If the social network is the next message board, the social network has been waiting for its phpBB or vBulletin; the software that would give thousands upon thousands of people the ability to easily set up their own social networks.

Now the social networking market may have that. WordPress, the most popular open-source blogging platform, can now be turned into a fully-fledged social network.

That's thanks to a sister project called BuddyPress, which was officially released in production release form yesterday. BuddyPress is basically a set of plug-ins that sit on top of WordPress MU, the multi-user version of WordPress.

With BuddyPress installed, a WordPress MU install is transformed into a social network with the standard social networking features, including profile pages, private messaging, friends, groups, an activity stream and forums. Status updates and photo albums are planned for later in the year.

While there are other open-source options for building social networks, such as Elgg, it's hard to beat WordPress' robustness, its developer community and its brand.

Does the release of BuddyPress change the social networking game? Sort of. Major social networks have nothing to fear. As Matt Mullenweg points out:

I don’t think BuddyPress will be something you use instead of your existing social networks, I mean all your friends are already on Myspace, but if you wanted to start something new maybe with more control, friendlier terms of service, or just something customized and tweaked to fit exactly into your existing site, then BuddyPress is a great framework to use.

But BuddyPress does appear to be a real threat to hosted social network providers like Ning, which hasn't always had a pleasant relationship with some of its users (and developers). It's also a threat to companies that license social networks, especially the ones that charge hefty licensing fees for the type of functionality that is now free with BuddyPress.

The appeal of BuddyPress is that it's built on top of a great open-source platform in WordPress and users own and control all of their data. For social network operators with technical resources, setting up on (or migrating to) BuddyPress is probably much more appealing than relying on a third party service.

I expect to see a lot BuddyPress sites in short order and would even go so far to say that BuddyPress has the potential to do for social networks what popular message board systems did for community forums: make them an ubiquitous part of the internet.

Photo credit: josswin via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 1 May, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (7)

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Carl Woolston

Thanks for the info!  I've built a number of sites on WordPress and am very pleased with the functionality.  I'll have to play with this plug-in and check out the options.  Thanks for the heads up. 

about 9 years ago



cool beans

about 9 years ago

Charlie Osmond

Charlie Osmond, Chief Tease at Triptease

If you really want to set up your own social network then you're right, this is a great alternative to Ning (or a facebook group). In particular because you have more control over branding (e.g. on sign-up of new users) and ownership of the data. However it does lack the installed user base of Ning that can help their networks take off.

But there are two key issues here that you fail to mention:
1. Social networks and online communities are different things
2. Most social networks fail

Social Networks and Online Communities are different things
Most organisations should not be setting up social networks. Yes the network is going to become distributed, but trying to have your own is not the solution for brands. By contrast, Online communities should be invested in by brands from which to engage customers. There is an important distinction.

MyBO.com, Obama's community, was not a 'social network'. It was a community from which he could reach out to the major social networks and to which he brought supporters for conversations and conversion.

If you don't get the difference, read this beginners guide on the difference between social networks and online communities

Most Social Networks Fail
Ning has only been going for a couple of years and already 80% of their networks have failed. Equally most forums built on phpBB have died. I suspect BuddyPress will have similar results.

Free is a great strategy for a lot of (esp. small) businesses. And if you are prepared to put in the effort, this is a really fantastic tool. But if you have a valuable brand, then just because you could film your own TV adverts for free using a cheap handycam, does not make it the right thing to do.

I am biased. At FreshNetworks, we're in the business of buliding professional online communities. I agree that the technology will become increasingly comoditised and that BuddyPress is a fantastic tool for organisations looking for a cheap way to expand their social efforts. However giving somone a free wrench does not make them a great plumber.

It is rarely the technology that makes a social network or community a success, it's the planning and the Community Management that does.

Go on, tell me why I'm wrong.

about 9 years ago

Charlie Osmond

Charlie Osmond, Chief Tease at Triptease

Hi @BargainBro,
Thanks for the comment. I just re-read my original post. It could sound like I was suggesting Patricio needs a beginners guide. I was not. That was just some sloppy writing from me. Apologies.

My post was meant to help any newbies to Social Media that were reading.

Thank you for pointing it out. Clearly in my Social Media efforts I need to work harder on portraying my real tone.

about 9 years ago


Ian Hendry

This is interesting news.

To anyone thinking this enables them to build the next Facebook or Twitter, prepare yourself for disappointment.  It takes enormous effort to get a large community going.  But this feature does make it easy for you to build on your current article commenting to make your blog or site more interactive still.  See it as a way to build a small community of interested parties around a specific topic and you start to understand what BuddyPress could do for you.

I am hoping that we'll see support for Facebook Connect or OpenID through this too soon, so that it's easier for existing social networking contacts to use (and so your community also gets promoted back to your contacts' contacts).

Ian Hendry

about 9 years ago



Great Job!,..

about 9 years ago


било к роторной дробилке

Удивили! Удивили и порадовали не то слово…

over 5 years ago

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