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Discourse – New generation forum

A forum is an important brick to build a strong community around a project, a website, etc… and probably the most popular opensource forum platform is PhpBB, followed by Vanilla and many more. Great projects, well maintained, big community around, etc… but with a traditional approach of a forum.

But it is not the case of Discourse, a “new generation” forum, open source, designed for touch devices from the day 1, with plenty of innovative features.

Discourse screenshot

Indeed Discourse:
– Allows the community to moderate directly itself with a trust and flagging systems,

– Is optimized for reading (no next page/previous page, simply scroll down/up to read the content, it will dynamically update the page),

discourse conversation scroll– Get real time notification (If someone is replying one of your message or mentioning your name, be informed immediately)

discourse real time notification– Uses an overlay editor (does not interrupt the reading)

– Get advanced image handling (drag and drop, automatic thumbnail,…)

– Social Media Integration (1 click to share post to social media)

– Spam Blocking

– 1 click upgrade

– Single Sign On

– Search Engine Optimized

and many many more.


You can directly try discourse here.

Discourse is hosted on github and a complete tutorial can be found on their wiki.


NB: It sounds they are in a middle of “management crisis” with several leaders leaving the project for various reasons. The development might slow down but you should still have a good support from the community.

Community Forum Software – How to install Vanilla message board 4 years ago, in my previous self-hosting tutorial, I wrote how to install MyBB forum and why I choose this one while comparing others forum softwares.

Here I am again with a shorter, but updated article.


As you blog or website grow, you may want to add a forum on top of it to help integrating the community. But it exists a large panel of forum softwares and it might be quite complicated to choose the one that will suit all your needs.

But there is a nice website dedicated on Forum Software Reviews, called Forum-Software. It allow you to compare side by side up to 4 forum softwares and for each of them will let you access the demo if available, will share their review and user reviews on the tool. Definitely a must to check.

In my case, my favorties one are FluxBB, MyBB, PhpBB and Vanilla (I used to like SMF, but feel it less good than the 4 others mentioned and as a more restricting licence).

Here is the detail:

(Click on the picture to be redirected to Forum-Software’s comparison)


MyBB has become a really popular forum now with an important community.

Obviously phpBB remains the most popular forum with great features but could be a bit complicated to manage for inexperienced people.

Although MyBB was once my favorite forum software, and phpBB being too big for my current needs, I actually decided to try Vanilla. Super easy to install and administrate, with a very different skin and way to present post (Per discussion).

Anyway, this post will not help you to decide which one to use most probably (you got Forum-Software for that) but I’ll tell you how to install and configure your Vanilla forum on your Linux server (Debian in my case)


Obviously, Vanilla being based on PHP, you will need to have a working LAMP server. If you don’t have that, here you go. You can obviously install it using FTP, but let’s see how to do it with SSH connection directly.

First, you may want to differentiate your forum with your others services by creating a dedicated folder in your /var/www. In root (su) type:

and download the latest Vanilla version inside the newly created forum:

and unzip the folder:

However, it will create a subfolder called vanilla and as unzip or even 7zip don’t support to skip the first directory (as tar does with the option --strip-components=1), so you will need to copy everythng from the subfolder to your current folder and remove this subfolder


and you should be good with something similar:

Now, as we did with the Web photo gallery Piwigo tutorial, you need to change the owner of the folder to ensure apache default user has write access and provide sufficient privileges. Still in root, type:

and then navigate with your web-browser to http://myip/forum to continue the installation using their web interface. Here again, you will need a dedicated MySQL database and user to run Vanilla message board.


Virtualhost configuration

Most probably, you will prefer to provide access to your forum through a subdomain like In that case, you will need to create a virtualhost:

The fastest way might be to reuse some of your existing Vhost file by duplicating it and modifying accordingly to your needs.

Or you can reuse mine and adapt it.

In root, type:

and here is how mine looks like:

Once modified, save it (CTRL+X, then Yes) and reload your apache configuration:

and don’t forget to make an A redirection in your DNS provider.

You should now have a working Vanilla forum.

SMTP configuration:

If you have your own mail server (if not, you can follow this how to), in the administration panel of Vanilla, you can configure it to use your SMTP server. In Settings –> Outgoing Email, you will be able to set the Name + Sender email. The second part will be the SMTP configuration. Most probably your forum is installed on the same server than your mail server. In that case, you simply need to do as following:

No user and no password needed then as it is on the same machine.

And voila !

Well, you can now use the new Freedif Forum too!

Wisdom of the Ancients