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Social Networking Software and Hosting
Social networking is the way friends, family, and coworkers stay connected to each other on the Internet. Whether you are a company trying to build a community around your products and services or a media fanatic interested in creating a hub for other fans like you to be themselves, social networking is the online thread that can tie you together with others just like you.
Compare the top social networking applications reviewed on our website below and don’t forget to review our top rated hosting plans for social networks before choosing your next provider.
Social Networking Software Options
If you need to stay connected with others that share your interests and want to create an online destination as your central meeting place, creating a social networking website may be the perfect solution for you.
BuddyPress is a WordPress plugin - created from a series of other Wordpress plugins - that brings the features and functions of a social network to what is likely the most used content management system on the web. If you want to add social networking to your Wordpress website, or you want to build a social network on the Wordpress framework - BuddyPress is for you. Get user profiles, activity streams, user groups, and more on the Wordpress platform and take your site to another level.
BuddyPress is great if you are already familiar with WordPress and want to run a website with social networking features. BuddyPress is best deployed if you are interested in running a social network for your company or institution, an Intranet or internal communication platform, a niche social network, or a platform for launching some new products.
The biggest reason to avoid using BuddyPress is if you are not fond of Wordpress as a primary content management platform. Because of the widespread use of Wordpress, it is often the target of malicious attacks. There are always security measures that you can take to keep your Wordpress (and therefore BuddyPress) platform safe, but there are extra costs involved in all of that added protection.
Dolphin is an open source content management platform for building social networks that currently powers over 300,000 websites. In its current stable state, Dolphin Pro includes over 30 modules, 2000 features, 1000s of extensions, mobile apps and all of the standards you would expect from a social network: video chat, voice recording, forums, groups, messenger, file sharing and more.
Dolphin is probably the most feature-rich content management system available that can be used for specifically for building a social network. No matter what type of network you want to build, there is likely to be a module in Dolphin to support it.
Want to feature classified ads? There's a module for that. Articles or blogging? Module for that. Calendars? Check. Even things you forgot you loved about social networks you used to use a lot (custom backgrounds and fonts on your profile page, anyone?) are available in Dolphin.
Dolphin is not the easiest content management system for social networking to install and update, and in some cases it may require attribution - which can be a turn off for social networks looking to establish their own identity. By comparison, other social networking platforms like Elgg and Oxwall are completely open source and include many of the same features as Dolphin.
Elgg does give you a wide variety of tools necessary to build an interactive online community, complete with file management and user account administration. Using a variety of application programming interfaces (APIs), plug-ins, and extensions, you can build a site with robust user profiles, full communication capabilities (including instant messaging, posting to profiles, and internationalization), and integration with multimedia applications, games, and forums. Elgg also supports themes and other customizations through its APIs.
Beyond the standard features (including avatars, dashboards, friends, groups, profiles and widgets for all users), Elgg also supports blogging, bookmarking, custom pages and message boards, as well as detailed activity tracking. Back-end support for all of these features is supplied by multiple database connects, all managed from the administration system.
While Dolphin is often considered to be an ‘easy’ solution to install and update, Elgg includes many of the same features and is 100% open source. By comparison, Dolphin users who do not utilize Dolphin Pro often have to include attribution which can prevent businesses that want to white label their social network from being able to do so.
Oxwall is a social networking software that can scale to fit the needs of someone looking to create a network for their friends and family, a fan site or community project for a cause, or a collaboration tool for their coworkers. Like many of the software listed above, it is also open source - so it’s free to use and very customizable.
Oxwall is a very flexible platform built using PHP and MySQL. Within its platform, you can setup multimedia sharing, blogging, forums, wikis, and groups for your users. In addition, friends can connect with each other, there are multiple language options, and commenting functionality is available for nearly all the platform types.
With Oxwall, website admins can manage users and content, moderate comments, and customize privacy settings. Web designers can change the look of the site with a wide variety of themes and a site builder tool for true customization. For webmasters looking to market their social network and monetize it, Oxwall also comes loaded with advertising management, built-in SEO, and detailed analytics.
What is the best way to handle growth?
While some social networking services do not grow quickly, if at all, others are meant to scale at a fast rate. For example, it is not uncommon for a service to grow from several hundred to several thousand users in a short period of time. If this happens, you must know that your social networking software, as well as your hosting company, is able to handle the additional load.
Before installing any social networking software, before choosing a hosting company, think about what you are hoping to accomplish in the future in terms of growth.
Is it possible to change from one social networking software to another?
This depends on many factors, such as the size of your user base and the two applications. However, it is possible in most cases. In addition to learning more about your current provider, choose another software.
There is a chance you will need to make changes along the way, for compatibility sake, so make sure you are prepared. Some hosting companies will assist with the migration process, if you are moving from another host, easing the stress associated with the transition.