It’s 2015 and phpBB update breaks your Styles and Modifications – Maybe It’s time to move your Forum to Wordpress

phpBB 3.1 update bombed it

Here is what phpBB 3.1 update did to my mods and styles

It’s unbelievable.

It’s 2015, and after almost 15 years, the new phpBB update from 3.0 to 3.1 still requires a full overwrite of your site files – including removing all mods and styles. Automatic updates which came with 3.0.x doesn’t work with 3.0.x to 3.1.x upgrade, so you have to do it all manually.

But it’s not only that – phpBB 3.1.x templating engine is incompatible with 3.0.x, so therefore all the nifty styles you had for your 3.0.x board will not work with phpBB 3.1.x.

It doesn’t stop there either! It has been ~3 months since release of phpBB 3.1.x, and the repository of styles, style packs released for 3.1.x is only this much.

Style Development Guide says that ‘most of’ the new templating engine is compatible with 3.0.x, so by reading the differences in between the new template engine and the old one, you ‘can’ make your 3.0.x style work with 3.1.x ‘with some effort’.

So, all supposed automation, modding, templating systems which were released with 3.0.x have just gone to bust – all the updates, modifications, themes you have done, you will have to redo, ‘with some effort’.

But of course, not ‘some’ effort. Leaving aside the number of support requests and forum topics for ‘No uninstalled styles detected’ error which happens when you try to use a 3.0.x style with 3.1.x, the amount of 3.1.x compatible styles released in almost 3 months can easily tell you that it’s considerable effort.

At this point it probably sounds a bit crazy to go about upgrading your phpBB 3.0.x forum to phpBB 3.1.x. And it actually is, with all the effort that is required. Losing modifications, styles and all that.

But you can’t stay with 3.0.x either. Since 3.0.x has vulnerabilities, and more may come in the following months.

What to do?

Well, since phpBB is going like this, breaking long time modifications, backward compatibility and still requiring manual updates/patches in 2015, maybe it’s time to move to another forum software.

Good candidates are Wordpress Forum Plugins, which can provide as good forum features as phpBB, MyBB – a forum software which had had a plugin system and a hook system for plugins to use with since a long time and which can be made auto-update through plugins, Simple Machines Forum (SMF) which has auto install/uninstall of plugins.

From among these i’d go with a good Wordpres forum plugin, or at the least MyBB.

The idea is to go with a project that does not break backward compatibility this drastically. Or at least one which doesn’t break your mods, or at the very least your styles and style customizations.

With Wordpress and a decent Forum plugin, it’s totally safe since the plugin would be using common and standard wordpress functions for its functionality, and will keep functioning through upgrades. It’s possible to come up with minor compatibility issues, but for big Forum plugin projects, these are fixed within days without you needing to do anything – then its one click upgrade from Wordpress admin menu and that’s it.

Why all this criticism? How should it have been?

Really – take a second and think – its 2015. Many open source projects – leave aside proprietary – have proven that backwards compatibility, automatic updates, patches, and standardized functionality is possible. At the least, through usage of hooks or other mechanisms, its possible to avoid breaking mods and plugins being used on a site. A massive and long-standing project like phpBB should not be breaking customizations, styles and mods as if it we are in early 2000s.

A forum community dev should not be going about working hours on end to redo the mods and styles a new update of forum software has broken. This time should be spent to develop functionality and mods for the forum itself – added value, not break-and-repair.

There can’t be justification for totally breaking an entire major version of boards, leave aside the new version ending up with a few available styles months after release – due to template engine change.

If your templating engine change is going to break all the existing templates for a major forum software, don’t change it… If you have to change, do it in a way in which it wont break all the existing styles.


I’ve been using phpBB in numerous forums i have set up and run since 2003. After this point, there is no way for me to keep using phpBB anymore, due to unreliability of keeping modifications and even styles you have acquired for my forum.

Don’t get me wrong i had a good run with phpBB, and i’m very thankful to phpBB project for all the service that was been given. phpBB is a good forum software if not for the lack of easy to install and use plugins/mods, and the unreliability that comes with such break-all updates.

But after this point, in ’21st century’, there is no way in hell i will go with a project which is not reliable with mods, leave aside themes. I’ll go with Wordpress + a good forum plugin instead.

Your opinion may be different. All comments are welcome.