WebBBS Forum Software Review
WebBBS (www.awsd.com/scripts) is an open source forum software package, written in Perl, for Linux and Windows servers.
WebBBS has a long history and was once considered a leader in online forum solutions. Unfortunately it suffered a serious setback around 2000 when the original author Darryl Burgdorf stopped development and then removed himself from the project. Control was handed to another developer who failed to release a single update during his several years in charge.
During this time other software such as phpbb and vBulletin were enjoying rapid growth. By 2005 WebBBS was so far off the pace that it could no longer be considered serious competition in the forum market. Users abandoned WebBBS in droves.
Finally, in 2006, Darryl Burgdorf stepped back in and handed control over to the WebBBS community. This injected a breath of life into the near-dead software.
The new WebBBS project is based at tetrabb.com, while support is still based at www.awsd.com/scripts. A new version has been released and a plan has been laid out for future development. The WebBBS community is still in recovery mode but it looks a lot healthier now.
Features & Performance
Since March 2006, WebBBS has made great strides in getting up to date. Previously glaring deficiencies such as non-standard HTML and hard-coded styles have been addressed.
However it must be said that WebBBS is still a very long way behind the major forum players. Frankly it is hard to see how it could ever catch up, given the gulf between them and the fact that other software developers command far more resources than WebBBS has at it's disposal.
I do not wish to comment on specific feature comparisons for two reasons: I do not use WebBBS any more and any comparison is likely to become outdated as WebBBS development continues. Instead I recommend that you check the relevant websites and look through the feature lists yourself.
Pay special attention to user management (traditionally a very weak area in WebBBS) and performance issues (WebBBS is based on an inefficient, outdated flat file system).
Reasons to Use WebBBS
Realistically, WebBBS will not appeal to most forum administrators due to the shortage of features. However it does have some advantages, for example:
- Because it is not a popular script, WebBBS is not widely targeted by spammers or hackers.
- If you prefer Perl to PHP, and you enjoy making your own hacks, WebBBS could be the answer.
- The lack of features is actually attractive to some people who prefer not to be overwhelmed by hundreds of options.
- If you already use WebBBS and you have no need for any additional features, it makes sense to stick with it now that development has resumed.
WebBBS faces a difficult challenge in recovering from years of poor management. The fact that it once had such a massive following has helped — even though most administrators have abandoned the script there are still quite a few legacy installations around the Internet. Now that development has resumed, WebBBS is less likely to lose existing users.
The new development community appears to be working well. Only time will tell how successful it will be, but there is plenty of cause to believe that WebBBS can retain (and possibly build upon) it's niche position.
It is worth noting that there are other scripts in the AWSD collection, including a banner rotator, calendar, site checker, etc. These scripts are all quite old and generally not recommended.