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What Is Elgg?

Award-winning, open-source and free, Elgg is a social networking engine used to create social networks and interactive applications.

Our Review

Social networking has come to occupy a large part of online life for many folks on the Internet today. And one of the best ways to engage your customers and other visitors to your site is to offer some type of social media integration—one-click logins using a Facebook or Twitter account, for example—to your site. But you don't have to settle for mere integration with other social media sites; you can, thanks to social networking engine Elgg, build your own.

Of course, not everyone wants to create the next Facebook, but 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.

Elgg Server Requirements

Elgg is totally free, and shouldn't add to your monthly hosting bill, but it does have specific server requirements. These requirements should already be met if you are adding Elgg via the one-click install utility of your hosting provider's user control panel, but if you've downloaded the free package and plug-ins yourself, you'll need Apache Web Server, with the following additional modules (per Elgg documentation):

  • mod_rewrite
  • PHP (PHP HyperText Preprocessor) 5
  • MySQL (Structured Query Language) 5+ for data storage
  • PHP 5.2+, installed as an Apache module (not in CGI mode or safe mode), with:
  • GD and Freetype
  • JSON
  • XML
  • Multibyte String support

As always, remember to consult your hosting provider for complete information on compatibility and installation options before adding this or any other application to your server.

How Does Elgg Compare To Other Social Networking Systems?

Elgg is one of many open source social networking systems on the market. While there are many universities and businesses that use Elgg as their platform for social networking, you may still be considering another solution instead.

Below, we review Elgg in comparison to four other alternatives for social networking. Which solution do you think will be best for you?

Elgg Vs. BuddyPress: Elgg is a full framework designed to launch your social network. 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 development and building a network from scratch, then Elgg will be a better solution than BuddyPress.

Elgg Vs. Dolphin: Dolphin is often considered to be an ‘easy’ solution to install and update. On the downside, its license requires attribution and can prevent businesses that want to white label their social network from being able to do so. Also, there can be additional software costs involved with Dolphin if you buy a package with additional features. Elgg is completely open source, free to use, and includes many of the same features as Dolphin.

Elgg Vs. Drupal: Elgg has the advantage over Drupal if you are looking for a social networking platform because most users will find Drupal’s administration area to less intuitive than Elgg. Both platforms allow you to build sites from scratch, but the specific features Elgg brings out of the box to tailor to social networking are likely to make it a wiser choice for development over a “one platform for all” solution like Drupal.

Elgg Vs. PHPfox: In comparison to Elgg, PHPfox starts at almost $300 just to get started. Anyone looking to create a startup social network may be better off with Elgg and its open source license and fees.

Final Thoughts On Elgg

Elgg is a social networking platform that comes with a lot of opportunity for starting ‘the next Facebook’, but also with some pretty specific server requirements. There are other options out there, but few present the opportunity to grow and the features all networks need out of the box with no additional fees.

Before you check for a one-click install option for Elgg with your hosting provider, make sure you have your server requirements in line and that it has every feature you need for your network.

Elgg Frequently Asked Questions

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