The development of XenForo was held back since it was launched due to a lawsuit from Internet Brands, the parent company of vBulletin. XenForo had been developed by the original developers of vBulletin and Internet Brands claimed that they had used code from vBulletin. They hadn't and a few months ago XenForo won the case and are now able to move forward.
It looks like vBulletin are doing the same as they have just launched the latest version of the script: vBulletin 5 Connect. This is a major update of their best selling software and it has a lot of great features that might entice users of other forum software to switch over.
Today I'd like to give you all a brief look at the features of vBulletin 5 and what you can expect if you buy it.
vBulletin 5 Connect Features
On the surface, the vBulletin design looks like an evolution rather than a revolution. Those of you who have previous versions of vBulletin would be able to see a forum using vBulletin 5 and know instantly that it was using vBulletin. This is no bad thing. The design has a clean professional look, which makes browsing threads a pleasure.
There seems to be less distractions than last versions of vBulletin. The whole system seems to have been simplified, which can only be a good thing as many people take a while to get used to the way forum software works. One of the things I love about the new design is the forum room headers. The discussions are listed under a tab called Topics. In the same menu, users can view the latest activity, their own subscriptions, and display photos that have been attached in the forum.
I don't know of any other forum script that integrates media into their software in this way. Most require an add-on to show the latest attached images.
vBulletin 5 Connect has everything you would expect from leading forum software. In addition to discussion forums, the software also includes blogs, polls and groups. It has been optimised for search engines too.
They have finally changed their vBulletin template system that so many of us were familiar with. In its place is a modern site builder that allows you to drag-and-drop things to the place you want. You can also edit parts of your design in-line. The filtering options have been greatly enhanced too. You can now filter results to only show photos, videos, links and polls.
Users can select to view posts in thread view or in streamed activity view. The new reply box looks fantastic too. I love how they have created separate tabs for photos and links.
As you would expect from modern software, vBulletin 5 looks great on all types of devices.
Thoughts on vBulletin 5 Connect
I was a loyal vBulletin customer for over 10 years though customers like myself were treated like dirt when Internet Brands took over the software. I owned three owned licenses at the time, which meant that I could get new versions of the software every year by simply renewing my lease for $30. Internet Brands came in and disregarded everyone's license. They doubled the price of vBulletin and offered customers who had paid for a lifetime license a measly discount of around $20 off their software.
Stupidly, many customers like my purchased vBulletin 4 anyway, despite it costing hundreds of dollars. For want of a better description, it was a piece of crap. The CMS element of the software was promoted as being revolutionary but it felt like a CMS from several years before. To do this day, the way Internet Brands handled existing customers is something that still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
However, as a website owner, I cannot let things like that hold me back from using vBulletin if it is the best software out there. Due to the course case with Internet Brands, the development of XenForo has been incredibly slow, which has been the most disappointing part of using the software. Though they know how to look after their customers and that means a lot when you are spending hundreds of dollars on software.
vBulletin 5 retails for $249.00. As an existing customer, I can get the software for $209.00. The vBulletin Mobile Suite add-on costs an additional $150 if you purchase it at the same time as the core version and $199 if you upgrade later. That offers native iOS and android apps, native responsive design, and permits users to connect to your forum using Forum Runner (a service Internet Brands now owns). Removing the branding of vBulletin costs $169.
So for the forum software and the mobile suite, new customers will have to pay $399.00. That is not the biggest issue for me. The biggest issue is support. As long as I can remember, vBulletin offered forum and premium ticket support for one year for new customers. Existing customers could get ticket support by renewing their license for $30. Not any more. New customers only get 30 days of ticket support. After that, they will have to get help in the public discussion forums. Should you need premium support, you need to pay an additional $199 per year or $49 per month.
That is something that is going to put off a lot of potential customers. It essentially pushes the price of vBulletin up to $598, with yearly support after that costing $199 every year. In contrast, Xenforo costs $140 to buy and $40 per year to get the latest version; and that includes premium ticket support. Therefore, vBulletin is around 4 times as expensive. It is hard to justify that kind of expense.
I have yet to try vBulletin 5 Connect as yet, however I have applied for their free trial (I'm still awaiting my login details). This will allow me to see what the backend is like and try everything out for myself.
On the surface, vBulletin looks like fantastic software. I am going to do my best to try it out with an open mind and not think about my past dealings with the company. However, even if I can put aside the fact that treated customers like me terribly in the past, I am not sure I will be able to forget about the high price of the software. As an existing customer, it will cost me $359 to get the software with the mobile suite. That is more than twice the price of other scripts out there and doesn't even include their extremely high cost of getting support.
It will be interesting to see how existing vBulletin customers respond. Will they upgrade? Time will tell.
More details about vBulletin 5 Connect can be seen on the official vBulletin website.