Member SpotlightProgramming & Design

Interview with Kier @ XenForo

This article was first posted on our blog on 19/09/2010. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.


On behalf of forumpromotion.net, I have had the pleasure to interview Kier – one of the most talented forum software developers in the world – about his brand new software which has smashed the current commercial forum software market, with just a preview of the first Alpha of XenForo.

Thank you so much Kier, also considering the huge workload you have on you at the moment.

What inspired you to create a new forum software?
There has been a trend in recent years for forum software to diversify and add more and more features while allowing the core functionality to stagnate. The fundamental basics of forum software needed to be brought up-to-date, to bring it inline with peoples’ expectations of today’s web applications. [more] We believe that our new software, XenForo, has the capacity to reinvigourate communities by allowing them to rediscover the simple pleasure of posting messages though a polished, modern interface.

We’ve focused on a modern UI and engaging features to keep visitors on your site for longer, and to inspire them to return. By building on top of our new application framework, we are to develop very quickly and reliably, and in turn modification authors will enjoy the same benefits when plugging-in their own functionality.

How do you think XenForo compares to rival softwares such as vBulletin or IPB?
That’s a somewhat difficult comparison. Both IPB and vBulletin have a big head-start on us in terms of the range of features they have built-in over their years of development. On the other hand, by virtue of being completely new, XenForo has the advantage of being designed for the way people want to use the internet today, rather than being encumbered with legacy functionality that was designed for a market that existed ten years ago.

XenForo seems like a healthy mix between vBulletin and IPB – was this intentional?
We haven’t gone out of our way to copy either, though by virtue of being a forum system we obviously share our core functionality.

Starting out on our own has required that we work very quickly and concentrate on what we consider to be the most important and valuable functionality. In a number of cases, we have looked at features that have been built in previous years and decided to drop those features as irrelevant to the market in 2010, or to merge several features together to make an overall more useful system.

What are your thoughts on vBulletin 4 and Internet Brand’s development on the product?
It’s no secret that my team and I were committed to a complete rewrite of the vBulletin code for version four and were waiting to get started on it since the release of vBulletin 3.6. Internet Brands management believed that the rewrite would take too long, favouring instead an approach that kept the 3.x code in place, which they believed would result in a product being brought to market sooner. Who can say what the situation would have been like today had the chosen approach been different.

Would you say you have learnt from vBulletin 4’s mistakes?
Absolutely. It’s been an education.

How easy will it be to convert our current forums to XenForo?
We don’t have a convertor for phpBB yet – given our background, a vBulletin converter was our highest priority, but I can say that the importer does a good job of matching up data from vBulletin with the corresponding XenForo fields. It also has two additional features which should make the import go as smoothly as possible.

Firstly, although XenForo has its own method for storing passwords that differs from that used in vBulletin, and IPB etc., XenForoo has the ability to specify a different authentication scheme on a per-user basis. Therefore, if we import a bunch of users from another system, we can store their passwords as they were stored in the imported application, and then use the authentication method of that system to verify them when the user attempts to log in to XenForo. As a result, users need not lose their passwords when being migrated to XenForo.

Secondly, we have a script that can pretend to be the old application, and 301-redirect requests for content on the old forum to its new location in XenForo. This means that visitors arriving at your forum via search engines or bookmarks will not find themselves at a dead page, and should help to preserve page rank for the content in question.

How easy will XenForo be to style and mod for?
The styling system has been one of our highest priorities, as making styling as easy as possible for novices while not getting in the way of experts is a guiding principle. There is a lot to talk about, and we will soon be doing a Have you seen… post describing some of the things customers can expect in version one.

XenForo is built on very solid MVC principles. I have already built three applications on top of the framework for my own personal purposes, and creating them was a joy. Although working with fully object oriented code is definitely a step up from the procedural scripts that some plugin authors may be used to, I think that with a little user education on our part and a willingness to try out new things on the part of the community, we will see some truly great add-ons of a quality not seen before emerge from the community. We already have the support of a number of highly influential developers from the modification communities of other forum software – they say they can’t wait to get stuck into XenForo.

Where do you see XenForo in a years time?
Within a year, XenForo will have certainly seen its first major version release and may even have seen its second or third, depending on how quickly we iterate and the nature of the new features and API changes we develop.

We hope to have a significant number of licensees running successful sites, both those who have migrated from other forum software, and brand new communities. We expect to see some very interesting things coming out of the modification community as those developers who are using the system to its fullest introduce the fruits of their labours.

In terms of the core product, We expect it to retain its ease of use and focus on user experience and quality features as we extend the scope of its functionality. We certainly don’t want to clutter the intuitive and graceful user interface with controls and icons and gadgets for infrequently-used functionality. A prerequisite of a feature making it into XenForo is that it must have a great UI and be pleasurable to use.

Could you give us a clue as to how the pricing details will be?
XenForo will be priced competitively with the leading commercial bulletin board solutions. The exact prices will be announced when they are finalized, but right now our priority is the software not the finances.

What methods should new webmasters use to promote their forum?
The same guidelines apply to running a site and promoting it as apply to writing good software. Keep your focus narrow and concentrate on doing a few things really well rather than spreading yourself too thinly and doing a lot of things in a mediocre fashion. Engage with and foster your enthusiasts, and they will do your promotion for you.

Will you be implementing a CMS, or blog system later on?
Given the demand that has been shown on our forums, I would have to say yes, I expect that there will be. The difficulty with a CMS in particular is pinning down exactly what people really want. The definitions of ‘CMS’ as far as customer expectations seem to range from a simple article publisher to a tool that would allow you to build your own Amazon.com with a point-and-click interface. For the time being, our focus is on the forum functionality and ensuring that it provides best-in-class performance and user experience. Once we have nailed that, we will start looking at branching out.

Congratulations on creating such a marvelous piece of software. I can see already the huge potential in this. Thanks for the interview. :)

Thank you very much, and thanks to all the people posting on XenForo and making it such an engaging place to be right now. We are looking forward to once again our software running on sites all over web once XenForo goes on sale.

Want to see it for yourself? See XenForo for yourself here – http://xenforo.com/community/

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