Judging from this forum and some of the case examples, Vanilla forums seem to have a lot of features, and the design is very appealing as well.
But is it really possible to achieve that when self-hosting?
Or are there perhaps a lot of pitfalls hiding?
Vanilla is a great software, easily extendable and I would absolutely recommend It if you see the structure fit your community project.
Almost anything is possible in the self hosted version, although some extensions like “Groups” do not have a replacement from the community.
The major pitfalls from my perspective are:
Vanilla is more a by your lone self OS software, you can expect some qualified help here but the business behind Vanillaforums company is treating the OS community in a top down manner. Many here wish it would be different, offered help or tried to expand the eco-system. But Vanilla sees not so much value in that and is rarely listening. So we are mostly on our own with sort of a in-between-mess. Like you are married but consider a divorce for 10 years. That makes many qualified developers and designers run away from the Vanilla scene.
So if that makes you uncomfy consider this OS environment twice. I am in OS communities for probably two decades now and you can not expect the love, freshness, amazing news, inspiration and joy you probably know from other OS tools. Still you will have fun with the software it self and together with the people here it helped me build great communities.
Does this help?