Best Discourse Alternatives, Competitors & Similar Software (2023)
It's time to stop juggling tools and start building an empire.
As community platforms become more popular for businesses, you might be looking for a platform that helps create an online space for your clients, members, or students to interact. And in your search, you might have come across Discourse.
Discourse is a forum platform. It's built to help people create communities and have discussions online. You can reply to posts, add your own thoughts, and help expand the conversation. You can also add a logo to the platform, but that is the extent of what you can do for branding.
Although Discourse might be great for community building, it might not be your best option. So if you're looking for a change from Discourse, or you're just not satisfied with it, this article is for you. We'll go over some of the best alternatives and show you where Discourse falls short.
Why should you look for Discourse Alternatives?
If you want to sell digital products and also have a functioning community, you'll need to use two different tools. Discourse can't do both. This might create some inconvenience for you and your members.
Discourse does not have features like the Community Coin System, Coins for Actions, or Leaderboards. Additionally, it's not possible to use Discourse to host virtual events such as Live Classes, webinars, or other events.
Discourse's lack of customization options means you'll have to work extra to build a strong brand. You will need to use various plugins to add features such as chat integration and subscriptions. You can create a community calendar, but none of them are natively supported.
Best Discourse Alternatives to Try
Scenes is an ultimate community platform that helps you build a robust community where you can sell your courses and host live events, webinars, and live streams. Scenes offers the best community features through which you can moderate, manage, and monetize your community all in one place - with your brand appearance, under your custom domain. Scenes can also generate a whitelabelled mobile app and list it on the Play Store/App Store.
- High level of customization: You can plug in your domain, add your branding, maintain the brand's colours, and even copy/paste your exact UI (via custom CSS). Scenes is an absolute "brand-consistent" platform.
- Built-in store: A built-in store allows you to sell courses, information products, digital goods, merchandise and even membership tiers. Plus, you pay the lowest transaction fees compared to all other similar platforms.
- Push notifications on mobile: When more than 60% of global internet users are on mobile devices, your members must have access to the community on the go. Push notifications via a mobile app ensures that your users are engaged regardless of where they are.
- Available across in multiple formats & avatars; be it a web app under your domain, a native whitelabeled app on Android and iOS, integrations within your existing app or API-based integrations.
- Auto Scaling across platforms - Scenes uses powerful auto-scaling technology to keep your community blazing fast no matter how many visitors you have across all devices. They scale as you scale.
- The only platform that enables custom CSS for top to bottom granular-level user interface customization. You can make your community look close to your app/website's UI.
- A built-in coin system lets you incentivize your community members to engage more.
- Live audio-video features for your events, webinars and live classes where all your members can get notified and RSVP.
- You will lose some members during the platform migration process.
Discord barely needs any introduction as a community tool. Originally intended to be a text/voice-based group-chatting platform for gamers, Discord has broken the mould to house all kinds of communities. Think of it like a less-serious version of Slack. You have channels, role systems that enable you to restrict access to specific/all members and incentive systems (boosts).
- Interact via live/audio video and text-based channels with community members.
- Assign roles to restrict access to specific channels or to introduce status-based hierarchies within your community.
- Reward valuable social behaviour among your community members through Badges (a gamification tool).
- Starting price is $4.99/month for Discord Nitro Classic and $9.99 for Discord Nitro.
- A free version of Discord is available.
- Discord has unlimited file storage.
- Discord allows audio calls to up to 5,000 concurrent listeners.
- Discord allows you to make Public and Private channels.
- Discord has a limited group video-calling capacity with a limit of as low as 25 members.
- Discord works well for starters, but when you hit scale (500+ members), you will find that it is not at all customizable - no whitelabeling, no branding and no support. As a result, you don't have 100% ownership of your community.
- Discord does not provide valuable in-depth reporting and analytics that enables you to take critical decisions to steer the community.
Slack is where workplace communication happens. As a tool designed for collaborative workflow, Slack allows team members to put forward their ideas or concerns and get them heard whenever they want. It's a one-stop shop for work-chat that integrates with typical web applications like Google Drive and Dropbox.
- The thread features allow effective communication between team members by tracking every new conversation.
- Create public and private channels to allow for team-based collaboration and communication.
- Supports all kinds of rich-text formats and media, including images, GIFS, file uploads, bulletin and numbering and more.
- Paid Plans start at $8.75 per user/mo.
- The free Plan includes access to 10,000 recent messages, ten integrations with other apps, and 1:1 voice and video calls.
- Works best for improving workplace communication and efficiency between teams.
- Extremely intuitive interface, rich with features with plenty of integrations with other products.
- Works seamlessly for remote teams all around the world.
- Slack is a great workplace tool but nothing close to a community-building platform. The entire tool is optimized to improve collaboration over email.
- The paid Plan is expensive for community builders, starting at $8.75 per user monthly. That is ~$1000 if you have a community of 100 members.
- No gamification tools to incentivize your community and no ability to white-label your community in terms of domain, branding and appearance.
- Scale a community without chaos or complexity
- Gather your community under your own brand
- Build a business, without the burnout
- Only Mighty has data from hundreds of thousands of thriving communities cultivated over the past five years.
- That’s how we know things like the optimal price to charge for a monthly membership, or how much content you really need to build your first online course.
- We share these learnings with you and more through Mighty Community and Mighty Insights™, the deep analytics and benchmarking you get with Mighty.
- Slower to reach ROI
- More Expensive
- Dangerous for public communities
- Adding live streams to your community can make it more alive. You get access to audio rooms where you can keep track of your community member’s interests and involve them in discussions.
Vanilla Forum is a cloud-based community forum software that is also open source and community-supported. It offers features for community building, customer service, and sales engagement.
Vanilla Forums Features
- Vanilla Forum has a great communication management feature. It allows product manager to control discussion threads and offers the ability to merge or close thread as well.
- Vanilla has reinvented forums, and you would also expect a premium one at that. Vanilla was designed with a sleek and modern user experience that is easily comparable to any of the top content management systems on the market today.
- Vanilla can be set up so only registered members can log in, which makes the community private. You can decide if new registrants require approval before being awarded member status and you can delegate approval to moderators.
Vanilla Forums Pricing
- Starts from $689.
- Free version available.
- They have a great method for voting on the quality of posts.
- Very good gamification capabilities.
- It has a great API and we utilize this for badging our FREE, PRO and EDU users as well as providing access to our private EVP programs
- The API development has been slow but they have recently pushed out their new V2 but prior to V2, there were some inefficiencies in doing some automated user management.
- User management: pages often requires refreshing in the browser after changes have been made. It is not the most intuitive system although does the job.
- The editing functionality isn't in logical places for Admins.
Podia is a platform that lets you build a free, no-code website and sell your online courses. With Podia, you can create a business from anywhere in the world with zero fees or start-up costs.
- Connect your audience and your content – You can host an online community in the same place that your audience uses your digital products.
- Community – In Podia, you can create a community that works like a forum or Slack. The design is clean, and the workflow is simple.
- Course Features – Using Podia, you can quickly create lessons and quizzes.
- Paid Plans start at $39/month.
- It has a free version.
- You can offer your audience webinars using YouTube Live and Zoom with Podia.
- If you want your website to look professional and run smoothly, you do not need to be tech-savvy or have coding knowledge.
- You can connect your payments, scheduling, and sales pages all in one place in minutes with Podia.
- Podia does not have a mobile app if you want to build courses that will be accessible on mobile for your members.
- Podia doesn't offer in-depth lesson reports if you're interested in knowing how impressive your course is. Only some basic information about student progress is provided.
- To assess your students more effectively, Podia lacks open-ended questions. The use of multiple choice questions is not suitable for all courses.
Thinkific is a digital course creation platform where educators can curate online courses for their students. In addition, they offer competitive LMS features that let their customers run online courses effectively.
- Assessments & Certificates - Offers comprehensive quizzes, engagement surveys, assignments, exams and certificates.
- Progress Tracking - In-depth reporting to track student progress.
- Live Lessons - Deliver lessons via live audio/video and let your students engage with you in realtime (via Zoom integration).
- Paid plan starts at $39/month to $399/month.
- The free plan includes access to all the core features of the platform.
- Easy-to-use UI that makes running courses on Thinkific all the more seamless.
- A very prompt support system responds to customer queries and problems and comes with an active Facebook group filled with Thinkific customers.
- You can design the access portal, the courses, and the payment methods all in one interface without needing third-party integrations.
- Not built for community engagement - in 2023, an LMS is not enough to successfully run courses. Thinkific lacks critical community features like gamification and incentive systems.
- Cannot manage multiple cohorts under the same roof - this may constrain you as your courses start scaling and diversifying.
- The pricing is slightly more expensive than alternatives and confusing for some.
Tribe is a Whitelabell community platform for businesses. It is famous for its customizability and integration capabilities. Primarily, Tribe is built for text-based conversations using features like forums, polls, etc.
- The UI is easy-to-use and comprises customizable blocks called 'spaces'.
- It offers powerful rich-text features to format and deliver your content how you want to present it to your users.
- A moderation panel that lets you manage your community smoothly and efficiently.
- Paid Plan starts at $59/month.
- The free Plan includes 100 total members, essential apps, and a custom domain.
- Offers a white-label community with a good level of customizations that lets you match your community aesthetics to your brand aesthetics.
- Has widgets and APIs that let you integrate with several third-party applications.
- Has a generous free plan that lets you house 500 members (without the Paywall feature, however).
- More of an old-school forum-based tool rather than a full-fledged community platform with real time-communication features like live audio/video.
- It lacks an incentive system and gamification features necessary for community engagement. Your users need incentives to engage.
- No built-in shop/paywall system that lets your users buy products from you, such as premium memberships, courses, and the like.
SamCart courses is an e-commerce platform for creators. It allows you to create and sell courses, offers, templates and digital products on a single platform. You have complete control over your pricing, content, and branding.
Samcart Courses Features
- Drag & Drop Builder - You can add anything you want to showcase about your product. No coding experience is required to design pages.
- Pre-Designed Templates - You can easily create an attractive website with customizable templates to help you start selling.
- Conversion Rate Optimization - Optimization can be applied to every page on your site, making it easier to improve conversion rates.
SamCart Courses Pricing
- Pricing starts at $49/month.
- SamCart courses offer free trials.
- The affiliate management setup is very simple and easy to use. Each product has an affiliates option that can be enabled or disabled.
- Building sales pages and the checkout process for the customer are convenient and easy.
- You can easily add Google Pay and Apple Pay to the check-out flow, making it easier for your customers to pay.
- Due to SamCart's lack of an autoresponder, you cannot use your lists to send reminders, so the entire email process must be handled manually.
- SamCart's customer service is lacking, leaving customers with unanswered questions.
- Email marketing and website builders will require you to utilize multiple tools, which will take your time and effort.
LearnWorlds is a learning management system that lets course creators create online courses. Using LearnWorlds, you can create student communities and sell online courses.
- Offers gamification tools such as badges so that you can acknowledge efforts & promote good behaviour.
- In-built shop for highlighting the details of your courses and selling them all in one place.
- A broad range of assessment tools to help the educator & the students measure the learning progress.
- Paid plan starts at $24/month (billed annually).
- LearnWorlds offers a free 30-day trial.
- You can create student communities in LearnWorlds so that your members can share their experiences, ideas, and learnings.
- Students can interact with your course content through LearnWorlds' course builder and enjoy a blissful learning experience.
- LearnWorld's live online classes encourage your students to have interactive sessions and discussions among each other.
- LearnWorld's interface is difficult to understand, and there are no tutorials that can help you get started.
- Regarding email management and funnel-building tools, LearnWorlds does not offer as many options.
- In LearnWorld, users complain that many features do not work when courses are published, making the learning experience less seamless.
- With LearnWorlds, you need too many integrations and more management, distracting you from your business activities.
Passion.io is an easy way to create a mobile learning platform for your online courses. You don't need any coding experience to create a fully-customizable learning ecosystem. Passion.io features pre-built tools like video, gamification and social sharing that are guaranteed to grow your community of users very quickly!
- Offers seamless orders & subscription plans.
- Provides easy payments and payout.
- Provides a hassle-free drag and drop option.
- Build interactive courses with pre-built templates or design your own from scratch.
- Simple to use interface.
- No coding or technical worries.
- Not affordable for everyone.
- Due to lots of features, it may take some time to be familiar with Passion.io
- The drip content feature is not available in the Pro plan.
Kajabi is a platform that enables educators to run their online courses and manage their students in one place. Moreover, Kajabi also offers a mobile app to allow your users to access courses on the go (however, it is not a native white-label app)
- No bandwidth or storage restrictions - Upload all of your videos, photos, and other files without worrying about space or bandwidth limitations.
- Fully-fledged LMS capabilities let you run your courses and manage your students seamlessly.
- Integrated checkout - Accept payments from anywhere in the world using Stripe or PayPal and give instant access to your content behind a paywall.
- Starting Price is $119/month.
- Kajabi offers a 14-Day free trial.
- Kajabi has rich-text and media features that let you upload all kinds of content into your online content library.
- You can track lesson progress, view grades, and get detailed analytics on how well students digest your content.
- Kajabi offers your prospective students free trials to taste your content before rolling them over to become paid customers.
- Kajabi is one of the most expensive solutions out there when it comes to LMS + community platforms.
- It lacks good customer support and offers minimal options to customize your course community.
- You have no native branded mobile app; your students will have to download the Kajabi app to access your content.
SendOwl allows creators to sell their digital products and manage the entire order and payment process, from creation to delivery. In addition, it gives businesses control over their e-commerce operations by offering features like customizable sales workflow, flexible shipping options, automated invoicing, invoice management and analytics integration.
- SendOwl provides a shopping cart processing system so that your customers can purchase and add more products to their virtual shopping carts at their own pace.
- You'll be able to reward your valued loyal customers with thoughtful perks, like giving access to a private chat room, forum, or community.
- Affiliate marketing - Ask your brand advocates to help grow your customers base by making recommendations and referrals to their friends. In return, they’ll receive rewards for being instrumental in the growth of your business.
- Starts at $9/mo.
- Free trial available.
- The SendOwl delivery system offers fast and safe delivery, so you don't need to worry about getting your products to your customers on time.
- You can have your extensive affiliate program to increase the sales of your recent course or any other product.
- The checkouts and email templates can be customized to match your brand.
- It takes a great deal of time to understand SendOwl's complex features and go through a learning curve.
- There is no discussion forum where your members can ask any questions on Sendowl.
- The absence of community groups on SendOwl makes your website uninteresting and reduces member engagement.
The PeepSO plugin is an easy way to add a social network or an online community to your WordPress site. It is extremely light, free and it looks great on any device. You can connect with your friends, share photos, videos and much more.
- You can automatically create a corresponding Post on Community Stream when a new blog post is published.
- WordPress blog posts can be reacted on and commented on. Comments and reactions are synced with the corresponding community posts.
- Provides live On-site and Email Notifications.
- Dashboard with an Overview of Your Community and statistics.
- Configure your entire community navigation from one place.
- Built-in security configuration, preventing brute force attacks and more.
- Peepso expect customers to go into a testing-phase to find errors that the plugin causes the site.
- It is not user-friendly.
- Plugins are buggy.
Disclaimer: To curate the pros, cons and reviews - we mine the internet for customer references regarding the said software. Some of our sources include Reddit, Product Hunt, Twitter & Quora (and sites like G2 & Capterra).
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