Over the years, ProBoards' free forum hosting service has evolved both as a company and as a service. As a service, a necessary component of that evolution has been the continuous improvement of our forum software. Below, you'll find descriptions of ProBoards software iterations as they've progressed to their current state.
Beginning with an overview of ProBoards' greatest achievement, the ProBoards v5 platform, we'd like to offer a glimpse into a few of the message board developments that have endeared us to millions of ProBoards users. While many of the advancements described below are still employed in our current software, others have been replaced by newer, more functional features.
With the development of the new v5 software, ProBoards ushers in the next generation of online message boards. Through the integration of cutting-edge AJAX, Web 2.0 technology and all the traditional tools of a full featured discussion forum, users can now enjoy a much more interactive and intuitive experience.
- Plugins — In v5, users will be able to create and share custom forum features as "plugins". The new plugins development tool allows users to create components, complete with user configuration preferences, and share them with other forum members. Then, when a forum owner wants to add features to their forum, it's as simple as installing an app.
- New Avatar Creator — Generally, when joining a new message board, new members don't have ready-made avatars. The new flash-driven avatar creator in v5 allows new forum members to create entirely personalized and unique images for their new profiles.
- Activity Notifications — In v5, members can set personalized notifications and receive links directly to postings where others have "liked", "tagged", "quoted" them, and much more. Moreover, as members respond to notifications, message board owners will see increased participation in their forums.
- Hotkeys / Accessibility — This latest iteration of ProBoards award winning software is built for ease-of-use and accessibility. In v5, we've incorporated a collection of new hotkeys to speed up routine tasks and provide quicker navigation throughout the forum. Moreover, members with disabilities can now engage and interact within forums more easily thanks to improved screen-reader support.
- Theme Creator / Customization — Now all forum owners will be able to easily create and swap new themes/skins for their forums whether they're newbies or seasoned administrators. In v5, no coding or graphic arts degrees are necessary to add unique visual flavor to your forum.
- AJAX Powered Search — As the volumes of topic-specific information are a key feature of online forums, we are adding an AJAX driven data-mining tool to v5. Using the enhanced "live search" tool, results will update as you type your query, greatly facilitating the location of elusive information buried in the forum.
- Next-gen forum moderation tools — Enables message board moderators to communicate privately about issues that may require action. Moderator input is stored in protected areas which can then be reviewed, discussed and acted upon by fellow moderators once a consensus has been achieved.
- Scrolling Action Bars — v5 will see the addition of a scrolling action-bar keeping important controls in sight and readily available. Regardless of how deep you get into a thread, the action bar will remain affixed to the top of each page enabling quicker engagement, management and navigation within the forum.
- Advanced Posting Editor — As ProBoards users revel in personalizing their message board contributions, we're including the most advanced post-editor available on any existing forum software. Supporting CSS advanced style sheets, the v5 editor allows for the creation of truly unique posting options.
- Template Editor — In v5, the new Template Editor allows forum administrators to control how forum pages display to users. The powerful controls in Template Editor provide access to a wide variety of design features where forum administrators can add functionality to pages or rearrange page elements to suit their preferences.
- Global Login — With a single email, users will now be able to manage multiple unique profiles and join new message boards with just a few clicks. Logging into multiple separate forums will also be greatly simplified using a single identity.
- Enhanced Privacy controls — With the v5 enhanced privacy tools, members can opt for increased anonymity and control who can "follow" their activities or, who can communicate with them as they participate in forum discussions. Members even have the ability to render their profile invisible to all except those they choose to interact with.
- New Mobile Website — Since so many of you now use mobile devices to access your forums, we're launching a state-of-the-art v5 mobile site to support forum activities when you're on the go. With v5's super mobile-friendly design you can create topics, make posts and interact with other forum members as though you were at home on your desktop.
- Shoutbox — The new v5 Shoutbox enables forum members to carry on live-chat conversations with other members as they navigate throughout the forum. Regardless of which thread you're browsing, you can continue reading and responding to member comments in the Shoutbox located at the bottom of the forum.
- New Activity Feeds — Staying connected with interesting friends is one of the many benefits of joining an online forum. With ProBoards activity feeds, members can view friends new postings, follow topics they participate in, read posts they "liked" or, just stay current on a variety of pre-selected discussions.
- 'Like' System — For social media enthusiasts, we've added the much requested "Like" system. Now you can "Like" contributions from fellow forum members as well as have others "Like" your input. Moreover, when others "Like" posts you've submitted, you'll receive notifications of the "Likes" and who submitted them.
While the improvements prompting the development and eventual 2008 release of ProBoards v4.5 were mainly performance upgrades to the "back-end" of the software, the over 20 feature additions were also warmly received by ProBoards forum aficionados. Select notable enhancements are listed below.
- New Subboard Permissions — Allowed for all subboard posts to appear (or, be hidden) in parent board.
- Password Request — The ability to request a forgotten password by email address was restored.
- Revamped Poll System — Admins could now lock polls at a specified time or, hide results until members voted or poll was locked. Polls could also be added to any existing thread. Also allowed members the ability to select multiple answers or retract their votes.
- Increased Post Size — Character limit in posts gets increased from 25,000 to 60,000 characters.
- Improved Personalization — Color gradients could now be automatically generated for your forum.
- Improved Reporting — Report to Moderator' link now displayed at the bottom of posts. Moving forward, moderators will now had quick access to view posts reported by users.
- New Thread Sorting — Allowed members to organize threads in a variety of ways to facilitate viewing (by subject, thread creator, replies, views or, post order). Threads could now also be viewed 'either way'; oldest/newest, newest/oldest, largest/smallest, smallest/largest etc.
- Vastly improved speed — On post & member searches. Also, member lists could now be searched in any order.
April 30th, 2005, with over 100 new features and enhancements, v4 represents another quantum improvement in message board software and sets the bar as the gold standard in free forum hosting. Hosting over 1 million active forums, ProBoards firmly establishes itself as the leader in free forum hosting on the Internet.
- Birthday Notifications — Member birthdays were now automatically added to the calendar and displayed in the info center on their birthdays.
- Spell Check — Who doesn't love spell check!
- Streamlined Viewing — Members could now choose to see (or not) people's signatures or avatars when reading threads.
- Community Calendar — Members could now post directly to the message board calendar.
- User Activity — When viewing forum threads, clicking on the number of replies brings up a window showing which users had participated and how many posts each person had made.
- Be Invisible — Users could now go into "invisible mode" when logged into a message board.
- Beefier Profiles — Registration date, last login date, and location now showed in members mini profiles.
- Bookmark Threads — Members could now bookmark threads for quick access from their profile screen. For each bookmark, they could can specify whether they'd like to receive a PM, an email or, no notification when a new post was made in the bookmarked thread.
- Who's Online — A "who's online" box was added to the bottom of every message board.
- PopUp Alerts — Members could now choose to get pop-up message alerts when they had new PM's.
- Personalization — In addition to naming member groups, users could now choose their own custom titles.
In constant pursuit of excellence, after yet another complete software rewrite, February 5th, 2003 ushers in the newest iteration of ProBoards hosting software. v3 boasts dramatically increased processing speeds as well as the addition of over 30 new features, some of which are listed below.
- Search/Member Search — Members could now search for each other by IP or registration date. Also, the forum search function efficiency was increased about 2-3x faster than it previously was.
- Expanded Storage — Forum members could now post up to 10kb per message (2x more than before!)
- Assignable "Powers" — Primary "admin" users now had the ability to assign specific "powers" to other message board admins and moderators.
- Improved Censor — Censored words now remained censored when users click "modify" or "quote"
- Mark your Calendar — A Calendar was added for posting forum related events!
- Improved Customization — Setting default fonts combined with improved header/footer functionality, as well as the ability to customize all images on the board, allowed for greatly increased personalization.
- Quick Login — A quick login box was added to the home page for message board guests
After rebuilding the forum software from the ground up, v2's release in June of 2002 proved that ProBoards' commitment to providing the ultimate free forum experience on the internet was unwavering. Below are some of the more notable improvements.
- Improved Access Controls — When creating or editing a board, you could choose who could read that board. New v2 access controls provided the option to block guests from reading boards until they after registered. You could also prevent new users from signing up, thus giving admin sole discretion over who could create a new account.
- Mass Messaging — Forum administrators could now out a mass message to all members of your forum via the Mass PM link in the admin area.
- Improved Search — Searching for specific message board content got much easier and more powerful with the improved v2 search tool.
- Background Images — v2 also provided the ability to specify a background image for your message board.
- Improved Moderation Tools — If a post got locked, administrators and moderators could still edit posts and reply to topics with the improved v2 moderation tools. Only regular members got locked out.
ProBoards Free Forum Hosting officially launched January 1, 2000. When Patrick first began coding ProBoards back in 1999, he probably didn't foresee it growing to be one of the largest sites on the Internet. Below are a few of the features that attracted early message board enthusiasts.
- Create a Read-Only Board — Don't want anyone posting to your message board except you? In v1, forum owners could control this with the "Read-Only" feature!
- Easy Administration — The step-by-step help guide in the administration area mades the task of running your board as easy as possible.
- Profanity Filter — If you wanted to have offensive words "bleeped" out, all forum owners had to do was turn on the message board profanity filter.
- Show IP Addresses In Posts — When a forum user posted, you could have their IP address shown below their name.
- Show Date/Time of Posts — When viewing your message board, you could choose if the date and/or time was displayed next to the person's name who posted the message.
- Integrated Layout — In v1, members could integrate their website's layout into their message boards making it appear as though visitors never left their homepage.
- Set Time Zone — You could choose any time zone for your message board without being limited to having a certain time zone like most other services.
- Customizable Fonts & Font Sizes — You could also set message board fonts and font sizes in a snap!
- Ban Jerks — Someone being a jerk on your message board? In v1, banishing troublesome members was accomplished with a couple clicks!
- Run Multiple Boards — Members could run as many as five different message boards using our service and each could have its own unique layout. You weren't limited to one layout for every board.
- Customizable Colors — All the colors on the message board were customizable to complement the color scheme and layout of your website.
- Leave Links in Posts — Allowed your visitors to add a link to the bottom of their posts on your message board.
- Run Multiple Board Types — Also with v1, you could run a password protected board and a board open to all users. How about a "Read Only" board open to everybody? Or, how about all three different types? All of these options were possible in v1 with a single message board account!
- Leave Images in Posts — Allowed users to insert an image along with their forum posts, which got displayed at the top of their post.
- Search Option — Empowered visitors to search your message board quickly to find what they're looking for.
- HTML In Posts — Let your visitors use HTML to customize their posts on your message board.
- Email Notification for Replies — If you wanted to know when someone replied to one of your posts, you could get an email each time someone did this.
- Email Notification for New Posts — You could also receive an email whenever a post was made to your message board so you'd always know when people were visiting your board.
- Expanded Posting — Way back in January of 2000, ProBoards' very first message board offering supported up to 250 posts (which was a lot for the time)! When the posting limit is reached, posts were automatically removed from the bottom of the board as new messages are posted.
- Password Protection — You could password protect your board so only permitted individuals would have access. You could also allow unlimited access to your protected message board.