After 4 years, the phpBB team have finally released an update to their forum software. phpBB 3 Beta 1 was released last night. There is a list of new features at area51.phpbb.com and you can download it at the bottom of the development page.
Bloat and Configuration
The main thing I notice about phpBB 3 is that they are playing catch up to the other bulletin boards. As a result, phpBB 3 contains a ton of bloat and crap which has probably been implemented simply because other forums have it. I can’t see why anyone wants to be able to configure the minimum and maximum username/password length or why anyone would want to be able to display the fact that Google is currently crawling the forums on the "Who’s Online" list.
Features such as these make the new phpBB admin interface a lot more cluttered and it’s much harder to complete some of the basic tasks a forum admin might want to perform on his/her forum every day. Take a look at the following screenshot for sheer banality:
I don’t have half a clue what these options do – there is no preview, no information on what they do and why anyone would want to configure these settings in the first place is beyond me. Administrators simply want a CAPTCHA to stop bots. They don’t want to be able to decide whether their captchas are composited, have cells or how much entropy pixel noise there is.
For me, CAPTCHAs are one of the worst "improvements" in phpBB 3. I’ve posted a couple of examples of phpBB 3 CAPTCHAs before and they are absolutely terrible.
One of the best things about phpBB 2 compared to IPB and vBulletin was that the Admin panel actually made sense and that a normal administrator could actually work their way through the admin panel and get their job done. The admin panel shouldn’t be the home to geek toys and it should not ask the user to configure things they really don’t care about.
I’m sure there are plenty of nice features in phpBB which are long awaited but I had difficulty finding them. This is my first time using phpBB 3 and it took me great difficulty to even find the Personal Messenger and then the button to send a message! (I expected there to be a send message button in the content area of the inbox). Then when I got there the crazy people at phpBB decided that there wouldn’t be a text box where I could enter the name of the recepient in. Nooo! Instead, there is a "Send to" box in the sidebar (which I wouldn’t look at unless I wanted to navigate the User CP) and there is a different text box to use depending on whether I wanted to send it to one person or multiple people.
I can’t help but think all the major bulletin boards are getting it very wrong. Normal people don’t want more features, they want improved usability and simpler interfaces. Office 2007 and Firefox have shown us that. phpBB 3 makes an active effort to get in the way as much as possible and make your forum life as unpleasant as possible.