Talkin bout Area51

Posted by battye in Development with the tags , , , , on February 25th, 2009

No! I’m not talking about military bases or U.S. conspiracy theories, but rather phpBB’s very own Area51 –

Area51 is phpBB’s official testing ground, and as stated on the site it is the home of “bleeding edge developmental code”. The site was established in 2001 – the brainchild of psoTFX, the former leader of the development team, in order to have a local installation of phpBB that they could test in a real life situation. With the main forum obviously out of the question, can be used so that the developers can see how the latest code is holding up with many concurrent users online, without fear of users becoming annoyed if certain features aren’t working (which I will touch on in a minute).

Area51 boasts the unique feat of hardly changing at all and always changing at the same time.

On the one hand, its purpose has remained constant for the last decade. The Area51 homepage, like in 2001, is based on phpBB development and links to pages such as the coding guidelines, features and various documentation.

On the other hand, Area51 is forever being updated in terms of using the latest developmental version of the phpBB software. In the lead up to the release of Olympus especially, the site was constantly changing. Area51 isn’t updated so often now, probably only every few weeks on average (less than!) but the number of updates fluctuate, and will increase as a new version approaches and more code needs testing. The developers now like to use Area51 as an “initial testing ground”, a place to test and tweak code before it is committed to SVN. Area51 is the ideal place to do this, because if a feature is broken or error messages appear, it doesn’t affect too many people, unlike the forum which is used for support, discussion, customisation downloads, etc. So if you go to Area51 at some point and find things aren’t working, don’t panic! The feature may still be a work in progress.

Once the code has been tested and is stable it is committed to SVN, where it is then used live on the main forum.

Area51 is still running on the phpBB 3.0.x SVN, and it is likely to stay that way for at least the next 6 months or so until it is updated to use the 3.1.x SVN, which is currently too unstable to use.

Why should I register on Area51?

Area51 is the backup board for If you had been to over the past week or so (at the time of writing) you will have noticed a message redirecting you to the Area51 board. A temporary support board for phpBB 3.0.x and MODs/Styles was set up at Area51, and this will happen if there are ever any extended periods of downtime for the main forums. For this reason alone it is not a bad idea to have an account at Area51 – as it is on a separate server to, it is unlikely that the two sites would experience downtime simultaneously.

In the lead-up to the release of phpBB v3.2 “Ascraeus”, Area51 will act as a place where you can test out the new version – just as people did in the lead-up to phpBB v2.2, later v3.0 “Olympus”.

What are the important links for Area51?

Area51 homepage
Area51 development board
phpBB coding guidelines
Code documentation

Area51 used to be a place where you could download CVS snapshots of the latest developmental release. phpBB has recently switched to SVN, and the SVN repository can be found at


Thanks to Acyd Burn, Development Team Leader, for providing information about the history of Area51.

9 Responses to “Talkin bout Area51”

Posted by A_O_C on February 26th, 2009 at 8:00 am:

Wow, you learn something everyday (I didn’t know Area51 was up that long). Nice job!

Posted by Dog Cow on February 26th, 2009 at 4:41 pm:

I still remember when I first found out about Area 51, went there, and was disappointed that it didn’t share the same users table as, so I had to register another account there.

Posted by Eelke on February 27th, 2009 at 10:01 am:

Is there any kind of guideline as to what discussion goes on and what discussion goes on area51?

Posted by The Phantom on February 27th, 2009 at 1:53 pm:

Only “six months or so” before it will be updated to phpBB 3.1.x ? I thought it’ll take longer than that…

Posted by Meow on February 27th, 2009 at 2:25 pm:

Why does the main page remain the old look?

Posted by Pony99CA on February 28th, 2009 at 8:53 pm:


One of the first rules of writing is defining your terms. The article mentions “SVN” several times without ever saying what it is.

I assume that it’s the Subversion code control system, but the article should have said that.

@Dog Cow:

It would be nice if Area51 shared the user table with phpBB, but synchronization would be difficult. If Area51 only used the registration scripts, it would have also been down during the last hacking outage. If they replicated the table, they’d have to synchronize people who registered directly at Area51 with people who registered at


Posted by Happeh on March 1st, 2009 at 12:55 pm:

“On the one hand, itโ€™s purpose has remained constant for the last decade.”

“it’s” shouldn’t have an apostrophe – your sentence says “On the one hand, it is purpose has remained constant for the last decade.”


Posted by wGEric on March 1st, 2009 at 7:59 pm:

Happeh, fixed. Thanks.

Posted by themanatphpbb on April 23rd, 2009 at 2:43 pm:

when can we expect some information or a alph/beta release for 3.2??

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