Looking to switch from Vanilla, and have a few questions

So I work for an elearning company that has already built out a version on Vanilla. My issue is how out dated and minimal a lot of the features are. Even when viewing plugins and testing them, I was having issues and those were pretty restrictive as is.

I believe Discourse is a better fit, and to sell it to the team, I need to address a few of their concerns. One of these is they are wanting clarity on the difference between paid and free versions. The most notable of which is that the paid version includes access to quite a few plugins. If they prefer the free route, how restricted will our access to other plugins be?

Ideally looking to add a knowledge base section, ideation/feature request boards, and have a robust reporting functionality. Do these come out of the box with either version (paid or free)? If not, do both versions make it easy to add these features?

Thank you in advance!


Welcome, I’m glad you’re looking into using Discourse! The version of Discourse you get when you pay us for hosting through discourse.org is the same version of Discourse you get when you host it yourself or with another provider.

I assume you’re talking about the plugins we list here: Plugin directory | Discourse - Civilized Discussion

These aren’t plugins that are only available on our paid hosting, it’s actually the reverse — these are the only plugins we allow when you’re on our hosting. Plugins can do just about anything in Discourse, so a poorly built one can be interruptive to our hosting. Because of this we only allow sites we host to install plugins we maintain (These same plugins are also free to use on sites hosted elsewhere).

When you host Discourse yourself you’re completely unrestricted when it comes to plugins. You can install anything available here from our #plugins category, or even custom plugins you’ve built yourself.

There are a few plugins that may help with what you’re looking for


A little offtopic
A common issue in this forum is people thinking Discourse costs money. It is free to use and download. It might be a stopper for the growth of discourse?

I guess the team have to find out why people have this idea?

Thank you so much, this is incredibly helpful and has shed light a lot of light on this project so it’s greatly appreciated!

One other thing, is it possible to pay for Discourse (as to support it), but not use hosting? I believe we will be doing our own hosting, and if there’s a way to support Discourse in some other form, I’d like to present that option as well.


I was under this impression because every other platform I’ve worked with has a pay wall for additional features, and/or use of the platform altogether. Even after reading about the hosting factor on the comparison page, I still felt something was missing out of habit perhaps. Sort of comes off as “too good to be true”, especially knowing that Discourse is one of the best.


Right now hosting is their only source of income. You could “donate” $100 by purchasing a month of hosting, even if you didn’t use it. :slight_smile:

If you need help with installation, maintenance, or your Vanilla migration, please feel free to contact me or post in #marketplace.


Thank you so much! I appreciate all the quick responses and help here


Great question! I won’t speak for the Discourse team but, indirectly, I think all use and evangelism of Discourse is helpful.

More specifically though, one thing I’ve seen as a nice way to give back: if you end up needing customizations beyond what’s possible with existing themes / plugins, you could consider open sourcing any such additional code so that others may use it as well.

There are a number of great developers who specialize in Discourse projects and as Jay mentioned if you post in #marketplace you’ll likely be able to find any help you need with installs, customizations, or even building new features. In addition to the core software itself being open source and a great foundation to build on, folks sharing plugins they’ve made (as well as all sorts of other feedback/suggestions here on Meta) is a large part of why there’s such a solid ecosystem around Discourse today!


@lliddell We just made the jump from Vanilla -> Discourse in May and have been really, really happy with it. We thought briefly about hosting it ourselves but decided the couple hundred a month to Discourse was worth it, both to support the product (which I think is industry best) and also to get A+ support.

Support has been incredible, some of the best I’ve ever had from a SaaS company. I can’t imagine trying to do some of the troubleshooting/config on our own severs (in a Ruby environment, no less) and coming out ahead paying others to manage it.

So just a vote here from someone who has been in your shoes and has been very happy going the hosted Discourse route from the official Team. :slightly_smiling_face:


This is great to hear! I’ll be passing this along when we are getting things started. Thank you!