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Friday, May 7, 2010

Social Networking Software: 12 Ways to Build the Next, Best Social Network

social-networking-softwareDo you want to be the next YouTube, Flickr, or Facebook? Then, you need to find the right social networking software. Dating sites, friend networks, video sharing portals are all built on networking platforms that give members control over their personal profile and encourage user-generated content.

If you can get it right, Social Networking is the key to the kingdom. You will never have to worry about your next blog post, because users will post and manage their own content. You will be free to focus on the important stuff like marketing, partnerships and monetization.

Of course, great social networks need great software. No one wants to play on a slow network and users won’t create profiles if they think your software isn’t secure. When choosing a social networking platform, you need to make sure the software looks professional, is stable and will be around for the long haul.

Here are the programs and platforms you’ll encounter in your search for social networking software.

BoonEx Dolphin Social Community Software

dolphinNow on version 7, Dolphin is a fully mature network platform with lots of Web 2.0 features: forums, blogs, groups, video sharing and recording, private chat with video, built-in music player, whiteboards, and even an open source iPhone App that you can connect to you social network. Dolphin has an community of collaborators building extensions and offering support — this is an important thing to look for when choosing any open source software! There is a nice marketplace set up that allows new users to purchase things like installation services and templates.

Though open-source, Dolphin isn’t exactly free social networking software. You’ll need to pay licensing fee if you want to completely brand your social network as your own.

Elgg Social Engine

elgg social engineElgg is the underlying social engine which provides the building blocks to create social applications and sites. The default install includes profiles, groups, blogs, the ability to embed or upload a variety of media, simple social bookmarking tools, tags and categories, and a microblogging feature called “The wire” which is akin to running your own twitter service. Elgg is a fully extendable networking platform with an active development community and 766 available plugins at last count. There are plugins to add everything from geolocation capabilities to an in-network marketplace.

For users that require more robust support for their social networking site, there is also a fee-based Enterprise edition available from

Mahara Social Networking Software for Educators

mahara social softwareMahara, which means ‘think’ or ‘thought’ in Te Reo M?ori, features a weblog, resume builder and social networking system to connect users and create online learner communities. Basically, this social networking software helps webmasters set-up an online community centered around sharing ideas and files in pursuit of education. Users can upload a variety of portfolio items and then control who has access to which files. Mahara is in-use by several universities internationally. For even more educational awesomeness run Mahara and Moodle together.

Community Engine Plugin for Ruby on Rails

communityengine build social networkCommunityEngine is a free, open-source social network plugin for Ruby on Rails applications. Drop it into a new or existing application, and you’ll instantly have all the features of a basic community site. The software has everything you need to get started — profiles, blogs, private messaging, events and forums. Visit for inspiration and to see what types of social nets are currently using the CommunityEngine.

Anahita Social Engine for Joomla

anahita social network joomla extensionAnahita is a light and scalable open source solution for building all kinds of custom social networks. Developed as Joomla 1.5 extension, the software doesn’t try to copy the already-established networking giants (a la the many Myspace or Facebook clones). It’s working to be a viable framework for whatever types of networks are coming next. The feature list includes: Ajax-rich people profiles, Extendible Activity Updates, Lead-Follow-Mutual Social Graphing, Application Gadgets, Facebook Connect, amazing MVC social app development API, Amazon Cloud Storage compatibility and more.

LovdByLess Build a Simple Social Net

lovdbylessAfter having one too many under-budgeted request for a “social network that also does ___,” the programmers behind LovdByLess decided it was time to lay down the foundation for some Open Source social networking software. LovdByLess looks clean and modern. Out-of-the-box features include: friend or follow other users; in-network messaging; wall; user blogs; Flickr and YouTube integration.

Released mid-2008, LovdByLess suffers from abandonment issues. The developers are still answering support questions in the Google Group, but there doesn’t seem to be much development going on. There is no marketplace for add-ons or plugins, so Lovd is best used by webmasters that want a simple social network for a small group.

WebNetwork Modular Software to Create a Community Quick

webnetworkFrom WebScribble, the site claims WebNetwork can create a “social community in a snap.” The social network script provides your site with the ability to let members: create profiles, friends, upload videos, photos, blogs, manage events, groups, and much more. The software is completely customizable and comes with one year of technical support.

WebNetwork is not free. The social networking engine costs $199, with optional plugins priced from $50 to $99 extra. The company also has software to create sites for classifieds, dating, jobs and ecommerce. So, if you wanted, you could build an entire network around your social network.

echowaves Chat-based Social Network

echowaves social conversationEchowaves facilitates social group chat. Loosely defined as a social network, this platform is less about networks and more about conversation. Users can monitor or join in any conversation, bookmark favorite “convos” or separate them by date. The network uses IM-style conversations that happen in real-time on the website. While useful for workgroups or other collaborative efforts where the participants are spread out, echowaves seems like it would be tough to keep up with a large userbase.

Yogurt Social Network for Xoops

yogurt social network moduleYogurt is a free add-on module to create a simple Social Network for a pre-established xoops site. It allows users to create photo albums, collections of videos from youtube, a list of friends, a public wall, and to create and join communities (aka tribes).

Mingle Social Network from Wordpress

mingle networking pluginXoops isn’t the only CMS that can be turned into a social network using add-on software. Mingle uses a standard Wordpress installation and theme to create profile pages, user friending, wall posts, profile activities, social comments, email notifications (with privacy settings) and a full directory of members. Mingle can be used to start a new Social Networking website or to give your existing registered users a more social experience.

BuddyPress Social Networking in a Box

buddypress social net pluginBased on the power and flexibility of WordPress, BuddyPress is more than just another plugin. BuddyPress is a platform programmed specifically to build social networks and community. Up and running in 6 minutes, BuddyPress includes activity streams, extended profiles, groups, friend connections, private messaging, discussion forums, blogging. The software is infinitely extendable and works with many regular wp plugins and themes.

PHPizabi Possibly abandoned Social Software

phpizabi social networking softwarePHPizabi boasts of nearly 300,000 downloads. The open-source social networking software is built with modifications in mind. Out-of-the-box features include: multi-language support; user registration with invite a friend options; advanced search by user, location or gender; in-network email boxes; user blogs; photo gallery with upload, crop and privacy options; newsletters; forum; chatrooms; file sharing; and several dozen other features.

The demo site is throwing MySQL errors and the Showcase is empty which makes it hard to determine how PHPizabi would behave once the real networking begins. Although there is a decent size list of add-on modules, there aren’t any listed that have been released in nearly two years. In fact, very little seems to have been done with PHPizabi in about two years.


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