Vanillaforums.com is a site that allows users to set up and maintain a full-featured discussion forum for their company or organization. The site uses the Open Source Vanilla Forum software, which can also be downloaded and hosted on the user's own server. Forums are relatively easy to set up, and the user can choose from a number of pre-defined themes or optionally design their own theme. The forum can have categories and the forum admin can define user access to specific forums. Users have a convenient dashboard, where all of the parameters relating to their forum can be changed. The forum supports private messages, email subscription to forum threads, roles and permissions for users, and various types of registration requirements. Forums at Vanillaforums.com have a built-in anti-spam feature, and messages as well as users are easy to review and delete if abuse occurs. Advertising is displayed on the user's forum site, which can be removed for a fee. The forum is hosted at a subdomain of Vanillaforums.com, which can be defined by the user. Forums can also be hosted at a custom domain name for a fee. The site has other premium features in the works, such as file uploading and secure (SSL) login, which should be released soon.
Vanillaforums.com was founded in 2005 and has undergone continuous growth since launch. The Open Source software Vanilla Forums has been downloaded over 300,000 times. The site has a current Alexa page rank near 120,000 worldwide and near 100,000 in the US.
Competition to Vanillaforums.com comes from web hosting companies and sites like Freeboards.net. Most web hosting companies will host the forum software of the user's choice – the major difference is that setup is much more complicated. Freeboards.net offers easy setup and completely free forum hosting. They currently host over 6,000 forums. Freeboards.net setup is a bit more difficult than Vanillaforums.com, but they offer more features. Freeboards.net forums are advertising supported.
The Dashboard is intuitive and easy to navigate, and the admin software is easy to learn. Advertising is displayed on the user's forum unless a fee is paid to have it removed.
Registration to the Vanillaforums.com site is free and is required to use the site. The registration process asks for username, password, email address and a name for the subdomain address of the forum. Validation of the email address is not required.
There is no premium membership offered to the site, but premium features are offered. These include hosting at a custom domain name, which costs $3 per month, and removing advertising from the user's forum, which costs $6 per month.
Vanillaforums.com is recommended to anyone who has a need to start a discussion forum. Setup is much easier than a hosted solution using one of the available open source forum software applications. Forums are full-featured, and admin of the forum is easy to learn. The site is quite responsive, and the available themes allow for a professional look and feel to the forum.