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Developer(s) vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Initial release 2000
Stable release 5.1.9 (August 10, 2015 (2015-08-10))
Written in PHP
Operating system Cross-platform
Platform PHP / MySQL
Available in Official support for English and German, but generated content can be user-modified to support any language
Type Forum software
License Proprietary, commercial

vBulletin (vB) is a proprietary Internet forum software package developed by vBulletin Solutions, Inc., a division of Internet Brands. It is written in PHP and uses a MySQL database server.


  • History 1
  • Forum product 2
    • vBulletin 2 2.1
    • vBulletin 3 2.2
    • vBulletin 4 2.3
      • Development 2.3.1
      • Release 2.3.2
    • vBulletin 5 Connect 2.4
      • Development 2.4.1
      • Release 2.4.2
  • Forum and Suite 3
    • vBulletin Blog 3.1
    • vBulletin Project Tools 3.2
  • vBulletin 4 release and controversy 4
    • Controversy over Google AdSense integration through 4.1
  • Largest vBulletin forums 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


In 1999 James E. Limm and John Percival were running a Visual Basic website using Infopop's UBB.classic forum software on VB Forums.[1] 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 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 3 August 2006.

On 4 July 2007 Jelsoft announced that Jelsoft had been acquired by Internet Brands, which promised significant investment in software development.[2]

In 2009, long-time developers Kier Darby, Mike Sullivan, Scott MacVicar and Jeremy Hutchings left the company. Kevin Sours, Don Kuramura, and Ray Morgan took Darby's place as lead developer, product manager, and general manager, respectively.[3]

On 22 July 2010 the BBC reported that there was a serious flaw in vBulletin software that allows anyone to easily access the database username and password.[4]

On 4 October 2010, "Internet Brands commenced a lawsuit in the courts of England and Wales against XenForo, and its founders, Kier, Mike and Ashley".[5]

On 29 October 2010, Internet Brands filed a second lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California through its wholly owned subsidiary vBulletin Solutions, Inc. against XenForo Ltd., and its founders Kier, Mike and Ashley. The lawsuit alleges "widespread infringement and unlawful exploitation" of vBulletin's source code and "equally damaging misappropriation of trade secrets" developed and owned by vBulletin with "investments of millions of dollars over the last ten years." The lawsuit further alleges that the developers of XenForo Ltd. "took with them virtually every type of document a competitor would need to enter the market and unlawfully create a competing bulletin board software program." [6]

On 27 February 2013, it was announced by the lawyers of XenForo, that a victory had been secured against Internet Brands after a confidential settlement had been reached, dismissing all claims against them.[7]

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 production version is 3.8.8, 4.2.2, and 5.1.7.

vBulletin 2

vBulletin 2.0.0 was released on 21 May 2001.[8] vBulletin 2 is no longer under active development. 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

vBulletin 3.0.0 was released on 19 March 2004.[9] 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 3.5.0, released on September 28, 2005,[10] 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 users 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[11] was released on 3 August 2006.

A first look at vBulletin 3.7 was announced on November 23, 2007.[12] It was officially released on April 29, 2008.[13]

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 3.8.7 which was released on 28 February 2011, and is a maintenance release.[14]

vBulletin 4


On 4 August 2008, Kier Darby, former lead developer of vBulletin announced the development of vBulletin 3.8 and vBulletin 4.0.[15] 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 15 December 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[16] 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 (CMS) 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.


vBulletin 4 was released 21 December 2009. New for vBulletin 4 is the vBulletin publishing suite, which includes CMS and blog functions.[17] Other updates to the software included a cross-content search system, improved search engine optimization and a centralized attachment system which allows the sharing of attachments across products. Additionally, the template and styling engine was changed for vBulletin. The StyleVars system was added to draw CSS variables directly from the vBulletin Template code.[18]

vBulletin's main character encoding is ISO-8859-1, not UTF-8. If a customer wants to use vBulletin with language not supported by ISO-8859-1 they must make their own changes to the code.

vBulletin 5 Connect


Update emails talking about features in the new vBulletin version was sent out to customers starting mid June 2012. Later Internet Brands asked for volunteers to the final beta phase. Upon release to the public, beta testing had reached version 10.


vBulletin 5 Connect was released to the public as beta 11 on 25 September 2012. At that time the product lacked many major features, and the release was for testing and verification purposes only. With the introduction of vBulletin Connect, Internet Brands are moving the software in a new direction, quite unlike previous releases. This has come under strong debate within the vBulletin community. vBulletin 5 Connect was released as a stable 'gold' product on 21 February 2013 still missing many features, including the infraction system, paid subscriptions, and the CMS feature debuted on vBulletin 4. The infraction system and paid subscriptions were added in 5.0.1 but many other features remain missing.

Forum and Suite

With the introduction of the 4.x series, vBulletin is available as two product lines, the vBulletin Publishing Suite and the vBulletin Classic Forum. License was changed to be valid through the entire life of the 4.x development cycle.

The vBulletin Publishing Suite includes Forums, an article-based Content Management System and the vBulletin Blog product.[19]

vBulletin Blog

Introduced with Vbulletin 4, a blog tool is now included in the vBulletin Publishing Suite. The blog tool allows community members to create their own blogs. vBulletin Blog 1.0.5 was released to the public on 8 April 2008.[20]

vBulletin Project Tools

The Project Tools (PT) is a management system that helps admins and moderators to keep track of various forum related issues. With the release of vBulletin 4.0, active development of Project Tools was discontinued, and is now available as a free open source add-on product distributed through PT 2.1.3 was released to the public on 15 September 2011.[21]

vBulletin 4 release and controversy

On 4 July 2007, Jelsoft was acquired by Internet Brands.[22] On 27 January 2009, Ray Morgan was appointed General Manager of Jelsoft.[23] On 13 May 2009, the Administration section of 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.[24] A response was posted by Ray Morgan indicating that these were preliminary discussions and that customers should not make decisions based on leaked documents.

On 19 June 2009, Kier Darby, lead developer of vBulletin since early in the development of version 2, left the company,[25] as well as Mike Sullivan, who joined in Fall 2000,[26] and Scott MacVicar.[27] Jeremy Hutchings moved to part-time to maintain ImpEx the data migration system, and left soon after. Subsequently, in July 2009, Peterska2 (Kerry-Anne) and Ashley Busby also parted company with vBulletin.[28] After releasing 3.8.4,[29] Andy Huang also decided to leave the company. Jelsoft offices in the United Kingdom were closed shortly thereafter.

On 19 August 2009, Alpha testing of vBulletin begins with a selection of licensed customers under a

  • – Official vBulletin site
  • – Official vBulletin Resource Forum
  • – The Biggest vBulletin Forums
  • vBulletin at DMOZ

External links

  1. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  2. ^ James Limm. Jelsoft's future: acquisition news, vBulletin Forums, 4 July 2007
  3. ^ Metz, Cade (2009-10-28). "Forum king vBulletin muzzles paid-up protesters". The Register. Retrieved 2009-10-28. general manager Ray Morgan originally said he would answer our questions about the forum bans 
  4. ^ Fildes, Jonathan (2010-07-22). "BBC News". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  5. ^ "Internet Brands claims against Xenforo". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  6. ^ Metz, Cade (2010-11-04). "Forumware giant vBulletin sues ex-devs (again)". The Register. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  7. ^ ("Grace+Grace LLP Celebrates Dismissal of Internet Brands Litigations". Grace+Grace. )
  8. ^ "vBulletin 2.0.0 Released". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  9. ^ "vBulletin 3.0.0 'Gold' Released (at last)". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  10. ^ "vBulletin 3.5.0 Released". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  11. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  12. ^ "vBulletin 3.7 First Look! – vBulletin Community Forum". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  13. ^ "vBulletin 3.7.0 'Gold' Released". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  14. ^ "vBulletin 3.8.7 maintenance release". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  15. ^ "vBulletin Community Forum". 2008-08-04. Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  16. ^ "vBulletin Community Forum". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  17. ^ "vBulletin Gold Release". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  18. ^ "vBulletin Skins". Retrieved 2012-02-29. 
  19. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  20. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  21. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  22. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  23. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  24. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  25. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  26. ^ "". 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  27. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  28. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  29. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-02-26. 
  30. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  31. ^ "". 2009-10-30. Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  32. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  33. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  34. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  35. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  36. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  37. ^ a b "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  38. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  39. ^,all


See also

  4. Something Awful
  5. Forocoches
  6. PBNation
  8. Fan Forum
  9. SkyscraperCity
  10. Two Plus Two
  11. NeoGAF
  12. VN-Zoom

As of 6 October 2015, the largest web forums running vBulletin are (by number of posts):[39]

Largest vBulletin forums

The owner of the forum also agrees to potentially share revenue in the future, however this is unclear during the sign up process, and Internet Brands has yet to release a statement about how they will use the information gathered from linked AdSense accounts, leading to potential privacy issues and a competitive advantage for future Internet Brands–owned websites. While the percentage of revenue sharing is currently set to 0%, vBulletin Technical Support Lead, Wayne Luke, has stated it could be subject to change in the future.[38] However, as per Google's AdSense rules, all users must explicitly agree to this and will be given at least 30 days notice.[37]

When installing vBulletin 4 and using the AdSense integration provided by, users are agreeing to allow Internet Brands to access information about the performance of their ad units. Internet Brands will also be given a monetary referral credit if someone signs up for an AdSense account through a link on any vBulletin forum as opposed to the owner of the forum.[37]

Controversy over Google AdSense integration through

On 22 December 2009, vBulletin 4.0 Gold was released to the public amid customer concerns that it met a predetermined release schedule rather than producing a stable product[33] Common customer complaints included substantial browser display issues, which affected Safari, Opera, and Internet Explorer 6, and a greatly increased number of MySQL queries in the default configuration as a result of the new Content Management System. On 12 January 2010, vBulletin 4.0.1 was released with over 200 bug fixes and style tweaks.[34] On 8 April 2010, vBulletin 4.0.3 was released with over 300 bug fixes as well as simple integration with Facebook Connect for single-signon between customer's boards and Facebook.[35] On 18 June 2010, vBulletin 4.0.4 is released with over 450 bug fixes. The release was made despite various "showstopper" bugs, many of which caused issues with the upgrade process. On 24 June 2010, vBulletin 4.0.4 "Patch Level 1" was released, but none of the previous showstopper bugs were fixed, except for two widget bugs according to official announcement.[36]

On 23 October 2009, The website was upgraded to the vBulletin 4 software including a new splash page and FAQ. was down for 28 hours during this upgrade. When the site returned, it remained sporadically inaccessible due to high loads for several days. On 12 November 2009, vBulletin 4.0 Beta 3 was made available to licensed customers. Previous betas were made available to alpha testers.[32] Beta 4, Beta 5, and two Release Candidates followed in quick succession.

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. [31]

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