Early history on Vanilla is very spotty and clearly, some data has been lost to the realms of time and as any teacher will tell you Wikipedia is not a reliable resource. That said the earliest official release announcement I can find is for 2.0.18 dated June 2011, however, the earliest GitHub release only dates back to the 22nd November 2014 and is for 2.1.6.
When we do take into account Wikipedia however it points us to an archived Google Project with releases dating back to March 28th 2009 with the release of 1.1.5a
A date of 1 July 2006 is suggested on Wikipedia but I could not find a release that lined up with that information.
Vanilla comes in two distinct versions, the regular version which is commercial and offered as a service SaaS - this comes with additional features, themes, analytics and a ton of extra stuff. Given my lack of wealth, I will be using the Open variant.
Download, upload, visit page fill out database fields and admin field and click go - it's very simple, very easy. The post-install screen is one of the best offering some great video tutorials on how to get started with your community.
Vanilla Forums are perhaps some of the best forums in terms of setup and go without any complex items getting in the way, the buttons, dials, layout, everything has been well thought out but this is perhaps expected given that the commercial version is built on top of the open variant.
Even the themes have an optional click to preview before applying and applying a theme is very easy, in the event it's not obvious I really do like Vanilla forums.
Extensions / Themes
Some of the really awesome features you read about on the main website will be locked to the premium version, however, I have noticed that since I last installed Vanilla about 2 years ago a good amount of those premium features have found their way into the open version.
The open forums also do have a fair few developers putting out extensions for the open version, however, compared to some other projects it is lacking in some areas.
Vanilla is an excellent choice if you are looking for a modern forum with a good solid feature set, keep in mind however you be locked into that feature set as things do not trickle down from commercial quickly, if ever.
With the open development community being quite small - you may need a developer for additional features or consider jumping up to the cloud/premium version - which does have some excellent reviews.
- Modern, clean, excellent design
- Great community, very responsive developers
- Advanced Editor allows virtually any posting method, Markdown, BBCode, Rich editor etc.
- Drafts built-in
- Open version community is a little smaller than others.
- Couldn't get to the theme editor referenced in labs, unsure if it's included
- ACP permissions can be a little hard to see boxes as it's white on white
- big credit footer, not a deal-breaker but can be for some.
This post is part of our "best forums 2022" series, you can see the hub post here and you can also use that post for suggestions on other forums we should look into.
Otherwise, let us know what you think of our review of this forum in a response below, did we make a mistake? has it evolved in some massive way so needs a re-review?