I often get so buried in what I'm doing that I forget how important it is to explain why I'm doing it. Vanilla is a remarkable product that can do amazing things, and I could spend weeks upon weeks explaining all of the bells and whistles in detail, but it probably wouldn't convince you that Vanilla is the product for you. Vanilla doesn't exist because other forum platforms are bloated pieces of junk that are difficult to use and impossible to administer, it doesn't exist because we believe in open source, it doesn't exist because we love programming, and it doesn't exist because we love intuitive and beautiful design. All of those things are true, but Vanilla exists for a different reason entirely.
Why did we make Vanilla?
I wrote the first line of Vanilla code because I needed a platform that empowered and fostered the culture of the community that I was running. As I developed it, I realized that the one consistency across all communities is that they are unique.
We see it every day at VanillaForums.com: Every community that joins our hosting platform is completely different from the previous. Everything from their design; to their feature wish-lists; to their verbage and slang is completely different. When a new community joins our platform, it is like discovering there is another new world of people with a culture uniquely their own that we never even knew existed. As a company we find this thrilling and awe-inspiring.
Vanilla today is able to achieve the idea I had so many years ago: not a one-size-fits-all community platform, but a community platform that engages with a multitude of cultures and peoples in ways that makes sense to them. We continue to build upon what we have with Vanilla in aid of that goal.
Why is it called "Vanilla"?
In order to build a platform that makes sense to a specific community, you've got to tear down all the walls and start from scratch with the "Vanilla" or "simple" version. Only once all the noise is out of the way can you start to put the pieces that make sense for that community back in place. So, you start with the "Vanilla" community, but end up with something much more - only you and your community will fully understand what that is, but luckily we've got a lot of experience helping people get there.
We have many, many ready-made options available for a community manager looking to engage his community the Vanilla way, but at VanillaForums.com my favourite clients are the ones who come in with lots of new ideas for their community and a fair budget for achieving them. In the last 3 months alone we've built out custom features for gamer communities, Apple enthusiast communities, hip hop communities, and even a Korean pop-culture community. Every one used Vanilla in totally different ways, and every one had completely custom features developed that surprise and excite their users in ways that drive engagement through the roof.
There isn't a single person working at Vanilla who doesn't understand and believe in this vision. We've all experienced it, and it truly feels like magic. It's what makes working at a company like Vanilla so damn fun.