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2010/1/18 stefan <>
As an admin/benefactor of many different forums over the years, these seem to be a common subset of user requested features:

1) User registration w/profiles (avatars optional but highly desired)
2) Multiple threads under multiple 'groups' or topics (a thread hierarchy)
3) A global/topic search function for subject line & message text
4) Email notification of a new message in a subscribed thread
5) Thread subscriptions (see #4 - e.i. 'watch this thread', turns the forum into a filtered mailing list in effect)
6) BBcode or other such simple markup support
7) New posts (front page shows the most recent 10/20/50 posted-in threads)

Common extras of dubious value:

8) Attachments (can avoid and use third party upload site - luasnippets?)
9) Private messages (why not just use email?)
10) Signatures with images (oh please no)
11) Graphical emoticons (meh)
12) Reply to notification = thread post (only seen once, very tricky but kinda neat)

I have found that a clean and full-featured forum software can significantly increase your user base. You still need good content (topics & posts), but every extra bit helps. Of course, one may argue that you also attract more trolls this way. I personally find that they remain a pretty steady percentage of the total population, no matter what you do. Ignoring them seems to work the best.

My favourite home-brewed forum software would have to be whirlpool ( )
Its written in coldfusion, but its probably a great place to start..