Today saw the latest release of forum software Vbulletin 5 or Vbulletin 5 Connect to use it’s correct name and it’s been hit by the usual negative response from the Vbulletin community but what is the software really like and where is it being pitched.
The best forum software:
It was the software for forum users and admins everywhere, through their VB3 days they took the market but then came VB4!
Was it a rushed release? Why did they get people to pay for a software package that was far from complete? Would they suffer from a big money buy out? Where would the software go when all the lead developers started jumping ship?
These answers were all negative and with the release of a very unstable VB4, bugs were huge, the new CMS that people paid extra for was not working or styled correctly and people were starting to look at other forum options.
The rise of the ‘others’
With unhappy customers come young new pretenders that want a piece of the action. The rise of IP Boards has been a steady but controlled one, I often check back onto their forum just to see what progress has been made by them, one thing for sure they make sure things load fast and they make sure everything is neat and tidy.
Alongside IP was the much anticipated Xenforo which was built from scratch by some of the developers who had jumped ship from VB, you must have heard the ongoing court case?
One day before the originally scheduled release for the first public beta of XenForo in October 2010, Internet Brands announced that it would file a lawsuit against the XenForo team in the UK, claiming; copyright infringement of property acquired by Internet Brands, that code in XenForo was re-factored from vBulletin code (despite XenForo’s claim that the system was built from the ground up using an object-oriented framework and the fact that a public release had not even been made yet, and thus IB could not possibly have had a look at the XenForo code), breach of contract, and engaging in unfair business practices. Representatives also claimed that XenForo “unfairly stands on the shoulders of more than a decade of development”, development which had become the property of Internet Brands through the acquisition. In November 2010, Internet Brands sued XenForo and Darby in California District Court in the United States, additionally claiming that Darby had not returned confidential information from Internet Brands regarding the vBulletin software, though failing to provide evidence to back this claim. The XenForo team has denied the claims made by Internet Brands in these lawsuits. Internet Brands also denied that the timing of the lawsuit was to coincide with the first public beta of the software.
So could Xenforo really compete, were VB worried that this new software could essentially compete on a larger scale? The truth is, a huge company like VB should have bucked up their ideas and broke new barriers of forum software development: competition leads to innovation (think Apple vs Samsung)!
The truth was VB4 didn’t deliver and many many users flooded to other software. Thankfully VB developed VB4 over time and bought it up to a standard you were willing to pay the price for, but had they lost much of the market already.
I check on the progress of Xenforo on a weekly basis, it’s streamlined, it’s fast, I really wish they’d change the default font on their forum (hey I’m a designer these things count!)
The return of the king
With a lot of bug fixing a few changes of staff and the ability to try and connect with their customers VB got to the point where people were happy with the product again (core, not the CMS).
But then came the hints of VB5? What could they bring to the table? Did forums have to change their tacticts with many loosing members to facebook and twitter?
That’s when VB Connect was announced:
We’re making this beta version of vBulletin 5 Connect available now for sites interested in exploring this early version of the software, to start work on styling, plug-ins, etc. While this beta version can be used on new sites, some functionality and content of existing sites won’t yet be ported over. As such it may be advisable to upgrade sites to this beta version in a staging environment only and not in production. As we’ve previously announced, the product features:
- A re-architected Core which provides easier customization and display layer extensibility through a central API
- Dynamic new Site Builder tool with page templates, drag-and-drop page configuration and in-line site editing
- Modernized UI designed to encourage user engagement and content creation
- Customizable content modules that provide enhanced discovery, engaging users into deeper site visits
- Improved social functionality including redesigned user profiles, comments functionality, an integrated messaging hub, social content curation and real-time updates
- Integrated mobile-optimized version for use on smartphones, ensuring these visitors stay and return
- Integrated monetization from VigLink
- Built-in SEO to maximize search traffic
Try the VB conntect Demo it screamed, so I did!
What do you get if you take VB, IP, a bit of Xen and a little FB?
They had done what most expected which was to try and make the whole forum, social and interaction experience a combined action, it’s a shame the demo site is running so slow as it puts you off really test driving something.
Could VB be accused of letting the public see it really before it was ready? Not again surely?
The truth is, I really appreciate what they’ve tried to do and I honestly believe they will get there, only problem I see with the demo site is, it’s so stripped back and clean it looks like there’s no functions there.
I think they should have written the basic forum software from scratch, make it fast, SEO friendly and based on the original concept of the ‘forum’ then add the rest around, that way people can still carry on as before and ‘grow in’ to the other functions.
The styling and drag and drop options look like skinning a VB forum could be easier than ever, no need for plug-ins and template edits any more? We’ll see.
I’m willing to give it a chance and I’m going to watch the development carefully and I do wish them luck with it, this could be the start of something beautiful.