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vBulletin (vB) is a commercial Internet forum software produced by Jelsoft Enterprises and vBulletin Solutions, both subsidiaries of Internet Brands. It is written in PHP and uses a MySQL database server.



In 1999 James E. Limm and John Percival were running a Visual Basic website using Infopop's UBB.classic forum software on VB Forums. As their site grew, they noticed that their software, written in Perl using a flat-file database, could not always cope with the number of users they had. In February 2000, the two decided that it would be better to write their own solution as both were unfamiliar with the software's code and thus unable to optimize it. Initially, it was designed solely as a rewrite of UBB, in PHP using MySQL, and was meant only for their own forum. Other UBB owners expressed interest in the solution, and they offered to sell it to Infopop, but their proposal was rejected. As there was still a demand for the software, Limm and Percival created Jelsoft and released their work as a paid solution, called vBulletin 1.

After subsequent minor releases of their software, the two decided to start working on a new version that would be more than a rewrite of UBB: they wanted to turn their software into a competitive solution for forums. Rewriting the entirety of the product, vBulletin 2 commenced development. Shortly thereafter, Limm became the managing director and Percival the lead developer. To help with the scale of the project, two additional developers, Freddie Bingham and Mike Sullivan were brought on to help finish vBulletin 2. Kier Darby was brought on during the vBulletin 2.0 Beta phase to further development. The release of vBulletin 2 proved to be very successful and is what made vBulletin popular.

In December 2002, vBulletin 3 was beginning development. Percival decided to step down as lead developer and product manager, turning his roles over to Kier Darby. vBulletin 3 was under development for a lengthy period of time—nearly two years—as it went from a mere improvement on vBulletin 2 to a complete rewrite. During this time Jeremy Hutchings joined the development team, a.k.a. Jerry. However, version 3 was finally released in March 2004. In 2005, vBulletin 3.5 was released that addressed some of the shortcomings of 3.0 (discussed later on). vBulletin 3.6 was released as a stable version on August 3, 2006.

On July 4, 2007 Jelsoft announced that Jelsoft had been acquired by Internet Brands, which promised significant investment in software development.[1]

In 2009, long-time developers Kier Darby, Mike Sullivan, and Scott MacVicar left the company. Kevin Sours, Don Kuramura, and Ray Morgan took Darby's place as lead developer, product manager, and general manager, respectively.[2]

Forum product

Since the initial release of the vBulletin forum product in 2000, there have been many changes and improvements. Below is a list of the major revisions and some of the changes they introduced. The current version is 4.0 gold.

vBulletin 1 and vBulletin Lite

Development of vBulletin 1 is no longer active, nor is it a supported release.

vBulletin 1 was the initial release of vBulletin, sporting the same features as UBB.classic. The release was very popular as it was one of the first systems that was written using PHP and MySQL that had the features of UBB.

vBulletin Lite was a degraded version of the 1.x series that allowed potential customers to test their server for compatibility with vBulletin. The product was discontinued after vBulletin 2 because there were security issues and it was out of date, and Jelsoft did not want to spend resources into maintaining a non-commercial product.

vBulletin 2

vBulletin 2 is no longer under active development, except for security updates. When this version was released, it had numerous new features over vBulletin 1, which it replaced. Improvements include private messaging between users, attaching polls to threads, unlimited forum nesting, user avatars, and a user control panel.

vBulletin 3

Initially, version 3.0 was intended to be an extension of the 2.x release that would improve performance and user experience. However, as time progressed, it proved to be a complete rewrite. Some of the key advantages over vBulletin 2 are as follows:

  • The templates and style were updated to use XHTML and CSS
  • Hard-coding of English text was eliminated
  • Support for multiple languages by use of phrases
  • A WYSIWYG editor for users to post with
  • Paid subscriptions that allow administrators to charge for certain features of their site
  • Multiple views for threads: Linear (a flat system), threaded (display of the entire thread tree), and hybrid (a combination of both).

vBulletin 3.5 addressed some of the problems users had with version 3.0. Some of the changes are as follows:

  • A plugin system was introduced, that allows for modifications of the software without the need to edit the program scripts. This allows a forum operator to keep their modifications (called "hacks" or "mods" in the vBulletin community) and not having to re-edit scripts after upgrading.
  • Inline editing of thread titles and post content was made possible via AJAX.
  • An inline moderation system was provided, allowing forum operators to manage threads and posts on their board without having to go through intermediary steps. An API system (referred to as "data managers") was created to let third-parties integrate more easily.
  • A template history and comparison system was introduced where administrators can store a specific revision of a template into the database, which can be arbitrarily compared against each another.
  • A MySQLi wrapper was added, which added support for MySQL 4.1.
  • A database-stored thread-marking system was added. Previous versions of vBulletin relied on a variable stored in the database, and also a cookie to store information about what threads had been read and not read by the user. However, this information was volatile and did not keep; additionally, if you idled for 15 minutes (some forums have longer timeouts, 15 minutes is the default) this information would be lost.

vBulletin 3.6 introduced features such as the multi-quote system, the infractions system, the ability to automatically post threads and announcements from RSS feeds, and podcasting support. The Gold release of vBulletin 3.6.0 was released on August 3, 2006

A first look at vBulletin 3.7 was announced on November 23, 2007.[3] It was officially released on April 29, 2008.[4]

File:Wiki vBulletin Admin Control Panel.jpg
vBulletin 3.7.0 Admin Control Panel

New features in 3.7 included an inline spam management & prevention system, thread tagging and tag cloud, thread prefixes, reciprocal friendship between users, public visitor messaging on user profile pages, user picture albums, user-created social groups, user-customizable profile pages, a lightbox viewer for images attached to posts, post edit history, a notices system, multiple human verification systems, and social bookmarking integration.

Version 3.8 introduced more new features, such as social group discussions, social group categories, private message sorting and filtering options, private message history, quick edit for newer types of content (visitor messages and picture comments), social group icons, social group transfers, a private message quick reply box, private message throttling (limit messages sent over a time period), private message reporting, profile privacy (limit blocks to a subset of users), lightbox navigation, thread prefix permissions, and dismissible notices.

The latest stable release of vBulletin is 3.8.4 PL2 which was released on December 22, 2009, due to a security flaw. This will be the last update for Version 3, as all focus now is on Version 4.[5]

vBulletin 4

vBulletin 4 was released December 21, 2009. New for vBulletin 4 is the vBulletin production suite, which includes CMS and blog functions.

Future development

Rumors and hints about the development of the next generation vBulletin product, vBulletin 4, have been dropped by developers and discussed endlessly by users for several years now.

On August 4, 2008, Kier Darby, former lead developer of vBulletin announced the development of vBulletin 3.8 and vBulletin 4.0.[6] vBulletin 4 was described in this announcement as "an extensive rewrite of the vBulletin system. Architecturally, vBulletin 4 follows MVC (model-view-controller) object oriented principles, allowing far greater capabilities in code re-use and extendability." At the time, the requirements of vBulletin 4 were "PHP 5.2.3 and MySQL 5.0.22 or newer".

On December 15, 2008 James Limm, Managing Director of Jelsoft, posted the vBulletin 4 Series Development Update with significant differences from the August announcement.

In August, we announced a major overhaul of the code base. Rather than targeting all of these changes in a single, long-term release, we intend to accomplish all the planned improvements over a number of versions. In order to achieve this goal, the largest vBulletin development team ever assembled is now working within an Agile development process, allowing us to deliver new features into your hands faster.
Each incremental release in the vBulletin 4 series will include improvements in features, usability and architecture. Development efforts are prioritized towards those areas that can provide real, tangible benefits to our customers, at all times with an eye toward maintaining and enhancing the performance and reliability expected of a vBulletin product.
Key features and improvements that will be included in the first vBulletin 4 release are:
  1. Cross-content search system providing a single interface to search across forum posts, blog entries and comments and other supported products
  2. Improved search performance
  3. A fresh design and layout making use of semantic markup and CSS styling
  4. An enhanced style and template system to enhance your ability to change the layout
  5. Controls to assist with the placement of advertising elements
  6. SEO features, including friendly URLs
  7. A centralized attachment system, allowing the sharing of attachments across products
  8. Widget system for single pages
  9. Video BBCode - Popup to the editor that allows a video url (youtube, metacafe, etc) to be input

In the lengthy discussions[7] which followed this turn of events, additional information was revealed, including that:

  • The PHP and MySQL requirements won't be raised as high as announced in August, because the first release will be sooner than previously expected
  • Jelsoft is now developing a Content Management System which will be fully integrated with vBulletin although it is unclear whether it will be sold separately like Jelsoft's Blog and Projects products.
  • vBulletin 4 is now being developed and will be released incrementally through 2009, with the first Beta expected "early Q2 of 2009". In a later post, the first Beta got pushed back to "late Q2". For users that paid the pre-sale cost for vBulletin 4.0, a message stating that the Beta will be available "sometime in mid-November" was issued.

Forum and Suite

vBulletin is now available as two product lines. The vBulletin Publishing Suite is $285 for the life of the 4.0 development cycle and includes customer ticket support. The vBulletin Classic Forum is $195 for the life of the 4.0 development cycle but does not include ticket support.

The vBulletin Publishing Suite includes Forums, an article-based Content Management System and the vBulletin Blog product.[8]

vBulletin Blog

Now included in the vBulletin Publishing Suite, the vBulletin Blog allows members of a vBulletin community to create their own blogs. vBulletin Blog 1.0.5 was released to the public on April 8, 2008. With the release of vBulletin 4.0, the vBulletin Blog became part of the vBulletin Publishing Suite.[9]

vBulletin Project Tools

This host of tools tracks bugs, tasks, etc. throughout the development of a product through its production and lifetime. vBulletin Project Tools 2.0.0 was released to the public on September 30, 2008.[10] With the release of vBulletin 4.0, active development of Project Tools has been discontinued. It will become an open source product distributed through vBulletin.org.

vBulletin 4 Release and Controversy

July 4, 2007: Jelsoft was acquired by Internet Brands.[11]

January 27, 2009: Ray Morgan was appointed General Manager of Jelsoft.[12]

May 13, 2009: the Administration section of vBulletin.com accidentally became accessible to the public for 13 minutes. Documents and discussions containing a detailed analysis of plans (and expected customer reaction) for vBulletin 4's new pricing scheme were revealed.[13] A response was posted by Ray Morgan indicating that these were preliminary discussions and that customers should not make decisions based on leaked documents.

June 19, 2009: Kier Darby, lead developer of vBulletin since early in the development of version 2, leaves the company[14], as well as Mike Sullivan (joined Fall 2000)[15] and Scott MacVicar[16].

July 2009: Peterska2 (Kerry-Anne) and Ashley part company with vBulletin[17]. Jelsoft offices in the UK were closed shortly thereafter.

August 19, 2009: Alpha testing of vBulletin begins with a selection of licensed customers under a Non-disclosure Agreement.[18]

October 13, 2009: Ray Morgan announces new vBulletin.com website, new vBulletin licensing structure, and pricing[19]. This announcement was nearly identical to the May 2009 leaked documents.

Replacing the annual renewal of $60, the new vBulletin Forum license was priced at $195, with the Suite costing $285. With an announced release cycle of 18-24 months for each point release, this was a cost increase of 200%. Customers with an inactive license were offered a small discount off the Suite and had less than 3 weeks to upgrade. Ironically, customers with the smallest investment in the product -- Leased License customers -- received the most cost-advantageous deal.

October 23, 2009: The vBulletin.com website is upgraded to the vBulletin 4 software including a new splash page and FAQ. vBulletin.com is down for an unprecedented 28 hours during this upgrade, with visitors to the site being redirected to a maintenance message at Internet Brands-owned http://www.best-forum-software.com/. When the site returned, it remained sporadically inaccessible due to high loads for several days.

November 12, 2009: vBulletin 4.0 Beta 3 is made available to licensed customers. Previous betas were made available to the alpha testers[20]. Beta 4 and 5 as well as 2 Release Candidates would follow in quick succession.

December 7, 2009: Ray Morgan retires to the tropics[21].

December 22, 2009: vBulletin 4.0 Gold is released to the public amid customer concerns that it met a predetermined release schedule rather than producing a stable product[22]. Substantial display issues in browsers including Safari, Opera, and Internet Explorer 6 are documented. The Content Management System resulted in over 100 MySQL queries even in the default configuration.

January 12, 2010: vBulletin 4.0.1 is released with over 200 bug fixes and style tweaks[23].


Modifications (also known as "hacks") allows the users to modify the vBulletin in many ways. vBulletin's official sister site vBulletin.org gives the ability to download thousands of modifications which are primarily written by volunteers who are vBulletin customers. The official written purpose of vBulletin.org is:

  • To extend vBulletin.
  • To educate members.
  • To help solve problems.
  • To support the entire member base professionally and equally.
  • To provide a place where people can attain and share information about vBulletin.

See also


  1. James Limm. Jelsoft's future: acquisition news, vBulletin Forums, July 4, 2007
  2. Metz, Cade (2009-10-28). "Forum king vBulletin muzzles paid-up protesters". The Register. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/28/vbulletin_controversy/. Retrieved 2009-10-28. "general manger Ray Morgan originally said he would answer our questions about the forum bans" 
  3. vBulletin 3.7 First Look! - vBulletin Community Forum
  4. vBulletin 3.7.0 'Gold' Released
  5. vBulletin 3.8.3 Released, vBulletin Community Forum, June 11, 2009
  6. vBulletin Community Forum
  7. vBulletin Community Forum
  8. http://www.vbulletin.com/index.php?do=features
  9. http://www.vbulletin.com/index.php?do=faq#faq-9
  10. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?p=1630421
  11. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=235378
  12. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=298059
  13. http://forum.vbulletinsetup.com/f23/vbulletin-4-0-going-cost-even-17392.html
  14. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=311251
  15. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/blog.php?37-Mike-Sullivan
  16. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=311214
  17. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showpost.php?p=1751009&postcount=30
  18. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=315870
  19. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=320055
  20. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=325115
  21. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=329672
  22. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=332171
  23. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=336681

External links

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