As the world gets smaller, security threats and spam seem only to grow. PhpBB is the open source Internet Forum package that underlies a majority of the online forums on the Internet and its creators take their motto "creating communities" very seriously. All communities need to interact freely and safely, and although a long time coming, the latest release, phpBB3, has several increased security measures, as well as enhanced collaboration features and mobile optimisation.
Computerworld Australia catches up with some key players behind the software: Henry Sudhof, Adam Reyher and Meik Sievertsen. They discuss the development process they use, the latest phpBB release and what they are doing to address the growing wave of spam and security threats.
Is there any way to guage how many people use phpBB? Henry Sudhof: For Open Source software that is a very difficult question to answer. We can't just count the sales as the competitors do, but have to rely on indirect metrics. Then the definition of "users" is somewhat ambiguous, as the people visiting phpBB-based pages are our users in a very real sense. Also, there is the matter of other projects built on the basis of phpBB, which also contribute to the user base.
[In terms of the] metrics, we usually only hear from the forum administrators who are seeking support, but we have a very impressive number of downloads from sourceforge (about 16 million) which does not include people downloading the package from other sources, and Google tells us that we are well in the million-servers ballpark. Few surfers can claim that they never have visited a phpBB [site].
Something people also sometimes do not get is that we are not a host. phpbb.com is the home of the software, where people can get support, mods, styles, participate in development, etc. but we do not host any site. Therefore, we do not have customers in a business sense.
Quite a few forums, including phpBB-based ones are struggling with spam, such as www.supportforum.com.au . Is this a common and growing issue and what can people using phpBB do to prevent this problem?" Henry Sudhof: Spam is a very serious problem. The sad fact that around 90 percent of the email traffic is caused by spam these days is very telling. With commercially available tools for spamming Web community applications around, it is no wonder that spammers start using them as a channel beyond email. phpBB is not alone with the problem. The authors of these tools target all the major players.
As such, we have measures in place to stop automated scripts - so-called "Spam-bots" - from signing up. In this field it is an arms race between us and the vendors of the spam-bots. We can't go too far there, as we need to keep the registration easy-to-use; we don't want to lock humans out.