Question and Answer forums are a lot like cupcakes. They come in different flavors with various toppings, but they are all basically the same thing. Stackexchange was the first to go big and create their own network however they no longer offer a subscription service or allow you license their software to hose your own Q&A Site. So if you’re interested in hosting your own free Q&A site, here’s the 6 best free platforms available today.
(Listed in no particular order)
Shapado is an open source Q&A site running on Mongo and Ruby. The development team seems active, and they offer free hosting on their subdomains. For now, the service is free but it does appear that it will be monetized in the future. Shapado seeks to mimic stack exchange’s network capability. Supports federated login.
OSQA is open source and runs on Django. Of all the open source and free options, OSQA is the most polished. It is also a free replica of the enterprise Q&A CMS QATO. Features Open ID and federated login.
3. Lamp CMS
Lamp CMS is open source and runs on MongoDB and PHP. While not differing much from the pack, Lamp CMS does bring a unique focus on social network integration.
Coordino is open source and runs on PHP and MySQL. It packs fewer features than the other and doesn’t offer open ID or federated login, but does have the unique aspect of allowing users to post anonymously. Another plus is that Coordino is one of the easiest Q&A platforms to install on your own server. A new version is due out sometime in March 2012 that is rumored to vastly improve this Q&A engine.
Askbot is open source and runs on Python and Django. It’s very similar to OSQA and even shares some of the same code. Askbot offers a free trial for hosting, and paid hosting afterword. Like the others, it can also be installed on your own server for free.
6. Q&A WordPress Plugin
If you run your own WordPress site and want a dead simple Q&A solution, just use this plugin. It requires WordPress to run and integrates directly with your site.
Have you tried any of the above Question and Answer engines for your site? Which one do you like the best? Voice your opinions in the comments section below!