Why was Discourse chosen for this forum? Not worried about old phones?


I like the the modern yet simple feel of Discourse, but as I look for a forum platform for my own site, I was scared away from Discourse because it doesn’t work on phones older than Android 4.3+ (2013) for both browser & app, which is 12% of the 2017 Android world and probably higher in the areas with slow internet where we want to use Rachel. (I couldn’t find OS version by country.)

Old phones can participate in forums via email. Some forum posts talked about a read-only html version for old phones but I could not determine if that was implemented.

“Discourse is being designed for the next ten years, not the last ten. It’s only just getting started and isn’t really ready for the “mainstream”. If you’re audience is using old technology, then you should probably use older forum software.”
July 2015 discussion post 1

“That trick is not going to work on a large number of very old phones. All they get is a white screen. We do work on quite old phones though, but slow and buggy” – co-founder
July 2015 discussion post 1

(Unverified & could be fixed by now, but I read a posts thinking that it also might have heavier data use and another that features like attaching photos don’t work on phones with only 1 GB of memory.)

Before getting too committed to Discourse, I suggest testing it with people who are in potentially problematic areas. (If you expect them to participate in these forums.)



Hi Brian - we were totally unaware of this. We do see most of our in country conversations happen via WhatsApp, email, or Facebook groups. We had previously tried MUUT but the lack of structure really turned folks off. What else have you looked at?

I only started by website 2 weeks ago, so I have only done a cursory review. Since I am using WordPress, I will probably start with BBPress even though my first impressions are that it feels outdated and lacking features.

Ultimately, I would like something simple for new tech users, that my users are likely to use elsewhere or (perhaps dreaming) would create their own forum in, so Google Groups or Communities would be an obvious choice since anyone with an Android phone has a Google account, but Google Groups feels so outdated and Communities isn’t really a forum. The Indonesian government offers a Moodle site for schools, so I wonder if I could use that but haven’t tried it (and my first impression is that it’s quite complicated for K-12 teachers who are new to technology.) (Or a LMS that could be installed on Rachel??)

Ideally, users could have a single sign-on for my WordPress site, MediaWiki and forum. It appears that the venerable phpBB could do that.

I would love to know which ones work best on old browsers & phones and are relatively light in data use. The obvious answer to that is probably using an old system such as phpBB but I don’t know for sure.

I also would like to be able to zip the forum to a searchable archive and provide it on the Rachel, so that offline users have the same access to information as the online ones, but that’s not critical.



FYi, I have been using wappalyzer Chrome plug-in to see what technology is running the websites that I visit.

Interesting – I knew Discourse took a modern approach, but I didn’t realize it cut off that many users. We chose it because we saw it working well for other communities in our field. We’ve had a few false starts with forums already, so we wanted to go with something we saw people embracing elsewhere.

One question we should answer: how much is this forum aimed at end users vs. deployers? A talk Jeremy and I had noted that most of our end users don’t participate in forum discussions anyway – as he mentioned they prefer social media apps. So I think this forum is mainly aimed at deployers?

Some other options we considered:

Simple Machines – compatible old-school style
Vanilla Forum – a little more modern, still fairly compatible

There was also some competition for Discourse-type boards in the form of NodeBB and Flarum, but both seem a bit less developed than Discourse, and not as popular.

I wanted to avoid disrupting people with migrations down the road – so I chose something I hoped would be a bit more “future proof”. But perhaps that was the wrong way to look at it – maybe we needed to be more “past proof” :slight_smile:

No perfect solution. Really depends on the users. Old phones can participate via email.

Discourse is crisp and clean. I like the pop-up notices that might help prevent repeat posts.

BRCK (Kenya) is using Discourse, so presumably since it works for them, it will work for you too.