Looking for vBulletin alternatives (self hosted)

we used to run a large forum and shut it down several years ago. Just tried installing vBulletin 5.x and it’s total garbage!

I’m looking for alternatives (self hosted only)

A couple of things that matter to me:
Compatibility with current stack: I want to install at domain.com/community/ but I do not want to have to change our server config (we are not a ruby shop in any way, we’re mostly LAMP I’m not a techie, but I’m sure my guys can figure it out)

SEO Friendly (including speed + WPO), matters probably more than anything to me given the purpose of the board

Forms to SalesForce: We use Salesforce / Pradot and would like registered verified new accounts to go into salesforce / Pardot.

Customized permissions: I want to be able to have some forums public, some member only, and some very specific user permission only. How flexible is the permissions system on Discourse?

Customizability (design) we have a large design team and want to skin in unique ways, I’d prefer they did not have to learn Ruby / JS in order to manipulate skin.

Anyways, what are your thoughts, love some feedback.
Thanks in advance.


Well this is tricky. Discourse is not a LAMP app, so that will be different. However, that is the reason of Docker, all the Discourse stack is confined to the container image so you don’t need to install anything else on the host. Changing the default install to listen to a unix socket (so you can use your reverse proxy at domain.com and proxy requests to /community to the socket) is just a couple of lines of configuration.

Not sure what is WPO but Discourse ranks great on search engines out of the box, as long as you have actual content on the forum.

As long as those tools can handle a webhook, or you can quickly write a translation layer in your LAMP app it’s an easy task.

Every category can have different permissions, this is a basic feature.

Discourse is a “Single Page Application” so if you want more deep customization you will need to write JS code. However, there is a lot you can do with just HTML+CSS, so you it depends more on what is your expectation.


Tried to reply via the reply via email feature (which seems like a cool feature!) got this (not off to a compelling start)

Is this feature enabled on this board?

Anyways, on the config, when you say it’s basic feature - does that mean that it’s common and everyone has it, or that it’s not very robust?

Is there a screengrab or anything somewhere that showcases the permissions system?

Discourse, in general, is extremely robust.

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Got it. Is there a walkthrough somewhere on permissions?

Does this help?

Also see


That does help yes. Thanks.

We actually have a very unique use case, I’m wondering if it has been done or whether it is possible.

Imagine a customer posts a very specific post (which really only applies to them), we would like to flag it so only admins and the user who posted can read and reply, thus taking the discussion private if you will (The whole community does not always need to see your discussion around a support issue for instance)

Is this something you can do with default feature set or will we need to code it?

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You can private message a group. You could configure that group how you want.


That is not what I was asking for, let me clarify. A customer starts a “thread” on the forums (not a DM or group etc) and we determine that thread is only relevant to that customer. Without deleting the thread or moving it, we’d like a toggle to have it so only that poster and the board admins can see it. Make sense?

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You can convert a regular topic into a personal message. That’s the best and simplest way to make it private like that.


IC that might work, thanks for that

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@rewebmaster Just for your context, Discourse is often used for handling support requests. See for instance