FreeForums Review

(August 8, 2010 22:58)
Last Version 2.0.12 (Dec 15th, 2009). Released under GPL License.
Resources Website FreeForums Website Download Host your Forum...
Company CrowdGather.
Price Free $0, Premium $4.94/month or $49.50/year.
Jump To:

What is FreeForums?

Free Forums was created in 2007, and the first goal was to develop the most powerful service for forum hosting. To succeed, they have based their own forum service on the famous phpBB software, customized with a dedicated and custom admin interface. This way, successfully combines the most known and used forum software with a really simple and awesome administration interface, that extends phpBB's one very well and nicely.

As usual, a forum hosting company could be consider as reliable if its support really exists and really solve the problems you encounter. This has been understood by FreeForums, that has a 24/24 support team, in different places, and that is really dynamic and fast.

FreeForums Administration - Advanced Administration Panel

Administration Panel (Advanced)

FreeForums Administration - Simple Administration Panel

Administration Panel (Simple)

The default service is of course free, and additional paying features could be ordered, like DNS hosting, advertisements removal, copyright removal, and so on. For a typical installation, you should count around $7 per month, that is really cheap for the kind of service provided! Remember that, compared to a self-hosted forum, you have with a really powerful architecture, backups and a technical team if you encounter problem with your installation.

Review Updates:

  • August 8th, 2010: First Review.

FreeForums is recommended for Huge 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.
Javascript, AJAX.
Languages supported by FreeForums.
Supported Languages:
Albanian Basque
Bulgarian Portuguese (Brazilian)
Belarusian Catalan
Chinese (Simplified) Czech
German Danish
Estonian Spanish
Finnish French
Galician Greek
Croatian Hungarian
Indonesian Hebrew
Persian Italian
Japanese Kurdish
Lithuanian Dutch
Norwegian Polish
Portuguese Romanian
Serbian Russian
Arabic Swedish
Slovene Sindhi
Slovak Thai
Turkish Ukrainian
English (British) English (American)
Vietnamese Chinese (Traditional)

FreeForums is translated in more that 58 languages. You'll probably find yours in the list above!

FreeForums - Create Forum

Creating a forum with phpBB has never been so much easy with FreeForums. Pick up a name, type your email address and a password, and it's almost ready!

Compatibility with Smartphones
Compatible SmartPhones
Compatible Cellphone Brands and Manufacturers.
Application Distribution / Type
How it is distributed / App Store Availability

Forum Threads & Posts

Forum Threads / Topics
Forum Style Flat Forum Organization
  • Forum Categories
  • URL Redirection Forum
  • Sub Sections
Thread Icons Yes Topic Tags No
Hot Topics - Unread Topics Yes
Hidden Topics Yes Sticky Threads Yes
Related Threads Yes Detect Duplicate Threads Yes
Announcements Yes
Posting Messages / Answers
Message Editing Form
How to Post Messages.
  • Rich Text Editor
  • Formatting Buttons
  • Preview Button
Post Editing Format
Supported Markup Language (HTML, Wiki, BBCode,...).
  • HTML
  • BBCode
Spell Checker
Checks typos on posts and topics.
Image Attachment
How Images can be Attached and Displayed in Message Posts.
  • Upload via Classic Attachments. Images are all at the end of the post.
  • 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.
  • YouTube
Posting Features
Quick Reply Box Yes Smileys Yes
Attachments Yes Syntax Highlighting Plugin
Message Rating
Yes Message Quoting Yes

FreeForums - Topic List

phpBB threads and posts are the most known and used in the world, so your users and members would not be surprised by the default and really good phpBB theme, that inspired most of the modern forum softwares.

Additional & Technical Features

Additional Forum Features
Poll Creation Yes
Private Messages
Users Can Communicate using an Internal Messaging System.
Instant Messaging
Discuss with Visitors and Members in a Chat Window.
Topic, Member Birthdays, Events are available from the perspective of a calendar.
Online Users List
Connected User List (Often Found in the Forum Footer).
Members List
Search and Consult the List of Members.
Technical Features
Bundled Software
Additional Software Available with the Forum.
  • Portal
  • Website Home Page
RSS/Atom Syndication
Posts and Threads Exported to Feeds Aggregators Syndicate.
Friendly URLs
URLs are clear and contain information about the topic (title, message,...). Highly recommended for SEO purposes.
Post by Email
Post Directly From your Email Box.
Remote Control
Remote Control from External Software/Websites.
Cache System
Cache pages to optimize bandwidth and load times.
Template Engine
It is easier to theme a forum using a known template engine (more docs & examples,...).
  • Custom Template Engine

FreeForums Administration - Topic Smilies

For an hosting service, the number of features is really awesome, and the extensions provided by the administration interface are really good to simplify the global configuration of your forum installation.

User Profiles & Options

Some details about FreeForums features regarding members.
Member Options & Features
Bookmark Threads
User Profiles Keep a List of Followed Posts and Topics.
Email Notifications
Receive Emails When New Messages are Posted in Followed Threads.
Export private messages
Private Messages can be Downloaded by Users.
Payment Subscriptions
Paying Membership Subscription.
User Profiles
User Profile
User Information and Settings.
Pictures of Members, Useful to Easily Identify their Posts.
Signatures Added at the Bottom of Each Message.
Tags and Labels Identifying the Members, based on specific criteria (Total Posts Count, Credits, Moderation Level...)

FreeForums - User Profile

As seen in phpBB, user profiles are classic and good. You can of course define additional fields to let members describe what they like, or things around your forum's subject.

Gallery of FreeForums Themes

Moderation & Users Management

Moderation & Threads Management
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
Shadow Topics
When a thread is moved, the previous position is kept in order to inform users of this modification.
Close/Lock Threads
Close/Lock Problematic Threads
Users Management
User Groups
Organize and define groups of users, and apply different actions and settings on them.
Common Groups: Guests, Members, Moderators, Administrators,...
User Registration
  • Free Registration
  • Registration needs Approval
  • Invitation Only
  • User Account created by Administrator
  • Confirmation sent by email for validation
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.
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.
User Banishment Yes

Administration & Support

FreeForums Administration - Board Features

The Custom Administration interface is the key point on We would not see a difference with any other phpBB hosting service if it was present, but it clearly improves phpBB a lot. You will just not be able to come back to the default phpBB administration panel once you will have tested FreeForums' one.

Database Management
Backup Database
Backup forum datas that you could store somewhere else.
Prune Database
Remove old and unused datas from your forum.
Restore Database
Restore a backup of your database if the previous install crashed.
Administration Tools
Statistics about posts count, users, traffic...
Yes Error/Notice Log Viewer
Forum Logs could be consulted.
Tasks Scheduler
Maintenance tasks are regularly launched and could be scheduled.
Yes Mass Mailing
Send an email (newsletters, advertisements, information,...) to all users.
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.
Forum Migration
Convert an existing forum to FreeForums.

FreeForums Recovery Console

FreeForums comes along with a very useful tool when you totally crash your forum installation: the Recovery Console. The console allows you to do several super-administration task to your forum, even when you lose access to your own administration account.

  • Forum Restore: Restoration of your system $15 / 6 months
  • Root Admin: Relog you as administrator
  • Unpark: Remove a domain name from the that you parked there before
  • Restore Style: If you installed and make a fancy style as default, you can restore the previous one with this action
  • Delete Forum: Of course, it deletes your forum account.

More information on the Recovery Console Website.

Even if we did not test it, we are pretty sure that the support team is able to migrate your existing forum software to a new installation on their servers. This will probably cost you additional bucks, but well, you will be able to rely on a powerful and secure architecture afterwards.

Security & Spam Protection

Security & Spam Protection
Captcha protects your forum against spam bots.
e.g., Syndicate
Abnormal Behavior Detection
Detect users or request strange behaviors, and try to process proactive actions.
Words Filtering
Offensing Words are automatically replaced.
User Blacklist
Prevent specific user accounts to register (based on email address, name,...) and disable potentially harmful members.
IP Blocking
Prevent access to spam robots and other scripts that could attempt DDOS or Brute Force attacks on your forum.

FreeForums Administration - Ban Users

phpBB, for managing most of the biggest forum communities, is really aware of antispam and security domains. You will find exactly the same quality and self-protected system, extended by the classical banishment systems, based on IP address, username and email.

Customization & Social Networks

Add new features to your forum installation.
~380 Available Plugins.
Modify the style of your forum easily.
~120 Available Themes.
Custom BBCodes Yes Smiley Packs Yes
Thread Icons
Yes Additional User Profile Fields
Ask more about your members with custom fields.
Integration with Applications, Social Networks, Intranet...
Social Networks
Users can share information from their social network account...
CMS / Blog Bridges
Integration with existing Web publishing tools.
User Accounts Integration
Do users be able to log in with their corporate, Google, Facebook,... accounts?
Content Aggregation
Forum allows to integrate news and content from other website, using an aggregation protocol (RSS, RDF, Atom,...).

FreeForums Administration - Mod Center

The Mod Center is a perfect place in to extend and improve your forum with new features. Here is the list of the free extensions that you can enable on your forum:

  • Activity Stats
  • AJAX Chat
  • Arcade
  • Birthday
  • Calendar
  • Contact Page
  • Image Resizer
  • Inactive Member Reminder
  • iPortal
  • New Profile System
  • No ads for staff
  • Quick Reply
  • ShareThis
  • Show Topic in Viewonline page
  • Thanks Mod
  • Welcome PM

Here are the others, that you could enable with a Premium account ($4.94/month or $49.50/year):

  • Premium Support
  • Cash & Shop
  • Link Bar
  • Reputation
  • Static Pages
  • Create Custom Style

W3C Norms & Accessibility

Norms & Accessibility
XHTML 1.0 Strict.
XHTML 1.0 Strict
Click to see if it respects HTML norms.
CSS Stylesheets
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.
UTF-8 Support
Default encoding used to support all locales and countries.
Conformance to W3C Norms
Does FreeForums correctly follow (X)HTML and CSS norms?

As FreeForums is based on PhpBB 3, norms are really well supported.

Recommended Books

Unique Features

Key points and major differences that make FreeForums unique:

  • Unique Administration Dashboard and Panel, customized and simplifying the PhpBB administration tool.
  • PhpBB installation ready to use, with the most famous and useful plugins.
  • A huge palette of available themes, installable in 2 clicks.
  • Arcade Games, useful to addict your forum's members ;-)

Final Words


When we started thinking about reviewing FreeForums, we were not sure how we should consider it: as a simple phpBB hosting service? as a entire specific product? The Administration Interface simply made the difference.

By increasing the default way of managing and configuring a classic phpBB installation, FreeForums service has clearly improved this software a lot, from the backoffice side. And, of course, at the other side, phpBB IS the most known and used forum software on Internet, ensuring a global and good knowledge for most users that already saw a forum.

FreeForums indeed seems to have the best from the two worlds: it uses a really common and powerful open source software, coupled with a nice administration panel, that embeds the default configuration of the forum with additional features related to the forum hosting itself. You will find everything a forum community manager typically looks for, from forum organization to moderation, including BBCodes, smilies, pruning,...

When using the free version, advertisements are not very annoying, and the little copyright note at the bottom of each page should not bother anybody, and may, actually, proves that your forum hosting is reliable. If you really want to add additional features, then, the Premium membership is available, even if the default and free package is already really complete. This service was a very good surprise for us, as many websites actually offer a false "free" hosting, this is clearly not the case for!

Congratulations to the team to show the right example!

Additional Resources:

Found a Mistake? Tell us »
Post a Comment

Comments (22)

All of the above statements

All of the above statements are fairly true but....

I was lured in by their ease of use and fairly robust mod list, the service was very reliable at 1st, and they offered a Upgrade to Advanced hosting for, as they put it: "if i want to take my forum to the next level".

So i thought great i can set up my free account, get the forum started and if i ever felt That i need to grow it, i could upgrade to the advanced hosting! sounded perfect to me, so i signed up, about 25 days in, the service started to sputter, DNS issues had my site down in the middle of the day, for 90+mins at a time for 2 days in a row, then the following 2 days had "High traffic which resulted in slow loading times" as per their support page. it was so slow that my browser was timing out most of the time, again this happens in primetime, the entire weekend of intermiitant service, so i decided it was time to upgrade to the advanced hosting and get on a more reliable server, where i could actually complain to if the service died.

Upon investigation of the "Advanced hosting upgrade" and to my horor, there was some fine print which reads "Forums with extrememly large databases over 5MB "may" not be eligble for upgrade" so i emailed and asked them if my database was eliglble for upgrade, keeping in mind my forum is less than a month old and has 50+ members.

well to my suprise i got a very flip one line email back (After waiting 3 days for a response, this is the only way to contact them btw) saying my database is "extememly large" and can't be upgraded, period..

Wow, since when is 5mb considered extrememly large? maybe if we were still on dalup sure, but thats the size of your average MP3 file.. so i asked in the support forums if they offer a back up copy that i could buy from them, again the answer was NO, and that they do not offer back-up service, although they provide you with a "recovery console" for $30 a year... so they do indeed back up your forum, but they just refuse to give you a copy of it, and just to annoy you some more they, turned on an ad service which serves their own ads and that if i want it turned off 30 days after set up, and it will cost me $10+ per month (based on page loads..sigh)

So you see whats happening here, they lure you in, and then if your freeforum takes off in the slightest way, then you can't move the site, you're literally stuck paying them to remove ads and all their other tweaks with no hope of ever breaking even on your forum unless people donate... you can't serve your own ads, you can't do anything more than they let you as long as you are there.

So BE WARNED... if you never ever want to take your site to the next level, so you can cover your costs, then you better stay far far away from this place, as there is nothing free about it.... this place is purely designed to trap you and keep you there, read the endless posts in their support forums and you will see...

The only way to upgrade according to, is to leave, move your domain, and start over somewhere else completely fresh....B-R-U-T-A-L...

STAY AWAY!! if you want to ask me any questions, i'm the admin at this site

[Edited by lastnico] Please use a decent username, and don't put your entire message in strong. Thanks.


Thnx for providing this

Thnx for providing this information online.


Well when I first signed up

Well when I first signed up to freeforums, I did think they sounded good. It is not until they have signed you up, they start showing what they are really like.

After you have had the short period of free of adverts, they then charge $5 a month to remove the adverts, UNLESS you go over a number of page views, then the cost can rocket to over $60 a month.

Their latest thing is because their software is unable to cope with transparent proxies they are telling their UK customers to tell their ISP to stop using them, yep freeforums think the likes of Virgin, BT, O2 etc will change their set-up just freeforums want them to.


you see i'm not the only one,

you see i'm not the only one, these guys are a scam, so beware, i finally left them and am now free of their opressive set up. I will say they have Great features and easy set up etc., as it's really easy to get started there, but if you really want to save yourself the disappointment, especially if your site takes off a little bit, and you want to make some money from ads, then set up your forum and upgrade to advanced hosting right away, that way you have a fully built site thats ready to go, for that, it's worth it, but if you stay and your forum database goes over that huge "5mb limit", then you're trapped... and thats how they do business, so sign up at your own risk...

Top is the worst is the worst forum I have ever seen, the management team are good at one thing and that is telling lies

I wouldn't give them half a star out of five unless they improve, I have removed out board away from them

[Edit] Again please don't put everything in bold, we can read it with the classical font. Thank you.


picky picky picky...whats

picky picky picky...whats your offense to bold? if it bothers you so much, just remove the option! if not just deal with it, as there are bigger things to fret about in this world than a bold font lol

left unbolded for your sanity.... Tongue

lastnico's picture

Yes, and I should also remove

Yes, and I should also remove images and links because some members have no self-control and cannot prevent themself from using them too much? Why not disabling comments as well?

Please just use bold to mark something important, not just to make your comment more visible. Thanks.

FSR Admin - Vote for 2012.

Top have adverts have adverts on registration pages, for the only reason to get your email address so it can sold to marketing companies, for you cell phone details so the can send you sms that will cost you $5 a time

They wont let you have a backup of your data, so you can move, you can only move to one of there companies so they can make commission off you

Their claims of 99% up time are far off, if they said 86% in may be closer


The registration ads have

The registration ads have been a complaint by MANY because of how new registrants think that the registration ad is part of the registration and must be filled out. Many times the registration ad does NOT say it is not mandatory so it was suggested on their support forums that they put that the registration is complete above the part where it shows the ads. refuse to do this acting as if the registration ads are just a normal ad like any other (even though you must pay for a whole different ad removal for registration ads than for their normal ad remove - more info on that here: Reg Ads). The problem with the registration ads is that it is so big it doesn't look like an ad but instead looks like a page ... part of the registration process. New registrants have even put in their cell phone number and then got charged on it later. Boy they were upset and blamed the forum instead of (for example .. they would blame instead of as it is the newsiteuser forums they registered on).


this rubbish freeforums has

this rubbish freeforums has been down for 3 out of the past 4 days... and my newly set up forum is only a week old

goodbye freeforums.. u sux


why is everyone crabbing, yet

why is everyone crabbing, yet not saying where they ended up going to? if something sux... tell me what's good then. a?


I think if you read a little

I think if you read a little more carefully you'll see that everyone decided to pay for hosting and set up a real forum on their own.

I did, getting company's like this to host your forum is a recipe for disaster, especially of you want to succeed.

The way freeforums works is that they simply create a system in which it is impossible to leave, they outright refuse to allow you to take your forum with you if you decide to go somewhere else, as they have a ridiculous 5mb maximum for databases, any larger and they won't move it. and the only way to remove their ads or their slimy user sign up page that tries to get you to give them your cell phone number will cost you large dollars each month, where as having a company like host your forum costs about $70 a year, to stay with free forums and be add free or have your own ads will cost you HUNDREDS each year. it's a scam so unless you are hosting a forum just for a few friends, it's just not worth it.

not to mention the massive amounts of downtime and network slowdowns they constantly experience, it's just way too frustrating and annoying to do business with them, i tried, and it was a terrible experience. And to compound things, their support just don't care. They know you can't leave.


I moved to a free SMF forum

I moved to a free SMF forum instead that has been a lot better. But I didn't think we could post about different ones on reviews about others. After all, to find the best forum just look at the main site we are posting on.


your only solution, which is

your only solution, which is what i did, was to pay a host, like hostgator and set up your domain and forum there, what i did to make it easy was i created my forum at freeforums and then opened a hostgator account and and immediately requested their hosted upgrade, they did all the work, that was before i knew how to do this all myself, if you know how to set up a phpbb forum on a server, then go straight there and start fresh there, don't waste your time with freeforums, and if you do get them to do the transfer, don't expect anything to happen for about 2 weeks, they say 3 days, but they will take 2 weeks, and they'll only do it if you harass them. they really don't want you to leave, they want to trap you there, so becareful if you deal with them. And they are constantly down too.


u kno... i just decided to

u kno... i just decided to add disqus to my blogger instead of going full-blown forum. i barely have time w/ what i've got & until i meet enuff people that would be worthy of moderating & doing some support legwork... might as well just hop to the next stone instead of trying to jump to the shore.
thx for honesty & elab. Wink


that works too! depending on

that works too! depending on how you are blogging, setting up a joomla site or wordpress will also give yo the option of being able to add a forum afterwards, i did it backwards, i went phpbb forum first then to joomla blog website with a phpbb forum on the back end, using the joomla site as the front end, i wish i did it the other way, as it's far easier to integrate the forum that way, that way you have so many more options on how to build your community.


Disqus is great, you will

Disqus is great, you will love it.


It's fast in China, what

It's fast in China, what surprised me.
I think I will pick up it, cause it has good themes and a better administration control panel.


The Forum Software Reviews

The Forum Software Reviews site is a joke. They give Freeforums a 4 out of 5 stars, yet they change the scale 0 to 10 Stars when the customers review it. They are hoping you won't notice of course & will think that the customers 4.3 stars really is out of 5 instead of 10. They even put the 10 in half size font so it isn't easily noticed. That is called Bait And Switch.

Clearly this 'Forum Software Reviews' (whoever is anonymously reviewing them) is not only biased but probably working on behalf of the company they are reviewing. Their review is literally twice as praising of the freeforums when compared to actual customers. Why else would they change the 0 to 5 scale to 0 to 10? I wouldn't believe anything in any of the reviews except what the actual customers write. Its a shame this kind of lying for money goes on unchallenged by the people reading them.


Ya that does seem pretty

Ya that does seem pretty uneven and fishy ...


WATCH OUT. I started a forum

WATCH OUT. I started a forum with FreeForums and the interface and such was good. Then about 3 weeks later, I go to log in, and FreeForums had DELETED my forum without any warning! No email or anything, they just wiped it because it supposedly "violated terms of service".
I had no copyright or illegal content whatsoever. I had some links to self-made PDFs and one or two MP3 voice recordings, none of which were copyright. I can only guess that this is why they screwed me, because they though these were illegal links or something. I emailed them and got no response, so I had to go on their support forum and log a ticket.

Turns out they can't restore my forum because it had been more than 7 days since they deleted it. But they sent me no email warning me or telling me, so I had no idea at the time! I replied to them with this complaint, and all they told me was "Well, you shouldn't have violated terms of service". I don't even know what I did!

These guys are jerks, find someone else to host your forum.


Sounds like terrible customer

Sounds like terrible customer service if you ask me...

  Top Top