decide.

I am in no means associated with XenForo.


New member
I support the previous speakers. XenForo is good and better in this situation. It's fast and has lots of addons. Btw the customer service is really good - that's a huge plus.


New member
I personally love ipb and have always loved their support. I have used XenForo and always thought it was basic. You had to do a lot of editing just to make it work like how you want.


I'm not keen on VanillaForums, Discourse, Flarum, NodeB and I know IPB can be resource heavy, plus I'm not 100% on the look of that either.

For me, it was between vBulletin 5 and XenForo, and to be totally unbiased here, I mainly choose vBulletin 5 because I already had a vBulletin 4 licence and it worked out cheaper for me to get the best software with as many features as possible and at the best value. Otherwise, both vBulletin 5 and XenForo are much better compared to the rest, IMO. I'm more familiar with vBulletin than the other forums too, and so that was another reason I choose vBulletin 5.

I've used XenForo as a user but not admin so not sure what the administration is like regarding ease of use, etc.

I hadn't used vBulletin 4/5 for a few years, and when first set it up it took some time getting used to it, to say the least. There are loads of minor bugs they still need to fix (can view them all in their bug tracker), but the software does what it's supposed to do. But then what open-source/commercial software doesn't have any bugs? They all have them.

I won't link to the forum I setup to give you an idea what I did with vB5 as per rules, but I'd suggest anyone interested in vB5 or XenForo to signup to the community at both vBulletin and XenForo to see which interface you like best.

Both vBulletin 5 and XenForo have their pros & cons. What one offers the other doesn't and vice-verser.

I'm happy enough to use vB5 for the amount I paid for the upgrade. If I'm not happy with vBulletin later on, then I could just migrate from VB5 to XenForo, but I think vB5 will do what I want it to do which is to have a discussion forum that loads fast (works with PHP 7.1), has SEF URLs plus has a friendly interface for users.

One thing I don't like about vBulletin 5 is I find the Theme Color Builder is not that good, and it isn't easy to make a custom theme with it. That aside, I think the rest makes up for that, but I'd like to see vBulletin improve the theme builder (without us having to edit custom .css files, etc. manually).

I think HD would be best on vBulletin 5 or XenForo, or IPB if you think that is the way to go. Site Owner ultimately needs to be happy with software choice first, users second. You need to manage the forum using interface you like, etc. If you like it, then should have members who will like it too.

In short, I'm not 100% happy with any forum software and wish I was an excellent coder and had the time so I could make my own forum software, but that isn't going to happen, so will settle for vBulletin or XenForo.

PS vBulletin has improved a fair bit since this thread was created (supports PHP 7.1 now which is important in terms of speed, plus SSL, too).

GGood luck with whatever you decide.


Staff member
I have to take something I said back - XenForo is not a dinosaur after all.

I started this thread because it was getting evident that no innovation is coming out of vB and theme customization is still a headache with its latest release, so I can no longer afford to invest in it.

After investigating all the possible options out there (and there are some incredible innovative products out there), as suggested by some of you, I've taken my time (again) to look at XenForo, read around the forums, see how people manage themes and custom styling, what designers are available for custom work and check out how active the developer scene is. Even though my personal choice for a communication platform would have been a lot more radical (Vanilla, Discourse or even Flarum), I am very close to being persuaded that XenForo is the way to go.

To be honest, the initial few posts of people liking XenForo as a choice, it got me a little depressed because for the life of me I could not understand why members here would prefer XenForo, something that looks and feels like vBulletin. It seemed outdated and irrelevant because I am seeing the overall trend of how people communicate online change from traditional forums to more open and fun messenger-type ecosystem. So with all the apples on the table - most of the members in this thread and those I've had conversations with name XenForo as their preference. And you know what, I am starting to believe that you guys have been right all along.

While apps like Vanilla, Discourse or Flarum have a lot going on for them and they have some very clever and trendy social features, the road ahead is still exceptionally long. Plus, from what I've seen, I am starting to realize that some of those juicy and sellable features can probably be implemented on XenForo as well. If not through custom code, hopefully as part of default features in coming releases. I could name at least 3-4 such features that XenForo is missing today that I would have loved to offer HostingDiscussion members, but I'd be shifting away from the topic.

Through study I found that the problem with these new software products is that some of them are still in beta and most do not yet have a very long track record. Vanilla seems to be the most established out of the group and very well received. However, I've been following it for a long time and major updates take a painful amount of time to release. Pretty much all of them do not have the financial muscle to throw large development resource behind them, while others primarily target enterprises.

IPB was my top choice because it had a good mix of traditional and new social features that seemed to be gaining traction. However, after seeing what XenForo has in store with their upcoming brand new release 2.0, I like the direction just as much.

So, folks, I think we have reached the decision and I have YOU to thank for it. We are going to start the preparation towards migrating HostingDiscussion to XenForo. I have already identified developer and design resources that I am going to approach to discuss how they can best assist in this transition. I have a strong feeling that most people here would agree that HD requires an update beyond software alone and in the form of new look as well. Its been years since the very talented Lucian of Emblematiq designed our current theme, but I promise we'll present the new site with a design that fits today's design trends.

Looking forward to working on this new exciting change together with all of you!


New member
I was reading thead again a few days ago because I clicked on it from your signature and I thought you might have forgetting about it.

I think xenforo is a really good choice take it from me I'm a big fan of forums.


I choose vBulletin 5 because it's tried and tested, been around for a very long time and not going anywhere soon. The other end is I tried to run sites on software where the people behind it did not have the resources to keep it going, and they ended up stopping development and my sites died because of it, i.e., I had to start again. I think this has happened to me for 3-5 different software wasting a lot of my time and money. Now I'd try to use vBulletin for everything if possible.

I'm think I'm 95% sure vBulletin isn't going anywhere and probably a good 75% sure XenForo isn't going anywhere, so either of those is a good choice, IMO.


Staff member
I choose vBulletin 5 because it's tried and tested, been around for a very long time and not going anywhere soon.
That's what Blackberry used to think, too.
Just because something has been out for too long, doesn't mean it is going to be there tomorrow.
Not at all saying that vB is going out, I really don't want it to, but a little innovation won't hurt.

I'm think I'm 95% sure vBulletin isn't going anywhere and probably a good 75% sure XenForo isn't going anywhere, so either of those is a good choice, IMO.
I'd actually place XenForo at same percentage as vBulletin. That team is committed, the development community is extremely engaged and XenForo is so customizable it often becomes the choice for enterprise as well.
But, it is still a traditional forum platform and as such depends on market adoption rate and response to stay in business. What is evident is how many big boards (1million+ posts) are migrating from vB to XF. There are a number of full time developers that make a living on that kind of work, which is telling.

But I agree. I've owned close to 10 vBulletin licenses and it used to be the one and only platform I'd consider for any community idea I've had. Things have drastically changed in 10 years. But I think it is awesome that there is competition between software products, as they push each other to build better products.