When JavaRanch started there wasn't any forum software available that was based on Java technology. For many years, the JavaRanch forums ran on the Perl/CGI-based Ultimate Bulletin Board (UBB) software. Over the years, we modified UBB a lot until it fit just right. It might not be pretty -- none of us are what you'd call real skillful in Perl -- but it sure was comfy. It worked, and when something ain't broke, well, then you need to think long and hard about fixin' it. When you look at the pros and cons, moving to new software just for the sake of moving really isn't very compelling. Most of the reasons mentioned on those occasions don't even begin to make up for the risks involved.
Even so, it always bothered us that we weren't using a Java product for our forums. Sure, the main site runs on JSPs, and our blogs and wiki are both Java software developed by members of the JavaRanch staff. But the forums are the heart and soul of this place, and we knew that some day, they'd run on Java too -- so we could hack on it even more!
It's been a long hard road. We talked about it for years. Now and then somebody would propose to make adopting new forum software a public project. It always went the same way: somebody complained, a staffer would say it's a lot of work, somebody would do a Mickey Rooney "Let's have a show in the barn!" , there'd be a brief discussion, then everybody'd disappear.
Before 2008, there were at least two major, serious attempts, and several more minor ones, at customizing an available product to meet our needs. These attempts all failed for one reason or another: the software didn't scale, or the data migration was too difficult, or we couldn't get used to the feature set and couldn't figure out how to change it. In the end, each time, we decided it was best to stick with what we had. But each time we tried, we learned something, and the next time was a little easier.
In early 2008, a magical, cosmic alignment took place, and the right team and the right software came together at just the right time. These folks did a metric boatload of work figuring out how to migrate all 2 million messages from UBB to JForum, and a million and one ways to modify JForum to do the things we need the Saloon to do. They toiled for months and months and didn't give up. And so I can sit here in December 2008, after almost a year of work, and say with a straight face, that in just a few days, JavaRanch is going to run on 100% Java. No foolin'.
So therefore, the NewForumSoftware is finally here. It's based on JForum, but it's modified pretty heavily. We've added a lot, taken a bit away, and changed all kinds of stuff around. Although it didn't quite feel that way to us at first, we made it feel comfy, just the way we like it. We'll be contributing some of our changes back to the JForum community, if they want 'em. But many of the other changes are unique to our peculiar tastes. We've diverged quite a bit from stock JForum, and won't necessarily be tracking their development in the future.