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Is vanillaforums development dead/dying?

neptronixneptronix Utah New
edited August 2020 in General Banter

Hi. I've noticed that the development pace at vanilla forums has died down to nothing as of the last 2 months ( per github ). Replies from devs on this forum have stopped coming. And a few staff members who are frequent posters are now marked as not being staff anymore.

I haven't seen any kind of announcement about this. And haven't got replies on this forum from decision makers in months.

The only online activity i see from the company is their marketing, creating regular posts on the blog about feely weely stuff, not anything relevant to new features or upcoming versions.

This is sad. I've explored all online forum formats and see nothing being better than the phpbb system i have.

Am i missing something or is this company on the way out?


  • Gah. I'm here looking for signs of life and a sign that a move from phpBB 3.3 to the latest Vanilla would be the right move.

    I see the same atrophy in phpBB that you see here. I did some reconnaissance months ago, and Vanilla seemed like the only viable move.

    phpBB I'm fed up with. Its conception and architecture is firmly in 2002. I just upgraded from 3.2 to 3.3 and almost half of 14 extensions broke. Yes, I updated them to their latest versions. Some have been abandoned.

    Out of the box, it does poorly in Pagespeed Insights. I'm done with it.

  • ianw5555ianw5555
    edited August 2020

    I think this about says it all, there has been no updates for almost a year. When is the next update due?

  • phreakphreak Vanilla*APP (White Label) & Vanilla*Skins Shop MVP

    I would say OS community management is pretty dead and for the rest I am not sure but we got this information recently.


    • VanillaAPP | iOS & Android App for Vanilla - White label app for Vanilla Forums OS
    • VanillaSkins | Plugins, Themes, Graphics and Custom Development for Vanilla
  • I've checked every single platform possible out, including flarum and discourse. None make the cut as a significant upgrade to PhpBB. I know your pain all too well. It's been bugging me for the last 5 years. And social media sites keep sucking up the discussion; and their platforms are far worse for having detailed discussions.

    I'm strongly considering writing my own forum software at this point. Vanilla Forums has been the closest candidate to replace PhpBB for me too. But not if communication with the people who use it falls apart, or development has gone awry.

    Thanks for the warning about 3.3. I was about to test an upgrade to 3.3. I figured the phpbb team destroyed plugin compatibility again, while not adding any notable features. Thanks for saving me time, lol.

  • I watched the Discourse thread about porting phpBB 3.2->Discourse for close to two years, and it was pretty much going nowhere the whole time. 3.1 porting was working last time I checked, but my boards are all 3.2 and up now.

    FWIW, Media Embed got updated for phpBB 3.3 today.

    The phpBB support forums have always been a defensive, touchy place, so leaving them for good would be nice.

    I'm going to port one of my older phpBB 3.2 forums to Vanilla and see how I like it. It's a dead forum with around 500 posts, so lightweight, and IIRC few extensions. Nothing to lose...

    The only forum I care about of my three phpBB installs is active with 500k+ posts, nearly 100k users. Lots on the line if something goes wrong. Which means lots of dev environment work to port it and test.

    My best analogy for messing with a production forum is that it's like working on a moving car.

  • phreakphreak Vanilla*APP (White Label) & Vanilla*Skins Shop MVP
    edited September 2020

    @neptronix: Sure, I am always waving the flag. Even try to enrich the eco-system with projects like VanillaSkins or our dedicated Vanilla App for iOS and Android (both native)... but the Vanilla team didn’t ever take the OS community very serious, but gratefully accepted the help of some developers here on GitHub.

    To be fair @Linc and @charrondev tried to keep the communication somewhat going but. Vanilla itself seems to be so sold out to it’s investors and the somewhat logical Hosted Services vs. Open Source policy thousands of companies manage to get right, Vanilla is playing out wrong (my opinion). Even hosted costumers knock on my door seeking for help some time, other OS developers have experienced this too. Valuable people like @x00, @R_J, and others are gone or only partially interested anymore.

    You wanna wish @Mark back sometimes. I even was in a conversation with the C-Level at Vanilla offering a joint venture idea for Vanilla App, and ideas that would help the eco-system - but I received nothing more than serialised top down behaviour. I almost lost my faith in Canadians. So now, the few last developers fade away, designers besides me are long gone it seems.

    Well, someone tell me better maybe I am just grown old as a 12+ years Vanilla admin and see ghosts... but I can hear the winds say: “Fork now!”

    • VanillaAPP | iOS & Android App for Vanilla - White label app for Vanilla Forums OS
    • VanillaSkins | Plugins, Themes, Graphics and Custom Development for Vanilla
  • LincLinc Detroit Admin
    edited September 2020

    Am i missing something or is this company on the way out?

    The company is fiscally healthy and growing, to my knowledge, and I'm confident development continues at the same pace as ever.

    That out of the way, I understand why you were concerned. Vanilla, from the top, has always been committed to "being open source", but never committed to the costs of managing a community (the irony of which has never been lost on me). Which is to say, I wouldn't be concerned about receiving future updates, but if you're looking for targeted messaging from the company to reassure you, I wouldn't hold your breath.

    For instance, I'm sure no one thought "gee, going monorepo sure is going to make our project look dead for months at a time to anyone who cared to look at GitHub" when that decision was made. It's just not on their radar of things to care about (historically speaking, at least).

  • It's sad that they finally updated media embed to 3.3 after 3.3 has been out for quite a while. I did hear that they wouldn't support it, so i never installed it on my forum even though i wanted the feature badly. De-transitioning from mediaembed's post format would be a nightmare.

    My main forum is from 2006 and i the text in the POSTS table is 7 gigabytes alone, despite many rounds of me optimizing the SQL database layout. I know what you mean about working on a moving car. Even keeping it safe from DDOS attacks is a PITA. PhpBB has no sort of built in protection against modern threats, and that's one reason why the platform is dying.. your average 'web master' doesn't know linux-fu. They shouldn't have to. Something as simple as brute force login protection should be built into the system at least..

  • @phreak, i understand you put a lot of work into creating great things for vanilla from our discussions elsewhere. It is a real shame that vanilla decision makers did not work with you.

    I also hit the stone wall when trying to work within the phpbb and flarum teams. But i have very different ideas than they do. Which is why i want to go out on my own and produce my own software.

    @Linc, ok, noted. It sounds like they've just failed communicating with geeks overall. As a geek, vanilla looks lately like a company with all marketing and no substance. Usually a company putting off this image is squeezing every dollar out of their product before they're about to collapse. This is why i asked instead of assumed. Thanks for enlightening me, and i'm glad the project is not dying as i suspected.

  • Thanks for all the insight. When I started looking at Vanilla months ago, I found out about the commercial aspect of it and thought "Oh wow, that's how an open source forum can survive. With an open source-commercial service hybrid model. It makes all the sense in the world."

    I had a call with a Vanilla (commercial) rep but his quote was pretty high for what I do, something like US$800/month. And no root, which came as no surprise.

    phpBB needs to re-write it with something like a Wordpress/easy/extensible philosophy, reduce the 20-something (30s? I forget and don't want to be reminded) tables into a manageable number, put the 3.x extensions in the rearview mirror, make an importer that moves everything over, call it 4.0 and move on.

    They can't give up on their 2002-ness. I get it. Change is hard.

    I don't know if Vanilla shares the refreshing modern-ish Wordpress philosophy, I haven't looked at it. Right now I'm not picky. I'm just looking for a ship that isn't sinking.

  • edited September 2020

    Updated lately or not, Vanilla flat out smokes PHPBB in every way imaginable. You'd be far better off moving to Vanilla than sticking with PHPBB. Face it, they haven't done any real improvements in years.

    In fact, our vanilla forum is embedded into our Wordpress site and handles all the site comments. There's also single login - you register on the Wordpress site and have instant access to the forum.

    With the HTML pockets you can also add a lot more.

    It's head and shoulders above PHPBB with ease.

  • $800/mo is insane.

    phpbb's mysql layout is a crapfest and proof that nobody has been weeding the garden for a very long time. I've been able to reduce 10gb down to 7gb and improve performance dramatically with lots of work to it. I'm shocked at the optimizations that have been ignored.

    I talked to a few devs working on the most likely abandoned revamping of PhpBB, and apparently the development team is in huge disarray with little to no leadership and a lot of disagreement. I doubt they will ever release this groundbreaking version.

    I've forked the hell out of the PhpBB code on my main forum and I am sort of upgrade resistant at this point, and backporting security patches into my custom build, because i'm tired of upgrading and finding that there's no real new functionality, just plugin breaking reshuffling of the deck chairs going on. No consideration of the plugin ecosystem at all. And the plugin ecosystem has responded by nearly completely abandoning phpbb.

    Phpbb is absolutely dead.

  • LincLinc Detroit Admin
    edited September 2020

    $800/mo is insane.

    It's insane for your needs (and likely many of the folks reading this forum regularly). For most businesses, that's the cost of perhaps 1 day of developer time per month, which makes it extremely compelling. The business model caters to companies at the scale of hiring someone technical, not a technical single-proprietor. There isn't any margin in targeting single-proprietor organizations with software that requires any bespoke setup.

    If I'm selling you something at $100/mo and I spend 1 hour on you, I'm revenue negative for that month. If I spend 3+ days helping you total (all-time), your subscription for its entire life is now revenue negative on average. And that's ignoring the cost in acquiring the subscription in the first place. It's just math.

    (Disclaimer: I'm spitballing numbers here, not giving you some sort of secret insider numbers from Vanilla specifically. I wouldn't be allowed to do that even if I was smart enough to remember that level of detail.)

  • $800/m is ridiculously cheap if you look at truly absurd priced forums like Lithium. You're comparing self-hosted vs "cloud", where you are now paying for emergency fixes, on-call rotations, uptime SLAs, etc.

  • neptronixneptronix Utah New
    edited September 2020

    I'm tempted to refute what you two said, but out of respect for this forum that the company has provided us to talk about their products, i won't.

    Anyway, thanks for the feedback and insight about the company and what they are focused on, and where they are headed.

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