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What is Dolphin Hosting?

Dolphin is a popular social CMS application that lets you build a custom Social Networking site. A custom social networking site allows its creators to build a community around a specific topic, interest, or organization. Dolphin is an Open Source social networking application written in PHP. It is one of the most popular software packages for building custom social networks.

Key Dolphin Features

Social Networking
This is the core of Dolphin. Members can build profiles, connect as friends, message, make updates, follow each other, and form groups.

Integration with other Social Media
Users can cross-post their updates and activity to FaceBook, Twitter, G+, Instagram, and other social networks.

Modules
The Dolphin application is high extensible, with a mature Module ecosytem, providing every imaginable feature.

Internationalization
UI strings are fully internationalized, and a number of language packs are already available. You can also create your translations. Users can select their own language.

Theming and Templates
Fully customizable theme system, with the option to allow users to select their own personal theme.

Mobile Apps
Dolphin has integrated apps for iOS and Android.

Privacy
Fine-grained control over who can see what content.

Media Content
Includes server-side software support for audio and video streaming.

Server Auditing
Dolphin automatically analyses hosting environment and suggests ways to optimize performance.

Other Dolphin Features

  • Subscription Payments
  • XML SiteMaps
  • Search
  • Vector Graphics and Retina Support
  • CSS3
  • RSS Feeds
  • Private Messages
  • Data Backups
  • Content Moderation
  • Mass Emailer
  • Banner Ads

Dolphin Social CMS Modules

Dolphin comes with a number of core modules, and thousands more are available from the Dolphin marketplace. This means that nearly any imaginable feature already exists. And if that isn't enough, you can develop your own.

To provide a sense of the range of possibilities, here is a list of some of the most popular and interesting modules available.

Ads
The ads plugin provide support for classified ad listings, similar to Craigslist. Ads can include photos, pricing, and custom categories.

Articles
The site administrator can post rich-text articles.

Avatars
Allows users to upload, edit, and manage profile images of themselves (“avatars”). Many can be stored at once, and the user can select which one is “active” at any time.

Blogs
Each member of the Dolphin site can have their own blog, with their own set of categories and tags. Blogs include social sharing features and robust commenting.

Chat
This module uses Dolphin's built-in media streaming capabilities to offer live, video chat and concurrent video streaming.

Desktop
The Desktop module uses the Adobe AIR platform to provide out-of-browser notifications and communication.

Events
Users and administrators can create events, manage invites, track attendees, post updates, and upload event photos.

Facebook Connect
Provides single-login support to access a Dolphin-powered community with a Facebook profile. Also matches Facebook friend lists with site members.

Files
File management, uploading, downloading, and publishing of media and documents.

Forums
Full-featured discussion forum and bulletin board system, for promoting topical conversations. Includes categories, moderation, content rating, thread management and rich-text formatting.

Google Search
Complete search of site and user-generated content, powered by Google.

Groups
User and administrators can create and manage groups, publish content for members-only, invite other users to the group, and hold group-only conversations.

Memberships
Provides tools for paid and tiered membership subscriptions.

Messenger
Flash-powered Video IM and text chat.

Page Access Control
Restrict or allow content viewing based on membership level.

Payments
Integrate with several different payment gateways.

Photos
Allows users to upload, browse, and share photos. Users can also create albums and galleries, categorize and tag photos, and set individual privacy levels for each photo or photo set.

Polls
Users and admins can create polls and survey, invite participants, publish replies, and graph results visually.

Profile Customiser
Let users customize the look of their member profiles with backgrounds, font selection, and individualized UI elements.

Profiler
Development and debugging tool that outputs load times and query data to the page.

Quotes
Set up a bank of quotes (or tips, jokes, or reminders) and display them randomly in a defined content area.

Shoutbox
This module is a chat-like message board feature where anyone can contribute a word or two.

Simple Messenger
Provides basic text IM feature, with messages displayed in the user's navigation menu.

SMTP Mailer
Integrate Dolphin with an SMTP mail server for email notifications.

Spy
Spy is a notification engine that integrates with other modules to display activity updates across all of Dolphin's features.

Store
Add ecommerce and shopping cart features to sell downloadable and deliverable products. Users can set up their own shops as well.

Dolphin Hosting

Requirements for running Dolphin are as somewhat extensive (though not uncommon). For full details, you can see the documentation.

However, the easiest way to meet all the requirements is to use a web hosting provider that specifically supports Dolphin (several do). To make things even easier, a number of web hosts include Dolphin as a one-click install from the control panel.

Dolphin Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Dolphin?

    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.

  • What are some good reasons to use Dolphin?

    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.

  • Are there any reasons not to use Dolphin?

    If you are new to programming and web development, or you just don't have the time to provide yourself tech support, then Dolphin probably isn't the platform upon which you should build your new social network. They make it pretty clear on their website that tech support is not something they specialize in. Instead, the team of developers behind Dolphin suggest that you use documentation and forums for your troubleshooting, hire developers, or make mistakes and learn from them.

  • What are the alternatives to Dolphin?

    There are a wide variety of open source social networking platforms that serve as alternatives to Dolphin. Some of the most commonly used platforms for social networking outside of Dolphin include BuddyPress, Oxwall and Jcow. Elgg is an alternative social networking platform that is also commonly used to power corporate Intranets.

  • What are the requirements for Dolphin web hosting?

    Like many open source content management systems, a server built with Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP (LAMP) is the preferred server configuration for running Dolphin. Instead of Linux, Windows can also be used as the operating system for Dolphin, but an Apache server is the most efficient server option. Other server types require custom rewrite rules in order to effectively run Dolphin. The MySQL database needs to be version 4.1.2 or higher and the PHP version needs to be 5.2 or higher. Please check with your hosting provider to make sure their server configurations can handle this setup before proceeding with installing Dolphin.

  • Are there any additional specific hosting recommendations?

    Depending on how feature-packed you want your social network to be, your hosting requirements may be more complex. For example, if you want the ability to process photos on your social network, then you will also need to install GD Library or ImageMagick on your server. Sendmail or Postfix will also be required for sending emails to your users. In the event you want your users to be able to stream media, you may also need a second server for hosting Ray Media Server and a Java Runtime Environment. If you aren't sure if you have the right configuration to handle all of these features, contact your hosting provider.

  • Do I need to be concerned about installation?

    Installing Dolphin should not be that big of a concern - assuming you have the proper server requirements to host all of the capabilities it possesses. If the hosting environment is correct, then installing Dolphin shouldn't take any longer than about 20 minutes. That said, over 75% of the errors that occur during Dolphin installation are due to the fact that the hosting environment is not properly configured. If installing a content management system is not something that you have experience with, perhaps consulting with a managed services provider will or upgrading your hosting plan to include managed services will be better for your installation.

  • Is there any reason not to use a one-click installation wizard?

    Dolphin is available as one-click installation from Softaculous - check with your hosting provider to see if they offer Softaculous as a part of their hosting packages. If 1-click installation is available, then you should likely take advantage of it if you have the proper hosting configurations. You will probably need to set up the second VPS or dedicated server to run the streaming applications mentioned above. If uploading software to a server is not something you are experienced with, contact your hosting provider to inquire about their support and managed services options.

  • What does self-hosted mean? I don’t have to run a server myself, do I?

    Self-hosted websites do not require YOU to personally own a server and manage it to host your site. Instead, self-hosted simply means that hosting is not provided directly by the development team that created Dolphin. In order to use a self-hosted content management system like Dolphin, you will need to contract a hosting provider before building your website.

  • Can I host a Dolphin blog on a shared hosting plan?

    Dolphin requires a fairly customized server setup to run all of its features. While it is possible to run Dolphin in a shared hosting environment, you will likely need a second server to run the streaming components. Because of that need, it is strongly recommended by the developers as well as most hosting providers that Dolphin be hosted on a VPS or dedicated server platform. Consult with your hosting provider before making this decision on your own.

  • Do I have to know how to program to use Dolphin?

    According to the developers of Dolphin, you do not need to know how to program or be a web designer in order to use Dolphin. However, working knowledge of your hosting environment and being able to manage a web server may be beneficial. Because of that, Dolphin is probably not a top recommendation as a content management system for anyone new to website programming and management.

  • Do I need managed hosting in order to use Dolphin as my CMS?

    The answer to this question depends on your answer to the question "how much responsibility are you willing to accept for the maintenance of your website?" The more complex your site becomes with modules, features, and streaming applications, the greater your need will be for professionally managed website hosting. Shared hosting often comes with some managed services included. If you have a dedicated hosting solution, however, managed services are likely required as part of your agreement. This is the case with any self-hosted content management system for social networking - not just Dolphin.

  • How does Dolphin compare to Elgg as a content management system?

    Dolphin is not the easiest content management system to install and update. Often times, its license also requires attribution. By comparison, Elgg is completely open source and includes many (but not all) of the same features as Dolphin. So while you may spend a little bit more in terms of hosting and features with Dolphin, you may also have more flexibility and custom features when compared to Elgg.

  • How does Dolphin compare to BuddyPress as a social networking platform?

    Dolphin is a complete platform for social networking. By comparison, BuddyPress is a plugin that can be installed on the Wordpress framework to launch a social network. If you have the comfort with web development and want a social network that has a more unique look and feel than most websites built upon a Wordpress theme, then Dolphin will be a better solution for your social network than BuddyPress.

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