What is the Future of phpBB?

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david63
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What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by david63 »

No, this is not about when the next version of phpBB is going to be released but is about where, if at all, phpBB is going.

There has, and is, much talk about phpBB4 being the next major step forward but from what I can see phpBB4, if it ever comes to fruition, will only be a minor improvement over phpBB 3.3 - which in itself is still basically phpBB 3.0 with the addition of extensions (yes I know there have been a few minor additions, but nothing that is significant)

Currently there does not appear, to the outsider, to be any plan whatsoever as to where phpBB is going and, dare I say, there also appears to be a lack of leadership and drive and this is more than apparent with the Chameleon project.

The Chameleon project has been underway for the better part of four years now and is still nowhere near seeing the light of day. Once the "framework" is complete there is still a massive amount of work to be done - all the templates need to be rewritten, some core code needs to be reworked, css needs to be created and most, if not all, of the js needs to be rewritten. On top of that almost every front facing extension will need to be rewritten, or at best modified. By my estimation, based on the current rate of progress, we are looking at another four years - minimum.

Now before anyone jumps on this I am more than aware that everyone involved with the development of phpBB is a volunteer and does it in their spare time but going back to the pre phpBB 3.1 days there was an "army" of volunteers working on the development of phpBB as can clearly be evidenced by the number of "Former Team Members" - where are these people now? Yes people move on for all sorts of reasons but any well run organisation would have replaced them, or at least some of them, by now.

The development of phpBB would appear to have stalled with major aspects, such as moving all of the ACP to controllers having been reversed. I am prepared to be proven wrong but there is no plan being actively progressed to finish off what was started with phpBB 3.1 - to complete the moving of all major components to work with Symfony.

In my view, and that of some others, phpBB is in danger of dying within the next few years unless some drastic action is taken in formulating a plan as to where phpBB is going and how it is going to get there - and if such a plan does exist then why can we not know about it?

phpBB presents itself as a "community" but over the last seven years or so the inclusiveness of the community has evolved into exclusiveness - there is virtually no nurturing or encouragement for change. There have over the last year or two been some suggestions made by members of this board to look at doing some things in a different way but any such suggestions are immediately shot down by Team members - in other words "this is how we have always done it and so it will stay". This type of attitude only serves to disenfranchise members from offering to help and drives them away.

I know that this will not make for comfortable reading for some members of this board, and some will deny that much, if any, of what I have posted is true but I feel that it needs to be said in public. I have tried over the years to have this discussion with members of the Management Team but I have never got any reaction - it is as if by burying heads in the sand it will go away.

So my question is - "What is the future for phpBB"?
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by Meis2M »

Hello
i remember 10 year ago in my country there was many forums that made by phpBB , more than 200 forums. our site phpbb persian support was full of many active members , some times i could not support and answering all topics.

only 10 or 15 forum remain :D most of them convert to xenforo. why? because of this phpbb situation present.

today when you come to phpbb.com , u see only 10 more or less new topic , remember 10 year ago when we saw 50 new topic here. why this happen?

we see phpbb.com themes in 2021 that we saw in 2007 :D

some of dev team is retired and about 2 year not login in phpbb.com

i suggest provide a page in phpbb.com for donating to give money to a team or some one to do phpbb dev stuff.
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by bubbathegimp »

I blame Facebook.....
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by SpIdErPiGgY »

I'm quitting forums. It doesn't matter what topic you build a forum on, after six months you're still only left with 20 members, 5 active, and 15 inactive. Facebook is indeed the main culprit. Create a page on Facebook and within a month you will have +200 members. I have nothing against phpBB! It's simply great software! But starting a forum these days is no longer worth the effort. So I give up.
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by KevC »

SpIdErPiGgY wrote: Sun Nov 21, 2021 6:28 pm I'm quitting forums. It doesn't matter what topic you build a forum on, after six months you're still only left with 20 members, 5 active, and 15 inactive. Facebook is indeed the main culprit. Create a page on Facebook and within a month you will have +200 members. I have nothing against phpBB! It's simply great software! But starting a forum these days is no longer worth the effort. So I give up.
I don't entirely agree with that.

If you start a forum on a new subject, a car, a sport, a music artist, a video game, you can do really well because you're first on the block so your SEO is really high. A lot of failures we see on here come from people that pick a dead end subject like COD or football or photography you have absolutely no chance because there are already long running well established boards out there with thousands of posts and members and they will outrank you all day long.
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by HiFiKabin »

Meis2M wrote: Sun Nov 21, 2021 5:18 pm<snip>
today when you come to phpbb.com , u see only 10 more or less new topic , remember 10 year ago when we saw 50 new topic here. why this happen?
<snip>
... because there are 5 times fewer problems that need solving?
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by warmweer »

Meis2M wrote: Sun Nov 21, 2021 5:18 pm ...
today when you come to phpbb.com , u see only 10 more or less new topic , remember 10 year ago when we saw 50 new topic here. why this happen?
...
That's something I noticed also but that particularly in the last few weeks and I wouldn't be surprised if that's partly due to the end of the year nearing (and that trend continuing the first 10 or 14 days of the new year).
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by KevC »

HiFiKabin wrote: Sun Nov 21, 2021 6:52 pm
Meis2M wrote: Sun Nov 21, 2021 5:18 pm<snip>
today when you come to phpbb.com , u see only 10 more or less new topic , remember 10 year ago when we saw 50 new topic here. why this happen?
<snip>
... because there are 5 times fewer problems that need solving?
Dead right. In 2.x and 3.0.x all the changes you wanted to make were hard coded and people made mistakes and broke the board. There were lots of people on here helping out to fix those.

In my opinion, extensions are the best thing ever to happen to phpBB because they solved (almost) all of those issues and I thank everyone who is able to write them.
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by DarkBeing »

In a way, I agree with david63. I used to be more active when it comes to phpBB around the versions 2 & 3 of it, until work came in between. Nevertheless, I drop in on a regular basis to keep track of what is going on and compared to the past it seems to have slowed down, at least visually for the average joe. I mean, I rarely go to area51 anymore, for example, because it is kinda depressing. I am aware that there is activity in the background, but for the normal visitor, it looks kinda dead. I was never a fan of the fact that the development forum was split from the main forums and kinda “hidden” in its own area. I think phpBB lacks the exchange of opinions of the development on the main forums, and that way showing that there is something going on where everyone is invited to participate.

Don’t get me wrong, I love phpBB, but sometimes I fear it will face the same fate as OpenOffice.
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by nou nou »

I think starting with 3.1 (and yes, extensions), phpBB has matured to a point where for most cases it works really, really well.

I started setting up a board in 2016 with 3.0, when a small group of users found themselves lost at sea when their old board was retired by the person who ran it on a private server at home. I didn't know anything about building websites at the time, let alone running a dynamic one. I still remember the sleepless nights when I broke something in the core with a modification, or when finally taking the leap to 3.1 and making database mistakes while cleaning up the mess I had made. Backups every half hour for multiple days, running scary looking SQL commands. Took me years to fully grasp the permissions system alone. I got there in the end, but it was stressful.

Fast forward to today, the site is still running, now on phpBB3.3.5 and php7.4, with thousands of members, a custom premium style that was abandoned years ago but I've picked up the maintenance of it myself, dozens of extensions (I think close to 80 by now - and yes they are all in actual use). Some official, some abandoned but modified (and tested) to the point that they work for the site without issue, some repurposed from existing extension to serve a slightly different need, some custom developed (granted, not by me). By now I know how to manage the HTML and CSS side of things, I have a local test server running for anything new I want to try, and I intend to slowly start grasping the structure of an extension and a smattering of php, because why not.

Anyway, I digress. Point is, apart from some obscure functionality wishes that I still have and may or may not be fulfilled over the coming years, the site just works. Setting up a phpBB test board with a handful of extensions on a brand new server takes less than an hour start to finish. And what has really impressed me, is that all of it is - touch wood - working swimmingly on a shared hosting plan. Every now and then I get the old "why not Xenforo, or why not Discourse" email, but I'm happy with things as they are now, and frankly so are my users. And the community engagement is still terrific. I rarely get crickets when I need some information here, and I am impressed with the generosity of so many.

That's my perspective as a front end user of phpBB. Back when it was 3.0, there was so much that could improve my life from that POV, on a daily basis. Today, not so much. Sure, I'd love to see, for example, a revamp of the permissions system management, but that's more a quality of life thing than a lack of functionality. Point is, with the current phpBB I can trust that my board works, and will keep on working, with a bare minimum of maintenance compared to the 3.0 days.

phpBB4, sure why not, but for me as a user it will be all about how easy it will be to migrate what I already have on the front end, and whether that means there will be key benefits for my users further down the line. It's a tall order when going by "if it ain't broken, don't fix it". phpBB3.0 in that respect was broken (for me). For that reason alone I feel that as of the addition of extensions, phpBB3.x would have been a worthy 4.x already.

So in short, and trying to answer the original question, apparent stagnation might also be a good thing. Maybe 4.0 should be a minor improvement over 3.3 - finetuning the core. Which is also fine to take a long time, as long as the current one works well, and in 2021 it does.
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by lurttinen »

Well, programmers doing forum for other programmers is a problem. Just look at this text editor that i use to write this.
We wrote html markup 20 years ago in school. phpBB does so today. :shock: [b][i][u]Thanos[/u][/i][/b] That's older than boomers i think? :?

But if you want structured, categorized and searchable discussions then there is no better solution than some kind of BB.
Facebooks and like are not designed to save discussions for later review. Their sites things happen now and forgotten tomorrow.

For phpBB4, just how many ways there is to reinvent the wheel?
(I'd guess the three-point-what line is at some point just upped for 4.0 and there is not much to upgrade. No way in hell phpBB4 would revolution the internet :lol: )
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by 3Di »

I think you all have confused what the real purpose of this topic is, which I approve of in all its facets. I urge you to read it carefully before responding with arguments that are actually off-topic. I am amazed that there is still no authoritative response from the administrators.
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by Marshalrusty »

3Di wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 10:08 pm I am amazed that there is still no authoritative response from the administrators.
You can be certain that many team members and community members have read through this topic and considered what has been said. The whole point of having a discussion is to exchange viewpoints ; if you make good points, they will convince others, and that's the path to change.

Furthermore, I have said before that I, personally, welcome folks to PM me directly if there is a specific matter that requires attention and you believe is being overlooked. You know this is the case, because you have done so, and I have always responded to you.

Every member of the team and every contributor to the project is working towards making things better. As those people are volunteers, I don't think anyone can make the kind of "authoritative" response you're looking for. Decisions regarding direction, features, etc. are made communally (you can see many of them on Area51), and so everyone can respond here with their own thoughts and opinions. Please don't misunderstand people having a different view or disagreeing with you as not listening or ignoring your position.

EDIT: reworded a couple of things.
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by 3Di »

So many words to say nothing, sorry. Here the people, the users, the anonymous readers want clear and incisive answers. You have said nothing and everything remains to the point of my post.
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Re: What is the Future of phpBB?

Post by Marshalrusty »

So I can share my opinion and experience, and you're welcome to tell me if it matches yours at all.

Sometime around 2004, while in high school, I started a phpBB forum for around 20 of my friends. We used the forum, much in the way people now use Facebook, to talk about everything from video games to current events. I started learning php in order to customize the forum, and joined the phpBB community as a result. Eventually, I started to contribute content, answer support questions, write documentation, etc. My first programming language was php, and I learned to code thanks to this community. This was all before Facebook existed.

In 2021, high schoolers don't need a small forum to keep in touch with their friends. If anything, there are way too many social media options, and keeping track of everything is impossible. Many communities that would have absolutely been forums in 2004 are now Facebook groups (or similar options) and subreddits. Simply put: a Facebook group magically comes into existence with the click of a button, and it's not until way later that people learn all the downsides (forced censorship, no data portability, inability to add new features, forced ads, etc.), and by that point, there's not much choice but to put up with them.

Also, coding has become a lot more complex since 2004; the days of 3000-line files full of procedural code are long behind us. A student (or anyone) looking to learn how to code is far more likely to work on their own Android app than to seek out a small open source community. And if they do seek us out, they'll find a modern codebase with fairly high coding standards. In fact, everything in software development has gotten more complex to do properly, even styling. Frameworks, git, code review, etc. have made the barrier of entry higher than it was in 2004. We've moved away from hacking code in place (easier) to a proper events system (way harder).

So are forums dead? I certainly don't think so. Off the top of my head, I can name at least a dozen large vibrant communities (say, over 5,000,000 posts each) happily using phpBB and actively growing. These tend to be communities based around some specific topic, for example stamp collecting, owning horses, or cars. People find them using search engines, and join because of the existing community and wealth of information. This is the niche where forums have always shined. If you've ever used a Facebook group that's trying to act like one of these forums, you know how annoying it is to navigate or find anything. So this is who phpBB is for in 2021.

I help operate a few of these large forums, and one thing that happens a lot is that something will change in phpBB (usually/hopefully for the better), and they'll ask me to change it back. This can be as simple as the placement of an icon, or how some minor feature works. So there's this challenge of needing to improve and modernize phpBB, but it can't change too much, or else existing board owners start complaining that things are different. Having said that, there are features and improvements (especially UI improvements) that we'd all like to see. It's important not to underestimate how much work it is just to maintain software the size of phpBB. Designing a new feature, getting the community to agree on an implementation, coding it, getting it past code review, etc. is really hard. At companies like Apple/Microsoft/Facebook, a team of 5 full-time developers can easily take 6 months to build something relatively insignificant, and then we all complain about how it doesn't work the way we want.

I do not share some of the pessimism expressed here (despite not really being an Optimist), but I do think that many of the frustrations are completely valid and justified. I hope you believe me when I say that, everyone working on the project (inclusive of those in this topic, I'm sure) are emotionally invested in seeing the project succeed into the future. The development team, and everyone else, are doing the best they can with the resources they're able to put together. Code is being written, improvements are being made, and new suggestions are considered/implemented constantly. The progress is certainly not always perfect (or fast), but lots of people are constantly working to make it better. And, it's important to understand that forums in 2021 don't overlap with 99% of what Facebook is being used for. On the other hand, phpBB is - even as it exists right now - way better for those remaining 1% of cases.

Anyway, that's the way it seems to me. I did not mean to make this quite so long, but perhaps the length is representative of my sincerity. Other team members may see things differently, and are welcome to express those views themselves.
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