Announcing bbPress

The software that was running the WordPress support forums was getting long in the tooth and was not handling the load of increased exposure terribly well. A PHP upgrade rendered it nearly unusable. Anyway, long story short, I wrote some forum software. It’s called bbPress and is similar to WordPress in a lot of ways, including being Free-as-in-Software. The things that WP does well—unicode, timezones, XHTML, speed–it does well too. You can read all about it on the new bbPress site and grok its philosophy, comment on the blog, join the mailing list, checkout the code, submit bugs, patches, et cetera. I have been putting this off for almost a year now, so it’s very fufilling to get this project rolling. It went so fast that I’m kicking myself that I didn’t do it sooner.

The goal of bbPress is to bring some weblog and WordPress sensibilities to forum software. It’s never going to have a tenth of the features of phpBB or vBulletin, but that’s a feature itself. My experience with those packages is they’re like a herd of elephants who evolved on a strange island in bizzare ways, and they tend to foster a type of community that is antithetical to I’m trying to accomplish. We’ve learned a lot in the past few years about how the interactive web works, why do most forums look and act the same they did in 2000? Why is it still so hard to integrate user systems or mesh designs? Why can’t I ping a thread like I can a weblog post? Why can’t I filter by XFN values?

bbPress is not and will not be right for everyone. There are open source traditional forum packages, like PunBB, that get a lot of things right and push the envelope in interesting ways, so that’s covered. bbPress is not going to have avatars, or put post counts next to your name, or give every user 80 options about how they want their dates formatted, and for some people (maybe most people) that just won’t work. However even if is the only site that ever runs this software, it’ll be totally worth it just to get the forum technology growing again and create a richer support experience for the WP community.

54 thoughts on “Announcing bbPress

  1. Less features is probably a great idea.

    I recently had to abandon work on a making a vBulletin forum more usable; they switched to vBulletin 3 and the amount of work needed to route around all of their new features and crazy javascript became too much for a pro-bono job.

    On the avatar thing… I doubt it’ll be hard to slap in support for Gravatars 🙂

  2. A year or so ago I spent a good chunk of time hunting around for forum software that used decent markup, was easily customisable, could be hooked in to an existing user database and didn’t suck (or have a million and one pointless features). I came up blank, so I half wrote my own and then pretty much forgot all about it.

    On first glance, bbPress seems to cover almost all of those bases – the only thing missing is the easy integration with an existing user system. Once I’m back online properly (I’m on a slow French dial-up connetion at the moment) I’ll take a proper look at it and see how hard that part would be to hack in.

    This is a really valuable application, and it’s been a long time coming! I can’t wait to see how well it takes off.

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  4. The things that WP does well””unicode, timezones, XHTML, speed

    Of these four I have problems with two:
    1. unicode: WP doesn’t convert trackbacks and pingbacks that are in different encodings
    2. XHTML: WP doesn’t guarantee well-formedness and doesn’t use the XHTML mime-type

    I do love WP, as it is the best PHP weblog package out there, but I would like to underline there is room for improvement… Keep up the good work!

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  6. It was clearly far better to put the code out there. Sooner or later, all these wish-list features might even be implemented by outside contributors. If i had a purpose for bulletin boards, no doubt I would have converted.

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  8. To Ben – number 1 is a good point, but number 2 is unrealistic when dealing with user input. WP does a LOT to help try and kill most of the common ways users break well formedness, but at the end the trade off in the time required to makes sure you catch 100% of the combinations of user errors would be unacceptable for minor benifit.

    Anyhow… this sounds great. There are far too few lightweight and clean, and most of all.. modern.. forum software packages out there. Its got a lot to live up to, this little brother to WP, but its promicing.

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  11. “Why can’t I ping a thread like I can a weblog post?”

    Um, ’cause you’re not looking in the right places? 😀 Any message in a JournURL-powered community can receive Trackback pings, and users with sufficient rights can send them as well.

    Trust me, some of us have been working on bringing “weblog sensibilities” to forum apps for years now.

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  13. Your intelligence simply amazes me Matt. The site has a minor bug in Opera 7/Win though; the text “simple fast elegant” breaks and takes up 3 lines, and it looks weird.

  14. That would have to be one of the most seemless transitions I have ever seen. The only way I new I wasn’t dealing with the old system was they way it handled anchor tags and there seemed to be a lack of stripslashes on the post content.

    Good work Matt. Of course you could set up a plugin system for all those requests that are bound to come flooding in from those that simply have to have avatars etc.

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  17. Get This error

    WordPress database error: [The used table type doesn’t support FULLTEXT indexes]
    CREATE TABLE bb_posts ( post_id bigint(20) NOT NULL auto_increment, forum_id int(10) NOT NULL default ‘1’, topic_id bigint(20) NOT NULL default ‘1’, poster_id int(10) NOT NULL default ‘0’, post_text text NOT NULL, post_time datetime NOT NULL default ‘0000-00-00 00:00:00’, poster_ip varchar(15) NOT NULL default ”, post_status tinyint(1) NOT NULL default ‘0’, PRIMARY KEY (post_id), KEY topic_id (topic_id), KEY poster_id (poster_id), FULLTEXT KEY post_text (post_text) )

    what should I do to make this work?

    thanks .

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  19. Oh my goodness. If it allows me to subscribe to threads and get updates via e-mail, I will dance around the living room like the crazy woman I can sometimes be… (Off to check out the new & improved WP forum!)

  20. bbPress is not going to have avatars, or put post counts next to your name, or give every user 80 options about how they want their dates formatted

    …unless of course someone writes a plugin to do that 🙂

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  22. At the moment we are redesigning our dorm’s website and want to boost our online community. So we thought of integrating some kind of forum but didn’t want to go with your typical feature overloaded BB. Since we are using WordPress for the rest of our site (and really appreciate the way it works 🙂 ) we were thinking of ways how to use the comments system to build a fully functional forum. But now there is bbPress and I am sure it will make things a lot easier for us!

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  24. I had been working on a WordPress Forum Theme for a while… Guess I could forget about that?

    It’s funny there aren’t bbPress support forums yet! I take it you’re waiting for an official release to set ’em up?

  25. Oh wait, I found it:

    Not Yet
    Seems kinda silly for a forum software website to have no forum itself, eh? Well the idea is that when bbPress is available for general consumption we’ll have forums here. Until then we want to encourage a more active development model and won’t have a lot of support mechanisms in place.

  26. Gregory said, in response to Ben’s complaint about guaranteeing well-formed user input:

    [It] is unrealistic when dealing with user input. WP does a LOT to help try and kill most of the common ways users break well formedness, but at the end the trade off in the time required to makes sure you catch 100% of the combinations of user errors would be unacceptable for minor benefit.

    The benefit isn’t that minor if you’re serving your pages with the application/xhtml+XML MIME type, another thing Gregory said he’d like to see. Mark Pilgrim wrote a post about a year ago describing the disaster that could unfold from the combination of a site served with the strict DOCTYPE using the correct MIME type, malformed user input, a publishing system that doesn’t correct malformed user input, and browsers with strict XML parsers (Safari, Opera, Mozilla derivatives).

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  29. While surfing the web the other day I stumbled upon a pretty interesting site. I’m always trying to improve my site and I’m very open to user feedback, so I found this tool very useful. It’s a free Web Counter which can also track visits, traffic and hits and display all sorts of statistics about them (well, only to you, not to your visitors!). It comes in handy if you want to know what pages are most popular, what screen resolution your visitors use (I didn’t realize so many still use 800X600 – I should re-design my site with this in mind, I think). Give it a try; I’m pretty sure you’ll like it as well. They have some pretty cool counter designs, too.

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  31. [quote]I’m looking forward to bbWiki! :)[/quote]

    Wouldn’t that be WikiPress? 😉 But I agree with the masses – bbPress looks awesome – I feel greatly saddened that I build a phpBB forum and can’t simply tear it down and put this in instead. Maybe a nice import routine will appear in time…

  32. There is a nice importer of phpBB forums into bbPress now! Head over to the bbPress forums and just search for phpbb and you will find a couple of them Keith!