Discourse is the 100% open source discussion platform built for the next decade of the Internet. It works as a mailing list, a discussion forum and a long-form chat room.

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Overview

Discourse
Discourse is the 100% open source discussion platform built for the next decade of the Internet. It works as a mailing list, a discussion forum and a long-form chat room.
2013
  • Real-time updates and notifications
  • Reply-while-you-read
  • Highly customisable
  • Inbuilt community moderation tools; incremental privileges based on user activity
  • Under continuous development by 10+ full-time developers
  • SSO supported out of the box
  • Potential to be extremely future proof and ahead of other platforms
  • Established migration scripts and processes for many of the key forum platforms
  • Rich and customisable user profile cards
  • Sophisticated anti-spam filters
  • Single flat forum
  • Mark-up based UI makes complex formatting difficult
  • The roadmap is strongly dictated by paid clients on enterprise plans
  • Frequent updates mean ongoing UI changes
Discourse

Pricing

1200.00
  • 0 to 1.2m: $1.2k
  • 1.2m to 6m: $2.4k
  • 6m+: Negotiated
Month-to-Month
Yes
Yes, get a free trial
50% discount for legally recognized educational instututions. 85% discount for legally recognized non-profit organizations.
None
  • Standard migration is included with the Business plan, custom migration with the Enterprise plan, with further customisation and data manipulation available through external agencies.: $ varies
None
None

Details

Both
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Login IP Ranges
  • Secure data centers
  • Continuous security penetration testing
  • Independent security penetration testing
Software warranty support
SAAS or On-premise
  • Canned Reports
  • Customizable Reports
  • Realtime data visualization
  • Supports Google Analytics
  • Omniture
  • Download CSV detail data
  • API for integration/selective exports
High
API’s available + pre-built integrations with other systems
  • Akismet anti-spam
  • Google AdSense / DFP
  • Cakeday — celebrate join date or birthday
  • Solved — mark a reply as the solution
  • Slack — real time chat notifications
  • Data Explorer — run live SQL queries and ad-hoc reports
  • Staff Notes — annotate user accounts
  • Canned Replies — automate common staff replies
  • General oAuth 2.0 and LinkedIn login support
  • Social sign-up (Google)
  • Social sign-up (Twitter)
  • Social sign-up (Facebook)
  • Social sign-up (Other)
  • SSO (native or 3rd party)

Notable Clients

Features

Analytics / Reporting toolsAutomated community tour for newcomersAutomation rulesBloggingCase ManagementDirectoriesDiscussions / Activity FeedDocument CollaborationDocument PreviewsDocument SharingDocument UploadsEvents Calendar with RegistrationGroups (Public, Private, Secret)Knowledge BaseMention by @name
Mentor / volunteer matchingMicrositesMobile AppModeration toolsPermissions configurable by rolePersonalizationPollsPrivate Messaging / NotificationsQuestions (with ability to mark questions correct)Ratings and reviewsResponsive designSEO friendly linksSpam control toolsTask Management

Customer Reviews of Discourse

Reviews Summary

Star Rating
4.4 out of 5
  • Wonderful moderation tools
  • Tons of great plugins
  • Very responsive to paid customer needs
  • Easy to theme and manage the look and feel of
  • Trust level is unique and meaningful without feeling game-like
  • Could use more sales focus, they can be a bit hard to buy from.
  • Support could be easier to navigate could use a dedicated support environment.
  • Training and Start-up help could be improved. Normal start-up training, consulting and guidance would be useful.
  • Enterprise outage management could improve (not bad but could be better)
  • The lack of automation rules, especially in regards to sending emails to members
* Taken from our most recent reviews

Latest Reviews

Person

Star Rating Discourse is our favorite forum so far!

I have used, managed and deployed many forum discussion platforms and Discourse, by far, was the easiest to move to, It has great features designed to focus meaningful member-to-member communication. ... Read Full Review

Person

Star Rating Advanced and Innovative Forum Software

When you compare and contrast platforms, the most important comparison is this: how advanced is this platform? You can use an iPhone or an iPhone X to browse the web, so they can both get a checkmark ... Read Full Review

Person

Star Rating Robust and flexible but difficult to analyze data

Discourse has served my company well for the past two years as a forum platform. It definitely shines when you prompt users toward open-ended discussion and sharing as opposed to stricter Q&A, tho... Read Full Review

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All Customer Reviews

Person

Star Rating Discourse is our favorite forum so far!

I have used, managed and deployed many forum discussion platforms and Discourse, by far, was the easiest to move to, It has great features designed to focus meaningful member-to-member communication. Our community administrators have a very simple environment to work and the moderators have all of the tools at their disposal to keep the forums clean and focused.

This is a small team or open-source minded people spread across the world, so some of the things expected from more cohesive companies may not be there, yet. This has not adversely affected us but we have had to adjust.

All-in-all we love Discourse.

  • Wonderful moderation tools
  • Tons of great plugins
  • Very responsive to paid customer needs
  • Easy to theme and manage the look and feel of
  • Trust level is unique and meaningful without feeling game-like
  • Up-time has been great
  • Migration was a snap from Jive Cloud
  • The team is awesome
  • Could use more sales focus, they can be a bit hard to buy from.
  • Support could be easier to navigate could use a dedicated support environment.
  • Training and Start-up help could be improved. Normal start-up training, consulting and guidance would be useful.
  • Enterprise outage management could improve (not bad but could be better)
Person

Star Rating Advanced and Innovative Forum Software

When you compare and contrast platforms, the most important comparison is this: how advanced is this platform? You can use an iPhone or an iPhone X to browse the web, so they can both get a checkmark for having that feature. But which one would you rather use?

In the same way, when you actually try using Discourse to create new posts, reply to posts, @mention users, create tags, etc., we have found Discourse to have a very elegant, intuitive, friendly solution.

Whatever platform you pick, be sure you demo it for yourself. Given the importance of this decision, you should insist that a company provide you with a live sandbox site for you and your team to evaluate before making a purchase decision.

  • Open source
  • Developer ecosystem
  • Responsive team
  • Advanced feature set
  • Constant innovation
  • The lack of automation rules, especially in regards to sending emails to members
Person

Star Rating Robust and flexible but difficult to analyze data

Discourse has served my company well for the past two years as a forum platform. It definitely shines when you prompt users toward open-ended discussion and sharing as opposed to stricter Q&A, though there are some interesting plug-ins that can help you move a bit more towards Q&A. Our users like the search functionality and the three-level hierarchy, which makes browsing posts quite easy.

As an admin, I appreciate the level of customization that is built into the admin tools and how we've been able to integrate discussions into the rest of our site. Our team has also had a really good experience working with the Discourse team. Our main points of contact respond quickly to our concerns, and the company is very transparent about what is in the works and wants to hear from its community, which means a ton!

We have had huge issues, however, with setting up a data pipeline so that we can do more intensive data analysis than is available through the data tools within the platform. Discourse Data Explorer is neat, but we really want to be able to view standing dashboards about forum user data. Unfortunately some issues with their API (e.g. making it hard to collect a user's full post history) have made it really complicated for us to merge forum user data in with user data from the rest of our site. The level of complexity of table joins required has bogged down data transfers, meaning that we don't have a sustainable, reliable, efficient way to do all of the analysis we would like to do.

  • Great for open-ended discussion
  • Multiple levels of hierarchy for post organization
  • Responsive support team
  • Lots of plugins available for customization
  • Some built-in data analysis tools
  • Good search functionality
  • Difficult API setup makes it hard to pull crucial data, like a user's entire post history
  • Not recommended for more Q&A-style interactions
Person

Star Rating Discourse as a tool for new communities

Discourse is an awesome tool especially for young communities and novices to community based learning. It was quick to get up and running.

  • The platform is quite useful because you have to think before posting
  • It is open source and relatively cheap.
  • . I think it can be better by providing instructions on its use. Some community members are intimidated to dive into it.
  • The posting of videos should be better customized to help with user experience. Especially if you are sharing audiovisual interactive media
  • Layout of posts can be better for organizing content
Person

Star Rating Best forum software

Discourse is definitely one of the best in class out there. We've started using it as a replacement to the mailing list and it worked really well because some members who preferred mailing lists could just reply to discussions via email.

  • Great community.
  • Responsive design.
  • Easier shift from mailing lists.
  • The ease with which you can paste images without having to upload it elsewhere and link it.
  • Default UI is boring white
Person

Star Rating Highly flexible and uniquely engaging

I've used Discourse to create a handful of communities and although they're wildly different, I don't feel like I have to hack or alter the platform in any way to accommodate them. Add in the gamified feel and I've found it easy to gather groups of people to have genuine discussion online.

  • Email for notifications and responses.
  • Flexibility in design to accommodate a variety of forum styles.
  • Users gain abilities as they gain familiarity with the platform.
  • Users are rewarded frequently at the beginning to encourage participation.
  • Admin and moderator tools give a lot of range in working with content and users.
  • Certain topic types (primarily AMAs) are sometimes difficult to follow.
  • Can be somewhat of a challenge to learn the ins and outs as an admin if you've not used it previously.
Person

Star Rating Get everything you need out of the box. For free

Discourse has got advanced community management tools, is easy to setup and update, and can handle thousands of active members on a relatively cheap virtual server.

Being a developer myself and spending a lot of time in their Meta Discourse community, I can see that the team behind Discourse consists of top notch engineers and thinkers. This is the best guarantee that the product will be well supported and will evolve and become better and stronger on a daily basis.

Because Discourse is Open Source, the team is focused on earning money on services rather then selling the platform. It is already very profitable and popular, which means there won't be any issues when the product is not sold well and the team cannot be paid in full to continue the development.

All these factors tempted me to try Discourse for our community of Ukrainian goat keepers. Even though it is a very tiny niche, we got to the point of being very successful in terms of community development — thanks to Discourse. So we keep using it and are happy of every aspect of this discussion construction kit.

  • Mailing list as core of the product
  • Mobile friendly out of the box
  • Very quick bug fixing by the core team and contributors
  • Easy to install and update
  • Integrates with CDN
  • Can backup to Dropbox
  • Very good oneboxing
  • Plenty of admin tools and stats that help manage community efficiently
  • Active community, with little "time-to-fist-reply"
  • Is already recognized and used by giants in many different IT niches
  • Still few good plugins available
  • The translation is still poor on some languages
  • As of today, lack of per-category moderation feature
Person

Star Rating The Ecstasy and the Agony

Discourse offers a refreshing change to forum software, with realtime responsiveness familiar in modern JavaScript apps, rather than the repeated page load after every action familiar to older systems. That even allows for chatroom scenarios with realtime updates, facilitating live discussions, AMAs and the like. Other features such as accepting Markdown syntax on posts also lends to the feeling of a modern and convenient user experience.

On the downside, though, the overall design and structure of this app does have that "designed by a developer" feel. From a user experience point of view, Discourse can be very confusing, with a lot of mysterious, unintuitive, labyrinthine design and functionality. New users are often flummoxed by the interface, how to post, and where to find things such as PMs, and even how to distinguish PMs from regular posts.

From an admin/moderator point of view, the confusion and mystery of this system only deepens, with many seemingly random and disconnected burrows of functionality, settings and procedures that are often opaque at best and bizarre at worst. Perhaps most alarmingly, there is no documentation at all, meaning there's nothing you can turn to for guidance on what all the confusing buttons are for or where to change settings (other than random forum discussions, which is a poor alternative). If you're a developer willing to dig into the source code, you might glean some of the logic behind the system, but many aspects will still remain a mystery. The moderation system is awkward and somewhat eccentric, with a confusing array of options that often do something other than you'd expect. So the only way to get some grasp on what actions can be taken and what effect they have is to set up various accounts and experiment with moderating them, following the various highways and byways of cause and effect. Even once you've documented all your findings, you're likely to get befuddled by those docs the next time you use them, as the moderation system never really fully makes sense.

Whether the creators of this app can eventually iron out all the weirdness of this system is hard to say (or whether they even desire to), but it desperately needs some UI/UX love, and a much clearer design and unity of purpose built into its various functions from the ground up.

  • - responsive, realtime app functionality
  • - good for live discussions (not needing page refreshes)
  • - uses Markdown
  • - lack of UI/UX design and unity of purpose
  • - messy and confusing moderation system
  • - lack of any documentation
Person

Star Rating Discourse is top of its class

Discourse is brilliant forum software, it’s packed with features I would never have even thought of and you have at team of genius developers constantly improving it.

  • Constant Development
  • Awesome features
  • Great support
  • Well priced
  • Really awesome features!
  • Great for admins
  • Very tidy interface and back-end
  • Restrictive for ad units/placement
  • Not much to modify in terms of look and feel (that could also be a PRO)
Person

Star Rating Best decision we could have made

Discourse has met our needs every step of the way since we integrated in September 2016. The capabilities this platform has has enabled us to provide better content for our members, and rope in appropriate individuals from inside and outside of our organization.

  • User tagging
  • Preformatted text
  • "Quoting" capability
  • Direct messaging
  • Robust backend analytics
  • STELLAR support team
  • Categorization
  • User profiles
  • Intuitive design
  • It looks a bit text-heavy when first arriving on the page
Person

Star Rating The Future of Online Discussion Now

The people that brought you the Stack Exchange platform have turned their attention to building a tool for Civilized Discussion. The results are impressive.

  • Fully Open Source: All code freely available.
  • Vibrant support community.
  • API enables integration with other platforms and automation with scripting.
  • Development team is responsive to needs of customers.
  • Extensive library of importers make transition from other platforms relatively easy.
  • Users can download all of their own data.
  • Upgrades easily through web interface.
  • Fast-moving. 3rd Party plugins can break with upgrades.
  • Using Markdown to format messages can be off-putting to some users.
Person

Star Rating Flexible, open-source and modern

Discourse is a departure from traditional forum platforms in both appearance and functionality. Its open-source nature makes it highly extendable via plugins (both official and 3rd party) and the ability to access/edit CSS/HTML, email templates and text content make it easily customisable.

  • Modern, clean, accessible UI
  • Highly customisable
  • Excellent built in moderation tools, including those that allow the community to self moderate
  • Excellent product support (including a busy developer community)
  • Ongoing development
  • Mark-up based composer window can make complex formatting difficult
  • Ongoing upgrades sometimes mean retweaking customisations
Person

Star Rating Robust forum with great tools

Discourse is a favorite among community managers for the simple reason that it works really well. What you lose in individuality you make up for in back end tools like Discourse’s community empowerment flagging system.

Like a pair of zippered cargo pants, it may not be sexy, but it works.

  • Post flagging by the community
  • Spam fighting
  • Category and group sections
  • Robust admin area that tracks activity
  • Open source
  • Plugins
  • Difficult to adjust the look without CSS or backend edits
  • May need a Discourse Dev to mold to your exact needs
Person

Star Rating Discourse does the hard work for you and helps you be a better community manager.

Discourse founders really thought through a lot with this platform and it's features. From their badges and gamification, moderator tools, and metrics, they really thought it through and did the hard work, so you don't have to! They will make your job as a community manager easier, and I even learned about how a good community, and forum, functions from them. They have a great forum where you can find plugins, or get support. They have a great, responsive team and are always improving. One of the founders, Coding Horror, really know's his stuff about community and building. HE didn't just design things, because. Everything has a lot of thought, science and data behind it. Which I appreciate it. It's also super easy to use and learn, and beginner friendly. But, you can get nerdy and customize Discourse to make it fit 100% what you want/need. They are open source, so you can really make it what you want and have fun improving it, creating your own plugins/features, or installing a 3rd party plugin!

  • It's the best. Hands Down. I've used Discourse for 3+ communities now and it's my #1 choice, for startups and big companies/brands as well. It can scale, has great customization features, has all (or most) community features you'd ever need and is affordable.
  • They have great bones, and encourage customization. If you're not ok to learn some of the mechanics, or are not technical, it may be hard to setup. But, they have great packages to help and a responsive community.
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