phpBB launches brand new version 3

by Martin Reed on 17 December 2007 in Snippets

New version of phpbb launches

Many readers of this blog will be running forums based on the free phpBB forum software. I am a huge fan of phpBB, using it on all the forums I run. The beauty of phpBB lies in the fact it is open source and free to all. Now, the long awaited version three has been launched.

Additional features of phpBB3

phpBB3 offers a host of additional features as standard, compared to the previous version 2.x. These include:

  • Search engine spider handling
  • More member banning and suspension options
  • A ‘Report Posts’ feature
  • Ability to include attachments in posts
  • Database and template caching
  • Custom profile fields and memberlist searching
  • Password protected forums
  • Topic and post sorting
  • Advanced user control panel and private messaging options
  • Ability to merge topics and posts
  • Ability to vary moderator privileges and permissions

There are far more additional features of the new version of phpBB3, I have just highlighted the ones I consider particularly useful.

Should you upgrade?

I will not be upgrading to phpbb3 just yet. As I have previously written in an article entitled ‘Always keep your software kind of updated‘, it often pays to wait a little for the inevitable bugs to be ironed out of brand new software. phpBB3 is a completely new product – every line of code is brand new. Although it has been through eight release candidates, it is inevitable that bugs will be found once mass-adoption takes place.

phpBB will be maintaining support for the latest version 2.x, so you can be sure of continued bug and/or security fixes for the well-tested ‘legacy’ version. I may take the plunge and upgrade when my favourite phpBB mods are upgraded to work with version 3 and when I am confident that most of those inevitable ‘new version’ bugs are ironed out.

Your thoughts

Did you upgrade as soon as phpBB3 was launched? How are you finding it? Are you still using the previous version of phpBB? Are you planning on upgrading any time soon? Share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below.

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Vyoma December 17, 2007 at 3:51 pm

It always a delight to see a opensource software move forward. I have been using SMF and will be moving to vB soon, but I have not used much of phpBB other than my local test instances.

Smiley December 18, 2007 at 1:33 am

I won’t be upgrading anytime soon. I’m happy with phpBB 2. “Don’t fix what’s not broken”

Besides, all the features you have listed, you can simply ADD those features to phpBB 2 !!

I’m a big lover of phpBB, too. I like how easy it is to learn. Several months back I didn’t even know how to add new items to the navigation menu at the top. Now??? My phpBB 2 is heavily customized as I played, and played, and played… and learnt!

I’ve even installed a feature that the members find particularly fun and really enjoy. ‘Confessional forums’ where when you post in a certain forum, you are completely anonymous.

So just because phpBB 3 is out, I wouldn’t put phpBB 2 to sleep just yet!

Online furniture store December 18, 2007 at 3:32 am

I agree that it is not such a great idea to jump onto a bandwagon as soon as a new software is launched. It is a good idea to wait till enough people use it so that the glitches come to light and are sorted out.

Also sometimes the older version works so well and you are so used to it, it does not make sense to upgrade, because sometimes a newer version does not even have so many new features to make it worthwhile.

Rapdirt December 18, 2007 at 11:06 am

I used the phpbb3 on one of my websites as it was being developed.. It was very stable by RC4, imo, and while I haven’t upgraded to gold yet, I have little worries about its stability. They probably could use some work developing a sitemap module for it and clean up some seo issues, but it’s definitely the best free message board.

Hirsutism December 18, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Good to hear about the launch. It wont be much useful for me as I do not work on forums much. But personally speaking I ask people who have used the latest version, their experiences and then go ahead and install one for myself.

Martin Reed - Blog Author December 18, 2007 at 9:38 pm

Vyoma – What made you decide to move from SMF to vBulletin? Did you do any research before making this decision? I would be interested in hearing your reasoning behind making such a big change.

Smiley – I understand your sentiment. No doubt sooner or later we will need to upgrade, but whilst the legacy version is still being supported what’s the hurry?

Reena – Another important point is the fact that your community members will be used to the current version. If you suddenly surprise them with new software you may not get a desirable reaction!

Rapdirt – Hmm I wouldn’t like to be using a release candidate on any of my sites – especially when a gold version has been released. Sure, things may seem to be working OK for you right now but all you need is for one security flaw to be taken advantage of and you can kiss your forum goodbye!

Vyoma December 19, 2007 at 1:44 am

Well Martin, the reasoning may sound a bit like I am loosing faith in the Open Source community – but that is not the case. :) But here goes.

Open Source solutions are quite good, and most of the times provide features that rival the proprietary ones. In terms of forum software though, after reviewing phpBB and SMF, I edged a bit towards vB, but that was not the only factor. It was more in terms of how much I am willing to spend time on the software. Every thing needs constant coding time to keep up with changing time, and I really did not want to spend effort on learning SMF (or phpBB) and tweak it. I would rather pay for that by getting vB, because then there will be a team of developers working on it. I do like spending effort on coding, but :) I am already concentrating on Drupal. If there is something wrong with it, I need to roll up my sleeves and fix it. Of course, there is a community that works on it, but as long as it is not a community-wise ‘itch’, its fix would come rather slow. And I cannot demand for it to be fixed. But when I buy vB, I can demand for a fix.

The decision was not done purely in terms of the forum as a business model – because it is just a passion for me at this state. The decision was made taking other personal factors (like drive to learn).

:) Hope this rant has made it clear.

Smiley December 19, 2007 at 3:00 am

I’d give it atleast a YEAR before I upgrade. By that time, there’ll be plenty of modifications out for it, and any security holes etc should be fixed, too.

Abhi December 19, 2007 at 11:17 am

I agree with the not upgrading to the latest version immediately, and have benefited from it in the past, when a new release had to be ‘fixed’ when security holes were found in them. I usually wait about a week, but in this case a month or so does not sound too bad.

Adam December 21, 2007 at 10:08 am

phpbb2 was in itself a great community building product. version 3 sounds better. How good is it as compared to vBulletin?

Michael December 23, 2007 at 5:02 am

I have been running phpbb3 since RC1. I was just starting out – it was my first time to run a website, so I didn’t want to start phpbb2 just to upgrade in a few months. I am happy to say that I have never had a single issue with it, even with release candidates. As far as the gold version goes, the update was smooth and I haven’t had any problems.

Oh yea, I have to say that I love this site. I just wish I had ran into it a long time ago.

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 2, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Vyoma – You make a great argument for paid products and I agree with what you say. I really need to give vBulletin and real test and see how I like it over phpBB and other free solutions.

Smiley – That’s a long wait! I would probably be comfortable upgrading after one or two upgrades to the current release.

Abhi – I agree. It’s always a good idea to wait a little longer than normal when the code is completely new. Just make sure that when it comes to security updates you upgrade straight away.

Adam – I really need to fully test out vBulletin. Until I do so, I can’t compare the two.

Michael – Thanks for your kind comment; I am glad to hear you are enjoying the latest phpBB version.

Eric Martindale February 12, 2008 at 3:46 pm

We actually deployed the RC1 version, and we’ve kept up to date since then. A huge improvement over phpBB2, but I debate their decisions on a few features.

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 15, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Eric – I haven’t even had a proper look at phpBB3 yet due to time constraints. What things don’t you like about the new software?

Abhi February 16, 2008 at 7:36 am

Eric, it would be interesting to read what you didn’t like about PHPBB3.

Eric Martindale February 19, 2008 at 12:15 am

They further complicated permissions, an unnecessary change. They decided to implement Jabber notifications, but neglected to make it work with Google Talk, the single biggest Jabber-enabled chat application…

- No AJAX support.
- Still not XHTML compliant.
- Glaring performance issues (even in the Gold release)
- STILL lacking title on index for recent posts
- Still no built-in quick reply
- Friends and Foes, but no social media support?
- No API?
- Severely degraded PM management
- Admin panel still doesn’t adequately enable admins to easily do their job… some of the mass-edit tasks can’t be performed due to the way they force you to select users (inactive account deactivation and reminders).

There’s some other things that I can’t come up with off the top of my head, mainly related to them requiring modifications for many standard features in today’s web. Which, of course, you have to wait for a “valid modification” (passing their requirements) before you can mod your board.

All of this said and done, I still use phpBB3 for my biggest boards. Why? Because regardless of all of these frustrations, they’ve still got the biggest community out of all the open source packages.

Smiley February 20, 2008 at 8:54 am

I’ve just given phpBB3 a really good test run and………………………. I don’t like it.

Think I’ll stick with phpBB2 for the time being. Report posts feature, additional banning functions etc etc, you can just mod them yourself on phpBB2.

After giving version 3 a darned good test run.. I dunno, I just don’t like it!

Abhi February 20, 2008 at 11:51 am

Thanks Eric and Smiley. The comments have prompted me to put off upgrading to phpbb3 for the time being. Will think about it some other time, Cheers, Abhi

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 20, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Eric – Thank you for your opinions on phpBB3; I am sure they are helpful to many people debating whether or not to upgrade. People should still always test out software for themselves before making any decision, though.

Smiley – As long as phpBB 2.x is supported, there is no real need to upgrade if yo’re happy with it.

Abhi – Eric and Smiley have given interesting feedback, but it’s still worth installing phpBB3 and giving it a trial run yourself before making a final decision.

Smiley February 23, 2008 at 3:33 pm

Abhi, I agree with Martin. Give it a test run.

I have it installed on (my old domain) because I wanted to test it out. Feel free to take a look around it and decide yourself whether you like it.

I have a test admin name.

Username: test
Password: testtest

To me, phpBB3 is too vBulletin-ish, it’s like a carbon copy of vBulletin. If I wanted vBulletin I’d have downloaded it..

PhpBB2 still is supported obviously, as mine keeps telling I need 2.3

I daren’t install the upgrade though because I’ve never done it before and there’s no instructions lol, my forums are heavily customized & modded so if I upgrade I’m scared something will go wrong, ha!

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 27, 2008 at 8:08 pm

Smiley – Thanks for putting up a test URL. I know what you mean about customised boards being a pain to upgrade or change. Just make sure you don’t use this as an excuse not to keep up to date with security updates and releases!

Smiley February 27, 2008 at 11:01 pm

Whew, done it with no problems thankfully !! No problem about the test URL.

I just don’t like the look or feel of it, maybe it’s a case of what you’re used to, huh?

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 28, 2008 at 2:11 am

Smiley – Glad you updated; you don’t want to end up losing the database or staying up all night restoring backups!

Smiley February 28, 2008 at 4:07 am

True. Because I wouldn’t know how to — LOL. I learn new things everyday. I stay up late now and wait until all the regulars are sleep, then I play around with the forums, furthering its customization etc. That way if it breaks, I can learn to fix it at night and they’re none the wiser, ha!

The new buddy list/ignore list is going to be a saviour once the site grows. Took me 3 hours to get it right mind, but, got there in the end !

Abhi February 28, 2008 at 6:19 am

Even I did look at the Admin interface over the weekend, THANKS to your test setup Smiley. It does have a lot of options and I thought it was pretty cool actually. I will look up the other options, when I get some breathing space this week.
Things I want to check out immediately (from the list above):
- Glaring performance issues
- Severely degraded PM management

I am a little concerned about the theme for it. I wouldn’t want to upload a forum, which looks completely different to the one in place. People are pretty much used to it and the new default skin is very different to the one in place. Just don’t want to put the users off and will wait, till I can figure out how to make both of them look similar, of which I still don’t have a single clue.

Smiley February 28, 2008 at 3:28 pm

You’re welcome Abhi, this is why you should test things out for yourself :) everyone has different tastes!

I just think it has too much of a vBulletin feel to it.

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 29, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Smiley – Persistence is the key! Sometimes it pays to take a break and get back to that ‘impossible task’ in a few days. I have often solved problems in that way. A fresh look can work wonders!

Abhi – Have you considered consulting your members? After all, they are the most important people to consider!

Smiley February 29, 2008 at 11:37 pm

I agree. I allowed my members to run riot on phpBB3 a while back and the basic response was “don’t fix what’s not broken”.

Abhi March 4, 2008 at 8:01 am

Martin and Smiley: I’ve asked them a long time back.See here:

I do not think they can be bothered about that for now and so, the push to move to it is not there!

Amy March 4, 2008 at 10:37 am

I’m liking phpBB3 a lot so far, but think it pales in comparison to vBulletin still. However due to the price difference, I’ll be using phpBB3 a lot. I think MyBB will surpass phpBB3 soon enough, I prefer MyBB, but there are certain features with phpBB3 that I wanted.

Martin Reed - Blog Author March 4, 2008 at 7:16 pm

Abhi – It’s hard to gauge member opinions when you ask them for their opinions solely by directing them to the website. Perhaps you should install phpBB3 on your domain (but separate from your current forum), and try asking again.

If you still get no response, you can’t be blamed for not asking your members for their opinions!

Amy – I haven’t really looked into MyBB; what does it offer that phpBB doesn’t?

Smiley December 1, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Well, I just read my old posts and I can only come to the conclusion that phpBB 3 was still in beta stages, hence my initial dislike of it.

I’ve decide to fully integrate some chat boards into FC. I’ve gone with phpBB 3:

I’m going to keep them simple, and small. Just some forums for the chat users. will stay as its own site, and its own community, with its own features. No-one from chat uses them and vice versa so may as well sever the link completely.

Now I have to play about with phpBB 3 and figure out how to make it match the rest of the site now I have it on the domain. I have a Christmas theme for now so I have ’til January to play about with it. And of course plenty of time to add content. I’ve got a few loyal regs to sign up to help me create threads & content, and of course I have my staff members to help me.

But yes, the finished product of phpBB isn’t too shabby if I’m honest. There’s a lot of room for improvement mind (phpBB 4? :D) such as easier to customize. They’re yet to bring out forums where you can actively change the colours and design via the admin panel. Just choose the colours. Choose the positioning of the logo.

But oh well, a little work is good for the soul!

Michelle December 3, 2008 at 7:51 pm

@Smiley – Cute theme.

I’ve been meaning to take a look at phpbb sometime. I use Drupal’s forums which are just fine for my needs. But it’s always nice to see what the “competition” is doing. :)


Abhi December 4, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Well, even I’ve over a period of time made the move to PHPBB 3 too for the cycling forum. Its been a smooth and people seem to like the extra features its provides as do I.

But it looks completely different from the old look, but haven’t had the time for a template like the old one.

Martin Reed - Blog Author December 6, 2008 at 12:15 am

Smiley – I spent two days trying to convert the Just Chat message boards to phpBB 3. It didn’t go well. I think I am going to have to run the conversion locally on my computer, and then upload the new database. Either way, I am putting it off for the time being!!

Michelle – I am a big fan of phpBB but haven’t used Drupal so can’t compare. From what I saw of phpBB 3 when trying to convert from the previous version, it has a lot of additional features on top of phpBB 2 and certainly looks very comprehensive.

Abhi – Glad it well smoothly for you! Yes, it’s a very different look – especially the admin control panel! Good luck with your quest for a new template!