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Developer(s)Internet Brands, vBulletin Solutions
Initial release2000
Stable release4.2.0 [edit]  (May 22, 2012; 9 months ago (2012-05-22)) [±]
Written inPHP
Operating systemCross-platform
PlatformPHP / MySQL
Available inOfficial support for English and German, but generated content can be user-modified to support any language
TypeForum software
LicenseProprietary, commercial
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Developer(s)Internet Brands, vBulletin Solutions
Initial release2000
Stable release4.2.0 [edit]  (May 22, 2012; 9 months ago (2012-05-22)) [±]
Written inPHP
Operating systemCross-platform
PlatformPHP / MySQL
Available inOfficial support for English and German, but generated content can be user-modified to support any language
TypeForum software
LicenseProprietary, commercial

vBulletin (vB) is a proprietary 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.[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 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 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]

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 4.2.0, and the latest beta is 5.0.0 beta 19.

vBulletin 1 and vBulletin Lite

vBulletin 1.1.0a was released on 25 April 2000.[7] 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 2.0.0 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:

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:

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:


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.

RedPre-release beta versions
GreenSupported stable branch
BlueFuture versions
VersionRelease dateNotable changes
5.0.0 beta 11 [1]September 25, 2012Initial pre-release
5.0.0 beta 13 [2]October 8, 2012Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 14 [3]October 16, 2012Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 15 [4]October 24, 2012Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 16 [5]October 29, 2012Sitebuilder updated
5.0.0 beta 17 [6]November 5, 2012Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 18 [7]November 13, 2012Minor upgrade
5.0.0 beta 19 [8]November 19, 2012Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 20 [9]December 4, 2012Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 21 [10]December 11, 2012Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 22 [11]December 20, 2012Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 23 [12]December 26, 2012Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 24 [13]January 8, 2013Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 25 [14]January 15, 2013Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 26 [15]January 22, 2013Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 27 [16]January 29, 2013Bugfixes
5.0.0 beta 28 [17]February 7, 2013Bugfixes
5.0.0 []TBA'Gold' release
5.0.1 []TBA

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 varoius 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 vBulletin.org. 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 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.[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. 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[citation needed]. 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 Non-disclosure Agreement.[30] On 13 October 2009, Ray Morgan announced a new vBulletin.com website, new vBulletin licensing structure, and pricing, all of which were largely identical to the leaked May 2009 documents.[31] 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.

On 23 October 2009, The vBulletin.com website was upgraded to the vBulletin 4 software including a new splash page and FAQ. vBulletin.com was down for 28 hours during this upgrade. When the site returned, it remained sporadically inaccessible due to high loads for several days.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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]

Controversy over Google AdSense integration through vBulletin.com

When installing vBulletin 4 and using the AdSense integration provided by vBulletin.com, 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]

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]

See also


  1. ^ "VBforums.com". VBforums.com. http://www.vbforums.com/. 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. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/28/vbulletin_controversy/. 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". Bbc.co.uk. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10714192. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  5. ^ "Internet Brands claims against Xenforo". Vbulletin.com. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?363883-Internet-Brands-claims-against-Xenforo. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  6. ^ Metz, Cade (2010-11-04). "Forumware giant vBulletin sues ex-devs (again)". The Register. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/04/vbulletin_sues_xenforo_again/. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  7. ^ "1.1.0a – Very soon now!". Vbulletin.com. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?169-1.1.0a-Very-soon-now!. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  8. ^ "vBulletin 2.0.0 Released". Vbulletin.com. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?17464-vBulletin-2.0.0-Released. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
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  12. ^ "vBulletin 3.7 First Look! – vBulletin Community Forum". Vbulletin.com. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=249460. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
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  36. ^ "Vbulletin.com". Vbulletin.com. http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthread.php?355438-Release-4.0.4-PL-1-Permissions-bugs. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
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