ForumCommunity Review

(February 9, 2011 09:15)
Last Version Unknown (-). Released under Custom License.
Resources Website ForumCommunity Website Download Host your Forum...
Company ForumFree.it.
Price Free.
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What is ForumCommunity?

ForumCommunity.net and ForumFree.it are two hosting services managed by the same Italian company, one targeting worldwide users, and the second more targeting Italian websites. According to ForumFree.it author, the project was born the 26.06.2002, which is actually before InvisionFree (2003), and was based on the first beta of Invision Power Board (created in 2002), like ZetaBoards for example. In case you don't know, InvisionFree is the ancestor of IP.Board.

The integration is mostly assured by two developers: the main author and another very skillful programmer. This service is very popular in Italy, and their networks are in Top 10 of most visited sites, even if they do not have the same success in the rest of the world (80% Italian users).

For the purpose of our test, we reviewed the ForumCommunity.net service only, even if it is a bit less known than ForumFree.it. Anyway, both services are multilanguages, even if, by default, ForumCommunity is in English, while ForumFree speaks Italian.

It has a fully customized administration panel, totally separated from the board you are able to create.

Statistics of both websites are quite impressive:

ForumFree.it

  • 7.148.830 Registered users
  • 440.239.885 Posts
  • 53.829.840 Topics
  • 780.913 Forums/blogs

ForumCommunity.net

  • 6.781.113 Registered users
  • 305.444.338 Posts
  • 43.819.117 Topics
  • 488.637 Forums/blogs

Forum Creation and Hosting is free, and you can however decide to remove advertisements by paying a small contribution, follow this schema:

  • 5€ for 3,000 unique visits for all users
  • 15€ for 10000 unique visits for all users
  • 30€ for 25.000 unique visits for all users
  • 50€ for 50.000 unique visits for all users
  • 100€ for 120.000 unique visits for all users.

According to Google Trends chart, ForumFree became more popular than their original competitor, InvisionFree, after 2006:

Google Trends InvisionFree vs ForumFree
Google Trends InvisionFree vs ForumFree

Review Updates:

  • February 9, 2011: First Review.

ForumCommunity is recommended for Large Community.

(and supports smaller communities perfectly as well.)

Client Requirements

Browser & Client Requirements
Compatible Browsers
List of Compatible Browsers.
Mozilla FirefoxMozilla FirefoxInternet ExplorerInternet Explorer
Google ChromeGoogle ChromeOperaOpera
Apple SafariApple SafariKonquerorKonqueror
Mozilla SeaMonkeyMozilla SeaMonkey
Required Plugins/Technologies
Additional or Basic Requirements from Client Side.
HTML, Javascript, CSS.
Localization
Languages supported by ForumCommunity.
Yes.
Supported Languages:
German Spanish
French Italian
Portuguese English (British)

As ForumFree.it originally targeted European countries, it is translated by default in most used languages of this part of the world.

Compatibility with Smartphones
Compatible SmartPhones
Compatible Cellphone Brands and Manufacturers.
No.
Application Distribution / Type
How it is distributed / App Store Availability
No.

Forum Threads & Posts

Forum Threads / Topics
Forum Style Flat Forum Organization
  • Forum Categories
  • Sub Sections
Thread Icons Yes Topic Tags No
Hot Topics Yes Unread Topics Yes
Hidden Topics Yes Sticky Threads Yes
Related Threads No Detect Duplicate Threads No
Announcements Yes
Posting Messages / Answers
Message Editing Form
How to Post Messages.
  • Plain Text
  • Formatting Buttons
  • Preview Button
Post Editing Format
Supported Markup Language (HTML, Wiki, BBCode,...).
  • Plain
  • BBCode
Spell Checker
Checks typos on posts and topics.
No
Image Attachment
How Images can be Attached and Displayed in Message Posts.
  • Upload via Advanced Attachments. Images can be placed in the flow of message text.
  • Use BBCode or HTML. Need to type the URL of an already hosted image.
  • Upload with Image Hosting Site. ImageShack, Photobucket,...
Embedded Videos
Videos and Media Websites Supported in Message Posts.
No.
Posting Features
Quick Reply Box Yes Smileys Yes
Attachments Yes Syntax Highlighting Yes
Message Rating
No Message Quoting Yes

ForumCommunity - TinyPic Plugin

The Image Attachments is using the Tinypic.com service, which integrates nicely with the interface. ImageShack is by the way, also supported.

Additional & Technical Features

Additional Forum Features
Poll Creation Yes
Private Messages
Users Can Communicate using an Internal Messaging System.
Yes
Instant Messaging
Discuss with Visitors and Members in a Chat Window.
Yes
Calendar
Topic, Member Birthdays, Events are available from the perspective of a calendar.
No
Online Users List
Connected User List (Often Found in the Forum Footer).
Yes
Members List
Search and Consult the List of Members.
Yes
Technical Features
Bundled Software
Additional Software Available with the Forum.
  • Blog
  • Pictures Album Manager
RSS/Atom Syndication
Posts and Threads Exported to Feeds Aggregators Syndicate.
R
Friendly URLs
URLs are clear and contain information about the topic (title, message,...). Highly recommended for SEO purposes.
No
Post by Email
Post Directly From your Email Box.
No
Remote Control
Remote Control from External Software/Websites.
No.
Cache System
Cache pages to optimize bandwidth and load times.
No
Template Engine
It is easier to theme a forum using a known template engine (more docs & examples,...).
No.

ForumCommunity - Tag Board

Forum features are quite complete, and this is always nice to have polls and thread icons to improve communication and life of your community.

The Instant Messaging is available as a Tag Board, that you can easily enable through the administration panel, and that you can even configure to appear on specific sections only, or at the homepage. By the way, you can also set the height of this box, as it takes some space on your webpage. For more classical usages, a Chat could also be enabled.

User Profiles & Options

Some details about ForumCommunity features regarding members.
Member Options & Features
Bookmark Threads
User Profiles Keep a List of Followed Posts and Topics.
Yes
Email Notifications
Receive Emails When New Messages are Posted in Followed Threads.
Yes
Export private messages
Private Messages can be Downloaded by Users.
Yes
Payment Subscriptions
Paying Membership Subscription.
No
User Profiles
User Profile
User Information and Settings.
Yes
Avatars
Pictures of Members, Useful to Easily Identify their Posts.
Yes
Signature
Signatures Added at the Bottom of Each Message.
Yes
Ranks
Tags and Labels Identifying the Members, based on specific criteria (Total Posts Count, Credits, Moderation Level...)
Yes

ForumCommunity - Edit Profile Info

Members will have a entire and very complete profiles in which they will be able to customize their own account and the way they use the forum: skins and languages selection, subscribed topics, timezone and so on.

Private messaging is a bundled feature as well, and be able to export them to a file is always good if you want to keep an archive of your discussions.

Moderation & Users Management

ForumCommunity Users Administration - Moderators

Moderation is, by the way, available, and is particularly easy to configure, as you can define a list of moderators for each section your forum contains.

Moderation & Threads Management
Moderation
Pre-Moderation In pre-moderation, every post needs to be validated by a moderator before being published.
Post-Moderation The moderation is done afterwards, if an administrator notices a problem or if a member reports something wrong. Each message is therefore directly published.
Reactive Moderation By reporting any problems, members are reactive against moderation problems. Moderators' main objective is to regularly check user reports, without having to follow each threads.
Distributed Moderation By organizing the forum around moderators, who are usually power and experienced users, moderation is self-powered and only depends on the community.
Moderator per section Yes
Global Moderator Yes
Move Threads
Move Threads from Topics
Yes
Shadow Topics
When a thread is moved, the previous position is kept in order to inform users of this modification.
Yes
Close/Lock Threads
Close/Lock Problematic Threads
Yes
Users Management
User Groups
Organize and define groups of users, and apply different actions and settings on them.
Common Groups: Guests, Members, Moderators, Administrators,...
Yes
User Registration
  • Free Registration
  • Registration needs Approval
  • Confirmation sent by email for validation
Limit Features For New Users
Features are limited if a user has created a small number of posts.
No
Guest Posting Yes
Multiple Administrators Yes
Send Warnings to Users
Inform users by email or PM that they infringe the board rules, and could be excluded for such behavior.
Yes
Forum/Section Restricted Access
ACL could be use to determine if a user or a group of users can access (in read only, post message) to some sections and topics.
Yes
User Banishment Yes

ForumCommunity Users Administration - Ban

Users can create their own account, and a Single Sign on feature is active on all forum of the same top domain name (i.e. forumcommunity.net and forumfree.it). This is really convenient for users who are posting on several boards, and don't want to customize and type their bio and info each time they join a forum of the service.

Administration & Support

ForumCommunity Administration - Dashboard

By the way, the administration is really simple, and the integration of InvisionFree is really well polished. I is actually almost impossible to guess it by only having a look at the Administration Dashboard.

Database Management
Backup Database
Backup forum datas that you could store somewhere else.
No
Prune Database
Remove old and unused datas from your forum.
No
Restore Database
Restore a backup of your database if the previous install crashed.
No
Administration Tools
Statistics
Statistics about posts count, users, traffic...
Yes Error/Notice Log Viewer
Forum Logs could be consulted.
Yes
Tasks Scheduler
Maintenance tasks are regularly launched and could be scheduled.
No Mass Mailing
Send an email (newsletters, advertisements, information,...) to all users.
Yes
Installation & Upgrading
Installation Method
How this forum software could be installed.
Installation Wizard
Upgrading Method
How this forum software could be upgraded.
Upgrade Wizard
Updates Notifications
The Admin Panel informs you when a new version is released.
No
Forum Migration
Convert an existing forum to ForumCommunity.
No.

ForumCommunity Website Administration - Logs

You don't have to take care about database, which is hosted on ForumCommunity.net architecture, and is protected against crash and can be recovered quite easily. This is typically an huge advantage of hosting your forum on this kind of service.

Security & Spam Protection

Security & Spam Protection
CAPTCHA
Captcha protects your forum against spam bots.
e.g., Syndicate
Yes
Complexity: [++[ Normal
Abnormal Behavior Detection
Detect users or request strange behaviors, and try to process proactive actions.
No
Words Filtering
Offensing Words are automatically replaced.
No
User Blacklist
Prevent specific user accounts to register (based on email address, name,...) and disable potentially harmful members.
Yes
IP Blocking
Prevent access to spam robots and other scripts that could attempt DDOS or Brute Force attacks on your forum.
Yes

ForumCommunity - Fast Registration

You will be protected globally by the ForumCommunity network, which ensure you a really low spamming traffic. By the way, you can take measures against spamming or aggressive users by banning them, either temporarily or definitely.

Customization & Social Networks

Customization
Plugins
Add new features to your forum installation.
No.
Themes
Modify the style of your forum easily.
Yes.
~1388 Available Themes.
Custom BBCodes No Smiley Packs Yes
Custom
Thread Icons
Yes Additional User Profile Fields
Ask more about your members with custom fields.
No
Integration with Applications, Social Networks, Intranet...
Social Networks
Users can share information from their social network account...
No.
CMS / Blog Bridges
Integration with existing Web publishing tools.
No.
User Accounts Integration
Do users be able to log in with their corporate, Google, Facebook,... accounts?
No.
Content Aggregation
Forum allows to integrate news and content from other website, using an aggregation protocol (RSS, RDF, Atom,...).
No.

ForumCommunity Graphic Administration - Site Skin

Same as with plugins, it's not possible to customize, in terms of features, your board.

However, the choice of themes, the global layout and CSS customization is really big, and it is really convenient to modify the header/footer of your forum, to choose a new logo/background and to modify any existing images. This of course also applies for smileys and thread icons.

One of the well thought thing is that you can add a different HTML snippet on each sections of your forum, which is particularly useful if you use the same board for hosting different people (think about roleplay team, MMORPG,...)

ForumCommunity Graphic Administration - HTML Code
ForumCommunity Graphic Administration - HTML Code
ForumCommunity Graphic Administration - Images and Icons
ForumCommunity Graphic Administration - Images and Icons
ForumCommunity Graphic Administration - Colors and Styles
ForumCommunity Graphic Administration - Colors and Styles

W3C Norms & Accessibility

Norms & Accessibility
HTML / XHTML Markup
HTML 4.01.
HTML 4.01
Click to see if it respects HTML norms.
CSS Stylesheets
CSS 2.
CSS 2
Click to see if it respects CSS norms.
Accessibility (WAI)
Web Accessibility ensures that the forum is usable by people of all abilities and disabilities.
Conformance to A level.
A
UTF-8 Support
Default encoding used to support all locales and countries.
Yes
Conformance to W3C Norms
Does ForumCommunity correctly follow (X)HTML and CSS norms?
Yes.

Final Words


Great!

ForumCommunity.net and ForumFree.it were a really good surprise: really dynamic, powerful and easy to use, it is actually surprising that it is not that spread all over the world. As its original author said, surprisingly, it is one of the Top 10 website in Italy, but this situation is really different when you cross Europe border.

This review was then a good way to discover than forum communities are also really dynamic in Europe as well, and that it easily competes with other big competitors like Forumotion, ProBoards or ZetaBoards.

Additional Resources:

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