Edit: 2011 June 16: This post is rather old and some of the information no longer applies. I’ve been getting a lot of bots hitting this post, so I’m closing it to comments.
I have been using vBulletin and Invision Power Board on different sites for several years now. I know that many people will want to know only my final decision, and to cut to the chase, I will say now that I much prefer vBulletin. But please keep in mind that what works for me may not work for you. As they say on forums sometimes, YMMV (your mileage may vary, which means that it might be different for you).
For those of you who want to know why, please read on.
I will try to describe my thoughts as i felt them (i.e., as I installed the two software packages on my sites and learned how to use them):
What I liked about vBulletin:
- Reputation system: users can rate the value of any post. This can be good or bad–most users are honest, but some users (usually the new members) abuse the system and use it as a way to hurt another member. vBulletin, however, allows you to disable this feature for new members.
- Hacking community: More vB people build “extensions” of the vB software than do Invision people.
What I liked about Invision:
- It looks great. And the emoticons. In this business, looks are pretty important, more important than many think–I know a lot of people won’t notice the difference in the features, but will be drawn in by the look.
- Built-in dynamic homepage for main site.
- Multi-moderation (kind of automated) will be GREAT for my forum–I find I need to moderate many of the same type of reply.
- Topic splitting and merging works really well.
- Some cool minor features–multi-quote, and some others.
- ACP is pretty powerful.
- Matt seems like an honest guy.
What I did NOT like about vBulletin:
- Not keen on the look.
- IPB is promising lots of new features that would make life easier for webmasters. But this could be literally years down the road.
- I’m not worried about cost, just to get that out of the way.
What I did not like about Invision:
- No way to keep track of who has responded to your posts.
- New company, fewer 3rd party people who know it and can hack it up.
- Hard to get customization done, even if I want to pay. All of my requests for quotes have not been answered. In all fairness–I haven’t tried to do this with vB, and I think Invision is trying to change this.
Thoughts so far:
So far vB support has been excellent. I’ve rarely waited more than an hour after posting on the board to get an answer to my question.
IB now has some policy that support in their forums is “unofficial,” that “official” support must be done through their ticket system.
I haven’t had to use it in a while, though. Overall, I have to say that the “feel” of the vB community is a bit friendlier and more helpful than that of the IB commnity.
Been using vB and Invision both for a month or two now.
+ vB: vB’s WYSIWYG editor rocks. It’s just SO must faster than BB code.
+ vB: As I said earlier, I like the thread-rating and reputation capabilities
+ vB: Very easy to modify via the Admin CP
+ Invision: Still cannot get used to the look of vB. As soon as I can, I’m going to get it skinned.
+ Invision: IPB has a nice feature that allows you to allow HTML by group, meaning you can allow admins and mods to post HTML, but not regular users. vB does not.
+ Invision: Multi-mod capability lets you moderate with canned responses, although I’ve never used it.
Something I’ve noticed about Invision, though–it seems a lot of the features that require a lot of heavy coding have been left out. E.g., the WYSIWYG editor, and a few other things. Some things, such as thread-rating or reputation are deemed bloat, but I wonder if this is because it would also require a lot of work and IPB has fewer paid coders than does IPB.
The vB admin backend is pretty powerful. I particularly love the “phrases.” For example, if I don’t like an error message, I can edit it to the way I want from the Admin CP, not from a file.
And it seems like when I want to change something in IPB, I have to edit a file; when I have to edit the same thing in vB, it’s in the database. For example, I wanted to add a button for a custom code. In vB, it’s all done in the Admin CP; in IPB, I had to search the Internet to figure out how to do it.
FWIW, their forums tell you that they don’t provide help in the forums–you must submit a trouble ticket for “guaranteed help.” So I submitted a ticket asking how to add a button to the postbox. Mind you, I’d searched the forums and a couple of other sites, but couldn’t find the complete answer. After a couple of days with no reply, I started searching other sites more carefully, you know, pulling all the stops with the search terms. Finally I found an answer and was able to do what I needed (what should be pretty simple).
A follow up–I finally got a response from IPB saying something like it looks like you figured it out, do you still need help??
I actually like vbulletin.org better than invisionize.com. I cannot say with certainty that one has more resources than the other, only that I seem to find more of what I want and need at vb.org. Actually, a lot of what I want and need I tend to find right on vbulletin.com. The vb team do seem to try to give the more popular modifications right in the official company forums. For example, if you want to add an ad banner (e.g., AdSense) after the first post, and once on every page after that, there’s code for it right in the vb.com forums. This particular modification does not appear in the Invision company forums, although other modifications do. Again, I’m hardly an expert here, and I have little time to spend at either forum. All I can say is that over the years, I’ve developed a sense that the vB forums are both more welcoming and more helpful than Invision’s. (Although Invision would most certainly say that they prefer to provide help via the ticket system than through the forums. My experience with ticket systems is that they’re not as effective as a forum for some reason, perhaps because in the private ticket exchange, no one else can jump in with help.)
I don’t think that Invision will become the leader simply because they’ve grown so quickly. I’m sure that vB will work hard to defend their position, and it seems that vB has more money and staff behind them. Of course, Invision doesn’t release any financial information, but it does seem that hosting is a vital part of their business model, if that means anything.
In the end, it comes down to which you feel more comfortable with. Perhaps there’s a killer feature on one that you really need or maybe there’s a free skin for one that you really like.
(I run two sites with different forum software. The busy site uses vB; the slower site runs IB.)
FWIW, I’ve gotten a few emails, PMs, and posts in my forum saying something to the effect of Well, both sites offer similar content, but I just prefer the interface of [the vB] site.
Never has anybody said that they prefer the IPB version.