The OpenFAQ Collaborative Frequently Asked Questions System

Or, "How to let a whole bunch of people collectively maintain, improve and update a 'Frequently Asked Questions, with Answers' document, allowing the editor to maintain his sanity, while still maintaining editorial control and thereby preventing spam"

Copyright 1998, 1999, Boutell.Com, Inc.

Permission granted to use this information free of charge, under the terms of the GNU Public License, version 2 or later.


This is a work in progress. As much as I hate the words "under construction," I have released the source code in a somewhat less than ideal state, with little documentation, because many people asked me to do so sooner rather than later. Your understanding is appreciated. I do plan to clean up the source, add obvious improvements, and complete this documentation.


For years I maintained something called the World Wide Web FAQ. I had a great time with it, and certainly benefited from the notoriety it gave me; but eventually I didn't have time to maintain it well. Like most people in that position, it took me years to admit it and even more time to come up with a reasonable solution.

I could have searched for a new maintainer, but there was no guarantee that the new person would find the task any less overwhelming in the long run.

I realized that the best solution was a collaborative system, allowing any interested party to become a contributor to the document.

Downloading the Components

For your convenience, you can right-click the following links and choose "save link as" in order to pick up a copy of the current "web browsers OpenFAQ," which you can use as a starting point for your own OpenFAQ system. This archive is in .tar.gz format:


This file is also available by anonymous FTP from in the directory pub/boutell/openfaq as the file openfaq.tar.gz.

Installation Notes

There are various references to directories, people and email addresses at the start of the Perl scripts in openfaq.tar.gz. Of course, you must change these to suit your purposes. The "authors" directory must be a password-protected directory, and a sample .htaccess file (which is used on our server) has been provided as part of openfaq.tar.gz. Note that newcomers can get passwords issued to them, which are delivered by email. The point is to cut down on abuse of the system: users must apply for an account from a valid email address in order to get a password at all. Even though all submissions must be approved by the editor anyway, and this is clearly stated, it is my experience that people spam the FAQ with advertising just in case it's only a bluff. Requiring a valid email address provides a point of contact for the reading public and raises the potential cost of posting junk to the FAQ.

If You Have Problems

Read this document. Then read it again. Then read the Apache manual, or the manual of your web browser. Then make sure you can use CGI programs at all before sending email. Don't email us asking why your web server doesn't want to allow any CGI programs to run. That is between you and your ISP. Finally, make sure you have Perl 5. If you are sure you have tried everything, you can send email to Tom Boutell (

Security Note

Considerable care has been taken to ensure that the script is secure. Nonetheless, no warranty is made regarding the suitability or safety of this code. It is always a good idea to examine the source code of Perl scripts yourself before installation.


By Thomas Boutell.