A forum can be a great place for people of similar interests to congregate, talk, and discuss topics in more detail than your average IM conversation.
There’s something for everyone. If that’s doesn’t suffice—if you’re looking for a private, or more specialised discussion board—you can always create your own forum.
One possible approach would be to pay for server space, and install the necessary forum software yourself. However, in some situations it’s possible to avoid these costs entirely, and cut down on maintenance by creating a forum without first purchasing server space. We’ll show you how.
Lefora is my favorite forum builder. It needs no more than a minute of your time to get up and running. Just enter your credentials, and you’ve got a brand-new forum running on a sub-domain with 2GB of storage. The basic package won’t cost you a dime.
What can you expect apart from the 2GB of storage? A lot, apparently. Lefora comes with a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, and makes embedding YouTube videos and images into posts as easy as pasting the URL in the post box. Also available are automatic spam detection, social integration, and widgets.
A more classic forum experience can be found using phpBB, one of the most prominent open-source forum packages. Chances are pretty good that you’ve been on a phpBB forum a few times during your adventures on the internet. Forumatic is also powered by the phpBB guys, and allows you to create a hosted phpBB forum in a snap.
ForumUp is another free hosted forum service that uses phpBB to run the forum. Although you won’t have the kind of support that you have on Forumatic, ForumUp does come with fewer restrictions. As such, there’s no apparent limit on the number of pageviews and posts.
Additionally, by paying a fee, you can remove the ads that are added to the forum by default, download back-ups of your forum data, and add custom HTML to the header and footer of your forum.
fBulletin takes a slightly different approach to the hosted forum, by involving Facebook. That’s right. Rather than giving you a subdomain forum, fBulletin gives you the ability to add a forum to a Facebook page. Additionally, once you’ve got the forum up and running, you can also embed it in another webpage.
fBulletin supports the embedding of pictures and videos, BBCode and post subscription. Basic functionality is free, and you can upgrade your forum to add additional features and remove the ads that are added to the page by default.
The free version gives you unlimited posting and members, while showing 15 recent topics and up to 5 sub-forums. For USD 5 per month, Tal.ki removes these caps and throws image uploads and a search feature in the mix.