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23 Comments

Best Open Source Forum with Membership features?

Been searching online for some open source forum software for a community I'd like to get up and running. I want to make it a paid forum as well. I'm currently not finding anything. I have an idea to use a static site with Stripe integration for the landing page, then connect that into a community sub-domain. That looks like the only option. Perhaps someone knows of an open-source forum with paid membership features built-in already? I'm trying to stay away from Discourse and others since the monthly price is way too high. I'm trying to keep the project as low cost as possible.

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    This is my biggest challenge these days.

    As I think about people who want to build communities and I also think about whether if I were to build a community then what would it look like, or what would I use.

    And honestly I get a bit stuck on making helpful decisions.

    I have also been a bit spoilt here at IH, where everything is custom built. I know it's not feasible for everyone...but I do think lots of people miss out on things for not custom building their own community.

    Not a very helpful answer, but these are things I think about!

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      So, what exactly prevents you from using popular solutions like discourse and others?

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      Thank you for the reply, it was helpful :) I'm glad I'm not alone haha!

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    I think your instinct to not want to build something yourself is correct. I too haven’t seen something that’s like what you are talking about. However, I'm working on something that might make sense for you: Inter.

    Where I think you’re being too restrictive is in saying that you want to keep it as low cost as possible. The miscalculation I think is in undervaluing your time. By building something yourself, you spend a lot of money. Development time is expensive.

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    I've been using Simple Machines Forum (SMF) for many many years. The site was once the millionth largest website in the world (out of about 2 billion). Not sure if it has paid but I'm sure there's a plugin for that.

    HOWEVER, I highly recommend not doing it yourself. This is one of the better ones, and the upkeep takes a horrendous amount of time. I've used a number of worse forum softwares, and there are many. You will always be dealing with spambots and fake accounts and hackers. It's literally a nonstop fight. You will lose sleep over it.

    If I could do it all again I'd use something pre-built that takes care of everything for you. I have better things to do and yet have a staff of half a dozen helping me.

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    I am trying to find one style that is like Reddit or my favorite IndieHacker that uses BBpress for Wordpress - I def would like to have that system for sure because I think it is worth to have data to be readable

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    btw, I'm just about to launch a Discourse forum - self-hosting it saves a bunch of money (for Ghost + Discourse regular hosting, it was $130/month... self-hosting is $15/month).

    also, I think @8bit might be working on something/have some thoughts to share.

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      i am working on a platform that will bring some similar features / workflows. for instance, i'm building a simple & fast platform that:

      1. allows website visitors to engage with the business & project owner in a friction-less way, using a simple widget we call the yidget.
      2. allows visitors to "unlock" more channels to go deeper into the community via paid access and/or invitation.
      3. business owners can create new channels, manage their growing community, get feedback on their project / product / service and allow members to engage directly with one another in a persistent and universally-accessible way.

      this is just our starting block.

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      Yeah that's 10x savings there! For a forum that's just launching, self-hosting works so much better. What is your forum?

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        yep, @dr did a wonderful job for me. It'll be live any day now, and available to my premium (paying) members.

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    I want to make it a paid forum as well. I'm currently not finding anything.
    This sounds strange to me, a lot of solutions. Or do you mean you can't find exactly what you want?

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      Right here are a lot of solutions but I'm looking for something open-source, that I can self-host, and has payment options. I'm going with Discourse and their Stripe payments plugin.

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    Could you self host Discourse? I’m pretty sure they have a "free" self hosted version. ahh, but that wouldn't do the payment part... hmmm

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      Yeah that would be cool if possible. I’m leaning toward open source and self hosting since I own the community more than Discourse or any other community platform. I feel uneasy with the idea that one day my community could simply disappear.

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    i also run a self-hosted discourse forum... it was the first iteration of this project. it has > 17k members! so, it's great. but, it definitely costs me quite a bit per month to keep up... a few hundred bucks honestly.

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      Wow 17k is a lot. Where were you hosting it at?

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    A self-hosted Discourse could be the answer using this Stripe subscription Discourse plugin: https://meta.discourse.org/t/discourse-subscriptions/140818

    A Discourse co-founder said just today in that thread:

    "This is certainly going to be an official plugin at some point, but it will not become an official plugin until more people use it.

    It is stable enough to start using."

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      Now the only question is, how to migrate the current date over to the new Discourse server? I guess there isn't too much to migrate over. If I even will migrate the data.

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      Looks like it is open source! This might be the ticket!

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      This looks interesting! Is a self-hosted Discourse server free? I mean minus the hosting costs of course. But do you need to pay for Discourse monthly to be able to self-host? Last time I checked Discourse is like $100/month.

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        The self-hosted Discourse software is free. You need a server (Digital Ocean, AWS etc), and a $10/mo server should suffice for most Discourse communities and plugins.

        The hosted version of Discourse is $100/mo -- and they take care of all the installation etc, but there are plugin restrictions.

        With self-hosting, you do the install and can run any plugins you wish. You have to maintain the server and Discourse for upgrades etc, but anyone with basic command-line experience can do this.

        The initial set-up (https://github.com/discourse/discourse/blob/master/docs/INSTALL-cloud.md) can be a bit tricky, but if you get all the email/SMTP and DNS set up first before starting, even non-techies such as me can get Discourse up and running. Always follow the official install instructions and don't bother with any pre-installed set-ups . Affiliates for Digital Ocean offer various deals for new DO customers (first 2 months free etc), so you could experiment with a cheap DO server just to get going at little cost.

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          @colcol Thank you for the info. I think this will be what I go with. It looks like it has everything I need!

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