The Content Management System we use at AVForums to manage our editorial content was developed in-house. As too was the front-end system which is an addon for Xenforo. Both are bespoke to AVForums and will not be appropriate for use on any other website.
In October 2013,
for the first time in 12 years, we migrated AVForums to new forum software. We moved from vBulletin to Xenforo.
What is Xenforo? And why did we change to it?
Xenforo is the market leading professional forum platform released in 2011 by the original developers of vBulletin. These guys built vBulletin and grew it to be the market leader in forum software. But while vBulletin is, in my opinion, failing in the hands of new owners, the Xenforo team have moved on to create an efficient, user friendly, innovative, contemporary forum platform which we will all benefit from using.
Xenforo is regularly updated and as good as forum software gets. You don't need to know anything else. But you can read on if you're interested in the details of the death of vBulletin and the creation of Xenforo.
The nitty gritty
For 12 years, we used Jelsoft's vBulletin
software to run AVForums.
As late as 2013 we used vBulletin 3.8.2 while the latest currently available version is vBulletin 5 Connect. For a number of considered reasons, we, like many other vBulletin forum admin* had declined to upgrade to the newer versions of the software since 2009, after the key developers left the company following its purchase by Internet Brands
The vBulletin 3 key developers, Kier Darby, Mike Sullivan and Scott MacVicar, wanted to redevelop vBulletin from scratch as far back as 2007. Internet Brands, however, insisted on working on the vBulletin 3 code to release vBulletin 4 as soon as possible. Kier, Mike and Scott all left Jelsoft in 2009.
In my opinion, Internet Brands has mismanaged the development of vBulletin, producing generally poor code in vBulletin 4, creating security problems
and pricing structure issues
. vBulletin 5 Connect has received considerable criticism
for being a premature release absent many important features, containing old code inherited from vBulletin 2 and being ineptly inefficient.
When vBulletin 3 was developed, the future formatting of websites to maximise Search Engine Optimisation (SEO - primarily for Google) was not foreseen.
On our installation of vBulletin 3, we used an addon called vBSEO which helps make the forum more search engine friendly. It's kind of a standard addition to a vB3 forum.
vBSEO is dead
On July 13th 2013 I received notification that vBEO is suspending operations. There is a video from one of the co-founders about it and a discussion at Admin Talk.
Dear vBulletin Forum Community - vBSEO is Suspending Operations
I was aware that there were problems with vBSEO. There has been no development for some time, though the vBSEO product on AVForums will, of course, continue to work indefinitely. SEO evolves. If our SEO addon does not, it will become increasingly useless.
We had already made the decision to move away from vBulletin some time ago, so this news about vBSEO didn't really affect us. But it might give other forum owners the impetus to also migrate away from vBulletin.
What do others think about vBulletin?
I posted a link above to a single thread at Digital Point where people criticised vB5 soon after its release.
In the above thread at Admin Talk, several admin also comment on the status of vBulletin:
There is also an interesting thread at The Admin Zone
discussing the departure of Freddie Bingham, the last of the 'old guard' vB3 developers. The admin folks there really lay into Internet Brands.
These are just a taster of the general feeling amongst experienced admin. In the private vBulletin Licensed feedback forum, there is much dissent about the poor quality of vBulletin 5 Connect. It's criticised heavily for being slow (often unusably slow) and plagued by bugs.
So why not just stick with vBulletin 3?
The problem with sticking with vB3 is that modern internet users are used to websites with a better user experience. vB3 sites nowadays are starting to look pretty old.
That may not be a problem for existing and loyal forum users like most of you reading this right now, but new visitors to your site are less and less likely to be impressed by the clunky look and feel. And it is the retaining of new visitors which is so important for growing a community.
And believe me the look and feel of vB3 is clunky. It's also not particularly fast. Other forum platforms have taken advantage of the latest in framework development, CSS and jQuery widgetty niceties to make their forums function with fewer page loads (modal overlays instead) and faster page loads (inevitable from more evolved, efficient coding).
So to say vB3 is still fast may be true when running on a fast server with little traffic, but compared to different forum platforms, it is not necessarily so.
Because other forums use modern techniques (e.g. jQuery), they usually provide for a nicer, slicker user experience also. Less page loads, more slide-down notifications. Automatic message saving to draft for later, anyone? Drag and drop images into the new post form? Responsive design for people using mobiles? All these features and many more are missing from vB3 but available in competing forum platforms.
In my opinion, vBulletin is already a dead product. I would not recommend anyone choose vBulletin to run their community, and those currently using it should look now at migrating to an alternative forum platform.
Because vB3 is so out of date and vB4 and vB5 Connect are so poor, we could not continue using vBulletin to run AVForums.
[*] Other forums still using vBulletin 3 include:
- 5Series.net - Forums
- AudiForums.com - Powered by vBulletin
- Audio Video Revolution Forum - Powered by vBulletin
- DVD Talk Forum - Powered by vBulletin
- FlyerTalk Forums
- Land Rover Forums - Land Rover Enthusiast Forum
- Mazda Forum - Mazda Enthusiast Forums
(and these are all owned by Internet Brands!)
Plus vBulletin.org Forum
- the 'community' development site for vBulletin is on vBulletin 3 and the admin have no plans to move to a later version.
Who else is using Xenforo?
Here is a list of big forums