Which is Better? Discourse or Flarum?

I run Discourse on a $10 DO droplet. I installed it using the guide from a couple years ago, and at the time I remember making a swap, which is fine for me, but registered as maybe something most folks were unused to. But I had the site up and running within 30 minutes, and it has been operating since without incident.

My point is, if you think the difference between $5 and $10 is meaningful (and it definitely is for me! And I sometimes make good money!), then getting started is double the cost. But all the other stuff is probably the same (ie. email, CDN, backup storage, mostly optional stuff).

Forums encourage user concurrency, so we really ought to think of a higher baseline than we do of say, blog software, which is viewed more than responded to. The same goes for wikis; some sites just need more resources to do their basic job. :slight_smile:


Very true, and it makes the job twice as hard for those in the business of running not-for-profit projects


well - i think this point has to be regarded from a different point of view.
Most people who already have their own website already have the “$5” webspace supporting all that is needed to install flarum.
For Discourse on the other hand you would probably need to get an extra paid package to get it working. At least i do.

So for me its more a question of what you need.
While Flarum also is suitable for small hobby projects Discourse covers those with - lets call it - more ambition.
This is nicely shown by the first reply right here.

Its great to have the possibility to choose between both- or any other choice for that matter.

btw - flagging links to other forum software seems a bit childish to me :stuck_out_tongue:


No, it is genuinely off-topic. This is a discussion about Discourse and Flarum. Comparing multiple different platforms all at once quickly becomes a huge mess.


Just spent a few seconds surfing their community, and performance wise it doesn’t seem to hold a candle to Discourse. From a UX perspective, I do like that they include a “Login to Reply button” that’s very persistent on topic pages. Need to think about the large number of non-registered users who come to the community. Will be good to keep an eye on them, but Discouse would be hard to beat.


You could add it as a #feature request? @charleswalter


I do not think that these two forums should be opposed. They simply different, and are in different weight categories. Just look at the huge work that has been done here on a regular basis. It is difficult to maintain such a pace not for one month, but for years.


These are two different products written in different languages, although they are United by one word: “forum”.


They may be written in different languages but that’s irrelevant. That’s like saying that Coke and Pepsi are different products made of different ingredients. They are for exactly same use purposes, thus they are competitors. Not equal competitors, though. Discourse is miles ahead in every way and the gap measured in time is getting wider all the time. However, Flarum will gain basic functionalities while the more mature software gains all kinds of minor enhancements and niche features. Thus the gap in terms of software greatness may be even shrinking, depending on what you value.

As an outcome, Discourse will always be more advanced, but Flarum can become a reasonable alternative if you for whatever reason don’t want to use Discourse. As Flarum matures it won’t be significantly worse for many use cases. User experience on both is already very similar because of heavy cross-breading. Yes, Discourse has learned something from Flarum, too. The vertical slider bar on the right when you are reading a topic was initially Flarum’s idea if I’m right. Flarum on the other hand has been watching closely what its big brother is doing which is the main reason for software similarity. And they will continue bringing the best features of Discourse into their software.


I used to use flarum and switched to discourse. I think discourse is far better and feature packed, to me flarum is just dull and boring even when you do add a crap ton of extensions not to mention the fact you cant even private message between users on flarum.

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Well, out of curiosity I went to check on Flarum.
It looks great, in some way it’s similar to discourse ( in terms of design ), but it is build on php ( which is preferred by some, easier to install for eg ).

I was going to list of all of discourse great features, community and blablabla… before I realise that Flarum is still beta and unstable according to this page:


It’s specifically written that it should not be used in production.
Better stick with Discourse…


Flarum looks very basic compared to Discourse. I’ve said it a million times before, making a forum platform is easy - making a good one is much more difficult and time consuming :grinning:

I mentioned in another thread that Discourse is my favourite forum platform now and I have used many different forum platforms over the last 15 years on various different kinds of community sites. However, I also mentioned that it doesn’t really matter what I (or anyone else) thinks - only you can decide what’s best for your community and you can only do that by spending some time with each of your shortlisted platforms. Better still, put up copies of your shortlisted platforms and get their feedback.

I’m pretty sure that if anyone spends quality time with various different platforms Discourse would come out top every time. But that’s just my opinion, what do I know :stuck_out_tongue:


I thought I should chime in here since I’ve tried both recently. I run a gaming forum and I have a large Discord server (~50-100k). I originally came from IPS (Invision Power Suite). That was about 8 years ago when XenForo, myBB, and IPS were kind of the leading forum softwares out there. Now, in 2020, I wanted to update myself. I took a quick glance and saw the best modern options were nodeBB, flarum, and Discourse, but I dropped nodeBB since it didn’t have the infinite scroll and still used page numbers to flip through threads.

I started with Flarum. Very easy install. I totally configured most of what I wanted. The admin panel was very simple. The user permission system was something I like (and still believe it to be superior to Discourse). However, it was too basic that it lacked many features. There was no user management system. Rather, I had to install an extension for user directory which would appear in the sidebar of the homepage. I couldn’t search for users easily to assign them user groups. I had to visit each of their user profiles individually.

The theming in flarum doesn’t have as much documentation as I would’ve liked. I asked around to get answers on how to change the custom CSS to change simple things like my header font color. I noticed on the flarum forums, it was a question that was asked a lot, but then it should be documented so that people can do theming more easily.

Flarum is faster and snappier. It’s more lightweight, but it lacks many extensions. It has a smaller dev team and they are working very hard. However, I guess since Discourse has been around longer, there are more plugins, more theme components, etc. People have tested this and given a lot of feedback to make and fix most of the issues. Flarum is still in beta and it is recommended to not be used in production as well.

There was a simple extension I was looking for - the topic list thumbnails. I couldn’t find it on Flarum. It was told to me that would be easy to create this on Flarum using CSS, but when asked how - no answer. This is their docs for appearance atm, it’s empty: https://docs.flarum.org/appearance.html Given that I can’t spend the time and effort in trying to develop my own extensions that already exist in Discourse nor can I commission developers to prioritize my needs, I went with Discourse finally.

I’d also say one big advantage to Flarum is that it can be used on shared hosting. I use a VPS so it doesn’t matter, but because Flarum has PHP, it can be used on shared which is why some users will go for it. Flarum is simple to install relatively compared to Discourse.

It did take an awfully long time to configure Discourse, more than I imagined. There were was much more complexity because I had already flarum on my server so I had to configure the yml to run on a different port. I certainly don’t like the “wizard”. I prefer to just have a standard docker-composer.yml and then configure it. This is the reason I started with bitnami but I soon learned that they have outdated images, so I am now on the current install.

I can say, with confidence that there is lots of good documentation for most of the things I want to do and lots of help in Discourse. Don’t get me wrong, even Discourse doesn’t have everything, but it is closer to the perfect forum that I need. I do believe Flarum will offer the same functionality eventually in terms of plugins / extensions but I can’t wait that long.


As far as I know, it is.


Welp, looks like I missed that then. Upon looking at Topics tagged under "plugin" | NodeBB though, I still don’t see most of the customizability I’m looking for. There’s just way too many plugins in Discourse. I don’t have to dig deep into developing when someone already made what I want. Looking at other threads comparing nodeBB and Discourse, it seems the only reason they picked it is because it was too hard or complex to install Discourse. I don’t think complexity should ever be a reason to pick a forum over another. Rather, the features are the most important part. Installing and configuring may take hours, but after all that, you end up with a community that can last years.


For the record, Flarum has always been a much smaller project but started about the same time as Discourse - check out their Twitter account creation dates:

I remember looking at both platforms before I joined meta.discourse.org at the end of 2015. I think that Flarum compared a lot better against Discourse back in 2015 than it does now in 2020. Although it only had two part-time developers back then, it was a simpler and prettier proposition with some similar new features like infinite scrolling. But Discourse attracted me with advantages that it still retains: a clearer direction, a faster pace of development, and better support.



I’m a very experienced sw dev and now choosing a forum engine for my new web project. I really respect the best classic forums engines as Invision, XenForo, etc but now want to give my users something more fresh and modern. Thus I came to modern messages listing by Discourse and Flarum.

Between 2 of them I really more like light&rounded Flarum style, then more boxy&uncouth Discourse style. Also Flarum can be installed at Shared hosting - it’s a huge advantage for a small web projects.

But when I start to use it I found a mass mess (excuses for some swearing, it’s just too much):

  • Flarum core is extremely simple and low-functional and most useful functions over the most simple registration and topic-messages creating and notifications, even those that long time ago accepted as mandatory for forums, at Flarum must be added by “extensions” (also know as “plugins”), most of which even have no any options. For example basic topic split/merge/stick, polls, BBCode Details, display images&video inside messages, open url’s at new window, social share, users groups colors, profile image crop on adding, OAuth register, etc etc - all through additional extensions only! It’s really annoying and feels like a box of junk. A specially when those extensions developed by different devs! It seems that the main Flarum devs just don’t have any real developing strategy and functionality standards, but only copy Discourse and add new functions one-by-one on requests - which obviously display their very poor developing level.
  • Extensions site was changed form Flagrow-io to Extiverse-com and also doubling at FriendsOfFlarum-org.
  • Extensions developers team Flagrow is also changes to FriendsOfFlarum, also this team is almost identical to the “Flarum core developers team” which exist at GitHub and at Flarum site - it’s the mess again.
  • BTW how to interpret “FriendsOfFlarum” - they meant other devs are not friends?!
  • Extensions manager Bazaar have critical issues and works poor, so extensions install/remove still works correctly only via SSH command line Composer. Then what is the reason for Bazaar?!
  • Most extensions does not have a proper documentation or any visual samples - nor screenshots, nor videos - for example there are 3 extensions for User Profile extending “User Bio, Masquerade, Mason” - but it’s impossible to compare&choose which one is right for you before install because of lack of proper documentation or even simple images. Thus the most of not very simple extensions you forced to install and try. When I ask to add more details about each extension - a main devs answer - it’s OK! But true is at 2021 absent of any documentation - is a shame!
  • Some extensions works totally stupidity. For example: at “BestAnwser” extension the BestAnwser at topic can be set by Admin, but then changed by any user!; “Third party login only” via OAuth blocks Admin login completely but it’s dev don’t want to admit and to resolve this problem and even delete all my messages about this critical problem for better looking of their community! It’s a shame again.
  • Daniël Klabbers came up with the stupidest marketing plans for paid extension as $3-5/month or $30-50/year but limitations works only for download, which a total cretinism, because user can pay only once per 1-2 years for important updates $3-5 or even when extension becomes stable, without any important updates - only once per site! Such idiotic economy will not bring any true profit! Even Envato “one pay for all time using and updates” are even much more profitable!
  • Maybe because of such idiotic economy some devs of best extensions as great “Discussion Cards” just stop to update them - there is no answers to issues at GitHub and no updates already for half year.
  • Finally the Flarum in-topic scrolling bar - does not display Date dynamically on scrolling - thus to go to any date you need to scroll huge topic, stop, look to date what you get, then scroll again and again! When I display this inconvenience to the main devs include “luceos” - they tells - it’s OK, it’s our conception! WTF?! Thus with complete absent of in-topic search at Flarum - in-topic navigation (UX) is totally primitive and inconvenient!
  • Most of my messages which comparison “Flarum with Discourse” - are shamelessly hides from the community by moderators, I have many screens with it.
  • When I absolutely correctly and calmly comment one user’s post with word “Acess” with 1 “c” by reminding him that “Access” writes with 2 “c” - I’ve got a warning from admin! WTF?!
  • When I try to find a developer for some unique jobs for my community - no one dev just don’t answer, just no “no” or “I’m busy now” or “please contact after month” - just nothing, all of them just don’t answer! They ask for donation at each page, but don’t answer to custom jobs request. WTF?!
  • When I’ve found some more important problems and shortcomings and suggest more then 10 NEW UNIQUE VERY USEFUL improvements for Flarum - I get from Flarum community only the main dev aggression and vain behavior, just 2 likes from not-main devs, and finally threads closing and bans from admin “luceos” 2 times in a row each for 16 years…

So overall Flarum not only for years behind the Discourse in terms of main functionality (the main example is very poor in-topic navigation even without any in-topic search), but with a such mass mess, unwillingness to admit important Flarum problems, unreasonable chaos decisions and finally extreme aggression to bug reports and problems criticism - it seems that the main Flarum devs are not smart enough to think through each detail or create a wise long time roadmap and act with aggressive vanity. :frowning: All this is totally ineffective and make doubts that they can handle their project ever.

After all I came to Discourse because of:

  • better functionality out of the box;
  • stably working multi-language messaging;
  • more clearer and more systematic development;
  • stable main dev team with better functions testing&working;
  • hope more friendly community which values true and improvements above vanity - if this topic will not be closed - I will re-post my useful suggestions for Flarum at Discourse community.

I hope this story will save many time and nerves to other admins&devs who will think to prefer Flarum against Discourse. Be aware!


I share a lot of your concerns about Flarum. It’s sad, though, because I think the world of forum software has room for their vision, which is a very simple core, with all functionality as add-ons, so that it is extremely customizable but also every implementation can be very “lean”. I get what they’re trying to do, I just think they’re not doing a very good job of it. :roll_eyes:

Anyway, glad you’re on Discourse now. And since you were looking at Flarum with interest, perhaps you can help the Discourse community and team work to incorporate some of the things that Flarum does get right (mostly design/layout). I’ve already contributed to a couple of topics discussing these things in more specifics:

Please check those out, vote and contribute support, ideas, etc. if you can!

Bottom line: Discourse is the better forum and platform, but it does need some work aesthetically, or at least some options to look and work a bit differently (UX-wise). There are some better models being shown, and many, many newer tools are going with e.g. persistent sidebars (Circle, Forem, etc.), so clearly there is something to this…


I quite dislike the direction that this conversation is heading towards. The original scope of this topic was a general comparison between Flarum and Discourse.

Since then, the discussion has moved towards a lot of negativity towards Flarum and its developers. That’s not right, and I don’t support that.

If Discourse works for your community… great. If Flarum works for your community, that’s great too.

There’s no need to call someone’s work and effort “stupid” because it doesn’t work for you.

On a separate note:

I’ll keep this simple. The interface in Discourse being “simple” is an intentional decision.

The default Discourse theme is simple because we want it to be simple. This allows sites to customize it with ease.

Think of it as a blank canvas

If you want to create a painting… would you rather have a canvas with someone else’s work, or would you rather have a brand new canvas for you to create whatever you want?

That’s the mentality we have. So, yes… the default theme in Discourse is very simple.

But, the theme system is very powerful. You can literally do whatever.

Check out some of the themes here.

Discourse customers | Discourse - Civilized Discussion

This barely scratches the surface for the amount of customisability Discourse themes offer. Having a more opinionated default theme would hinder that.

To wrap this up:

If there are any nice features you would like to see in Discourse, create a topic in the #feature category.

If you want to customize Discourse or add new features to your site, start here.

Beginner's guide to using Discourse Themes

Developer’s guide to Discourse Themes

Designer's Guide to Discourse Themes

How to make CSS changes on your site

Beginner's Guide to Creating Discourse Plugins Part 1: Creating a basic plugin

You can also check the existing themes/components/plugins here on Meta




If you don’t have the time to customize your site, feel free to create a topic in the #marketplace category, and you’ll get a few quotes from our freelance community developers.

With all of that said. I think this topic has served its purpose. It’s been open since 2017, and almost all the unique ideas related to comparing Discourse and Flarum have been shared.

So, I’m closing it now.


Absolutely :clap:t4:

As a Discourse co-founder I have a lot of respect for the Flarum project, they certainly innovated and explored a lot of interesting ideas, our timeline control was inspired by them.