vBulletin 3.8 Review

(March 15, 2009 00:53)
Last Version 3.8.1 (January 27, 2009). Released under Proprietary License.
Resources Website vBulletin 3.8 Website Download Download...
Company Jelsoft Enterprises Limited.
Price $ 180.
Jump To:
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February 9, 2010: vBulletin 3.8 is outdated and a new version has been reviewed.
Consult the vBulletin 4 Review »

What is vBulletin 3.8?

vBulletin is the most used commercial solution for managing and supporting forum software. It relies on PHP and MySQL, and is clearly one of the most complete solution existing on the market.

vBulletin History and Context

vBulletin is edited by the Jelsoft Enterprises Limited company for more than nine years (started in 2000), and, step by step has been completed by many additional features and evolve with the Internet. We could notice, on the Big Boards website, that 8 forum on the 25 most used Internet forum are using vBulletin, which proves that you could rely on this software.

Prices

The company which develops vBulletin sells two kind of software licenses:

  • Owned License ($ 180): Allows you to run the software on your site indefinitely. One year of free updates, and $60 to a new year of updates.
  • Leased License ($ 100): Allows you to use the software on your site for 1 year and gives you access to products updates for that year. After 1 year, you must renew your license or remove the software from your site.

More information about vBulletin pricing...

vBulletin 3.8 is recommended for Huge Community.

(and supports smaller communities perfectly as well.)

Server & Client Requirements

Server Requirements
Programming Language
Required Architecture and Versions.
  • PHP 5
Web Servers
How the forum is delivered to users.
  • Apache 1.3
  • Apache 2.0/2.2
  • Microsoft IIS
  • Lighttpd
  • Nginx
Databases
How Forum Data are Stored.
  • MySQL
Operating Systems
Systems Supporting this Software.
  • GNU/LinuxGNU/Linux
  • BSD UnixBSD Unix
  • Microsoft WindowsMicrosoft Windows
  • Apple Mac OSApple Mac OS
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.
Javascript, AJAX.
Localization
Languages supported by vBulletin 3.8.
Yes.
Supported Languages:
Portuguese (Brazilian) Chinese (Simplified)
German Danish
French Greek
Italian Dutch
Portuguese Romanian
Swedish English (British)
English (American) Chinese (Traditional)

vBulletin provides a localization features that could virtually make it work in any languages... if you translate it.

Translations packages are of course also available.

The vBulletin software only supports the MySQL database backend, but it supports it well. This means that using the direct PHP/MySQL functions and optimizations is always better than using a third-party wrapper, because it allows using MySQL hints.

However, it could be installed on any operating systems that support PHP on a Web Server.

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/Threaded Forum Organization
  • Forum Categories
  • URL Redirection Forum
  • Sub Sections
  • Trashcan Forum
Thread Icons Yes Topic Tags -
Hot Topics Yes Unread Topics Yes
Hidden Topics Yes Sticky Threads Yes
Related Threads Yes Detect Duplicate Threads Yes
Announcements -
Posting Messages / Answers
Message Editing Form
How to Post Messages.
  • WYSIWYG Editor
  • 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.
No.
Embedded Videos
Videos and Media Websites Supported in Message Posts.
No.
Posting Features
Quick Reply Box Yes Smileys Yes
Attachments Yes Syntax Highlighting Plugin
Message Rating
Yes Message Quoting Yes

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.
Yes
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.
  • Website Home Page
  • Blog
  • Bug Tracker
  • Projet Manager
  • 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.
-
Remote Control
Remote Control from External Software/Websites.
No.
Cache System
Cache pages to optimize bandwidth and load times.
Yes
Template Engine
It is easier to theme a forum using a known template engine (more docs & examples,...).
  • Custom Template Engine

vBulletin has an incredible list of features. They are not all useful, simply because any installation of vBulletin never requires the default huge features list it provides. However, everybody will always fulfill their needs, generally without installing any additional plugins.

User Profiles & Options

Some details about vBulletin 3.8 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.
Yes
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

The default Forum Software Reviews list of features is not enough complete to list the vBulletin software provides.

We could for example add:

  • The "Syntax Highlighting", useful for development
  • The "Social Groups", which looks like Google Groups
  • The "Subscription Manager", that manages private and paying forum software
  • The "User Infraction Manager", that is a more powerful way to the basic user banishment, and notify users that does something authorized.
  • The "RSS Manager", that allows customizing what is syndicated.
  • "Threads Tags", that helps classifying topics.
  • "Similar Threads", that provides an estimation of threads that could match to the same topic of the current thread.
  • And many more, like Announcements,...

Moderation & Users Management

Moderation & Threads Management
Moderation
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.
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 No.
Limit Features For New Users
Features are limited if a user has created a small number of posts.
-
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

Administration & Support

Database Management
Backup Database
Backup forum datas that you could store somewhere else.
Yes
Prune Database
Remove old and unused datas from your forum.
Yes
Restore Database
Restore a backup of your database if the previous install crashed.
Yes
Administration Tools
Statistics
Statistics about posts count, users, traffic...
Yes Error/Notice Log Viewer
Forum Logs could be consulted.
No
Tasks Scheduler
Maintenance tasks are regularly launched and could be scheduled.
Yes 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.
Yes
Forum Migration
Convert an existing forum to vBulletin 3.8.
-.

Security & Spam Protection

Security & Spam Protection
CAPTCHA
Captcha protects your forum against spam bots.
e.g., Syndicate
Yes
Abnormal Behavior Detection
Detect users or request strange behaviors, and try to process proactive actions.
-
Words Filtering
Offensing Words are automatically replaced.
Yes
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

Vulnerabilities Advisories Criticality

Secunia Criticality

Secunia Advisories severity affecting vBulletin 3.8.

Vulnerabilities Impact

Secunia Impact

Secunia Advisories impact affecting vBulletin 3.8.

Customization & Social Networks

Customization
Plugins
Add new features to your forum installation.
Yes.
Themes
Modify the style of your forum easily.
Yes.
Custom BBCodes Yes Smiley Packs Yes
Custom
Thread Icons
Yes Additional User Profile Fields
Ask more about your members with custom fields.
Yes
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.
  • Drupal
  • Joomla
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.

The first place in terms of robustness and efficiency makes vBulletin having an everyday increasing list of plugins, tools and tips about integrating it to existing Web softwares, like CMS for example.

We also have to note that vBulletin provides by default many bundled softwares (Pictures Manager, Blog, Bug Tracker,...) which prevents asking the question if it could be integrated to a software that provides the same features.

The template editor, the scheduled tasks manager, the localization tools,... also makes it being absolutely complete and really more potentially powerful than its open source competitors.

W3C Norms & Accessibility

Norms & Accessibility
HTML / XHTML Markup
XHTML 1.0 Transitional.
XHTML 1.0 Transitional
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 AA level.
AA
UTF-8 Support
Default encoding used to support all locales and countries.
Yes
Conformance to W3C Norms
Does vBulletin 3.8 correctly follow (X)HTML and CSS norms?
Yes.

The W3C norms are respected, even if the XHTML 1.0 and the <table> layout start to be a little be outdated, and more complex to theme.

Recommended Books

Unique Features

Key points and major differences that make vBulletin 3.8 unique:

  • Pictures Album Manager
  • Bug Tracker
  • Project Manager
  • Blog Management
  • Social Groups
  • Forum and Threads Tags, that helps classifying topics.
  • Similar Threads, that provides an estimation of threads that could match to the same topic of the current thread.

Final Words


Great!

It's clear, vBulletin is the most used forum software on Internet, and there are tons of reasons for this. First, vBulletin is really powerful, fast, easy to use and have a classic look of a forum software. Secondly, vBulletin has an impressive list of features and provides by default all additional tools a website could need (blog, project manager,...).

We could however notice and deplore that even if vBulletin provides many bundled softwares, they always have the look of the vBulletin them, and give the feeling that it's nearly always a kind of thread and topic layout, with some additional features. This is of course false, but the feeling stays.

The software is really well supported and regularly patched by its editor, which is really reassuring for this kind of software.

Finally, even if vBulletin is not perfect and is quite expensive (compared to an open source forum software), it is so impressive, well developed and powerful that Forum Software Reviews, for the first time, give it the Perfect Rating.

Additional Resources:

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Comments (11)

Is it possible to use the

Is it possible to use the vBulletin forum as a membership forum with restricted access for members only? Is there a "best practice" solution to giving/closing access for members according to payments received?

Thank you,
Mikael

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lastnico's picture

Absolutely: In vBulletin

Absolutely:
In vBulletin Features, "Admin Control Panel Features" section, a Paid Subscriptions, which includes payments through PayPal, WorldPay, NOCHEX and Authorize.net is available, and it works really well.

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.

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Hi, My company wants to use

Hi,

My company wants to use Forums and blogs.And we are using Java for our existing code which has all other features other than blogs and forums.Is it posiible to integrate vBulletin with our code and use the features?
Our current environment has the following - MSSQL,Apache Tomact,IIS server,Java.

Vinod.

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lastnico's picture

If you are in a Tomcat

If you are in a Tomcat environment, I think you should use JForum, or an hosted solution. They will perfectly match your needs.

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.

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Can the application be

Can the application be customized to allow for several ad buttons to be placed at the top of the forum and on the left or right side. Would the customizing need to be done by you or could a person with code knowledge do it?

Top
lastnico's picture

You will need someone with

You will need someone with poor HTML knowledge, but the template manager already manage your kind of request, so this is quite easy.

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.

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I am very interested in

I am very interested in buying the software , but code is not something I fully understand. Do you offer a service where you can download the software onto a server I get to host the site?

I asked about puting some ad buttons on the forum before you said it was simple, will I need to change code to apply the ad buttons?

Thanks
Thomas

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lastnico's picture

I think you should directly

I think you should directly contact the vBulletin Support Team:
https://www.vbulletin.com/order/

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.

Top

Can anyone help me integrate

Can anyone help me integrate a my WP blog header/banner including menu tab and links to appear on top of the VBulletin forum pages?

I'm using css php and I'd like to do this project without using frames. There are sites out there that have done this, but I am having a hard time with it so I'll pay someone that has done it before to show me how to do it.

Thanks

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It's quite powerful, but

It's quite powerful, but unfortunately, really too expensive. I would then rather use something like SMF or PhpBB

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hitechito's picture

Can someone help me to

Can someone help me to integrate my head Blog banner menu VP / tab, including the links that appear at the top of the pay page help?

I use PHP and CSS, I would like to do this project without the use of frames. There are sites out there that have done it, but I have trouble with it, so you have to pay someone who has done it before to show me how.

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