Jun 20 2010

VBulletin Forum 4.x Bugs: My Cold Anger

Category: Articles,VBulletinFractalizeR @ 8:58 pm

I’ve met VBulletin forum engine several years ago. It was some 3.6.x version. I loved it from the first sight. It’s neat plugin architecture, which allows a user to install plugins without changing any VBulletin file made me happy. A huge plugin repository at www.vbulletin.org made me even more happy because I now could do with my forum EVERYTHING I want. VBulletin 3.x code was so nice and easy to read, that I could site and write everything I wanted, that is absent on vbulletin.org repository. And I wrote some plugins indeed.

My happiness lasted until VBulletin 4.0 was announced. I was surprised by price increase for VBulletin license, but I accepted that and upgraded to Suite license to make use of CMS. I waited for VBulletin 4.0 Gold like hell. On 21 of December 2009 my wish came true. VBulletin 4.0 Gold released.

I disliked it’s page style from the first glance. Many people did the same. Jelsoft or, Internet Brands (whatever the owner now is, I don’t care) told, that this 4.x style was designed by third-party professional company. I don’t care. It sucks. They also told me, that 3.x style was designed by VBulletin creators themselves. Praise them!

I decided to upgrade my 3 million monthly hits forum to 4.0 at the time it released, but, luckily, I cared to read forums, saying, that it’s buggy all over and we need to wait. I waited. And waited. When 4.0.2 was out on 17 February 2010, I couldn’t wait any longer. I upgraded it. I thought: if VBulletin.com is running 4.0.x now, why can’t I? I regretted my decision almost immediately. Of course, half of my user base complained about bad-for-eyes style. I started to search for third-party styles because VBulletin Solutions (or, again, whatever the owner of VBulletin now is) didn’t care to appreciate their customer’s desires and to create a standard style, that would look at least similiar to 3.x one we all love and got used to. After some time I installed selected styles to forum.

Upgrade problems started after the first upgrade from 3.x. My forum used custom forum state icons. It’s the default VBulletin option everyone can use without any plugin. Upgrade script don’t care about converting my existing icons to a new format (gif->png + strange name changes) and I ended up with a holes on the main page where my icons supposed to be. Upgrade script did many decisions without asking me, actually. For example, it activated that shiny new (and buggy, of course) attachment manager. I disabled it. Pages were looking unprofessionally disguising because of unaligned buttons and broken styles. But in some time with some PLs it was fixed at last.

My attachments sometimes disappear into nowhere, pages sometimes load like lighting and sometimes up to 10 seconds is needed to move a thread or to give an infraction.

With 4.0.4 upgrade I breezed with fresh air. I thought, my problems solved with over 400 bugfixes in this new update. I guess, VBulletin is now the King of Bugs with these numbers of bugs. Ok, I rolled out 4.0.4 upgrade without reading forums first. Upgrade script was broken and kept redirecting me on the page never existed (one level up it should be located). OK, I manually entered the correct URL and started upgrade script. I was ought to manually correct URLs about 8 times during upgrade process. But at last it finished. I opened forum and… I stumbled over the fact, that user profiles are broken. Since it’s weekend these days, VBulletin team is sleeping and don’t provide any quick updates or PLs or whatever. I was ought to fix that manually using instructions from forum.

I was trying to enter members area and suddenly realized, that it no longer allows me to save my password and login. User complaints on the subject were answered, that this is done for the sake of security.  Security! I wonder, what fool will press Save password on a public PC? Ok, I installed FireBug, turned on autocomplete on page on-the-fly and saved my password. BTW, you can’t change your password into something more simple or something you are used too. Security? Right!

I am tired of the mess of this new VBulletin version. I made some screenshots from the VBulletin bugtracker for you to enjoy:

I was shocked by the statistics… I am tired of VBulletin. I will never recommend it to anyone. I will never install it on any new forum. At least until bugs there are fixed. MySQL earned a reputation once for not making a final release until there is no single bug left in the software. With VBulletin it seems, it will never be the case. Since the time VBulletin creators left the company, that purchased it, I felt something will be wrong… It is now.

VBulletin code quality also lowered from my point of view. It looks like someone was going to release VBulletin 5 after VBulletin 3, but was forced to release 4.0 in the middle and left it incomplete. We were promised MVC architecture for the whole forum, but got nothing with 4.0. What we got, is updated style, that is now CSS-centric (big thanks at least for this), new useless attachment manager and… what else? Ah, CMS… CMS with over 250 queries on home page? No, thanks. I will wait… may be it will take devs no more than year to reduce the number of queries? Then I wait…

If you are deciding about forum engine to use, skip VBulletin. At least for next year, please skip it. If you need CMS – go after Drupal, Joomla or WordPress. If you need forum – go after PHPBB, Simplemachines or… whatever…

Many bugs are actually ignored by the team if even in Critical state. For example, this bug of mine is ignored for one and half month already despite of the solutions to it posted by the community which could be just taken into code. The bug is Scrubbed (reviewed by VB team but never fixed or assigned to somebody to care). And there is not only me complaining about this.

What really surprises me, is the fact, that paid subscriptions are still not working. So, if you are making money from giving someone access to your forum sections (paid support or whatever) and you upgraded to at least 4.0.2… gotcha! What would you do? You have a choice between the frying pan and the fire: stick to over-bugged 4.0.x before 4.0.2 or upgrade and… and what?

What surprises me a lot more, is that none is posting something like “Known Issues” to the each service release. So, if you didn’t search forums to ensure that feature X is not broken in shiny-new 4.0.z release – you are on your own. Stupid you!

None of the VBulletin team said “Sorry” for this 4.0.x half-a-year nightmare. You know from Elton, that “Sorry is the Hardest Word”. This is true with VBulletin.

None cares about notifying developers about changes in the hook mechanics. And this is strange because plugin developers made VBulletin popular by allowing it to be customizable in many ways.

Many customers want to switch to V3 version of forum. I would like to review this opportunity. Just care about this way can be buggy…

Ok. I have more to say, but I am tired of writing. I liked VBulletin and I hope in some time outstanding problems will be solved, but… there is no come back for me. I will look for another company, that will not make a good product disgusting just because it wanted to make some money from their users. I am still operating v4 forums because I have no other choice. But I will think of some other solution for others.

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