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If you are a web developer, I dare say you’ve had a thought or two about creating a niche social network. Well, before you jump in feet first, lets have a look at a round up of some of the best open source and hosted solutions already out there.
Believe it or not this is a crowded space, and there are plenty of social network creation sites available to the entreupreneur focusing on vertical markets. 2009 is fast approaching, so lets get that idea launched.
You can split the social sites straight down the middle, where people either share and connect information / people or links. Sites like MySpace, Bebo etc. are more into allowing interaction with other people, whilst Digg / Delicious are into sharing information and links whilst integrating a voting system.
It seems that the best of the networks out there try to concentrate on white labelling their software, encourgaging uptake, and then using the resulting traffic to monetise, either directly or indirectly. Some of them even let you get a slice of the piece yourself.
Ning is an all seeing roll your own offering. Used by many sites, and well rebranded. Notable sites on Ning include 38 Minutes (Channel four’s 4iP initiative) and as you would expect It’s completely free, with upgrades like the ability to add your own Google Adsense code for $20/month, and domain name masking for an additional $5/month. Each social network created on Ning gets a quota of 5GB of storage and 100GB of bandwidth.
Community Server Express Edition
Type: server install (.NET framework)
For the .NET guys, community server express edition offers a quick and easy entry into the social networking market. Numerous high profile Microsoft sites such as Channel 9 and Xbox are built on top of community server, albeit via the paid for enterprise versions of the product. Features include Google advertising support (as long as revenue falls beneath $500 a month) 15 media galleries, and 5 separate forums.
Type: server install (Ruby on Rails)
Around me have concentrated on using XHTML and CSS templates for their collaboration server – which is great to see as it makes things alot easier when it comes to customisation. You will also need to grab their Identity server product to get going with it. Released under GPL license. Has OpenID support.
Social Go’s strategy for later monetisation appears to be on user generated content, and getting as much of it on there as possible. You begin using SocialGO by creating your own network, which features tabs for events, forums, and media (i.e. photos and videos). They are in Limited Beta stage right now, so unless someonehas tipped you off with an anonymous signup code, you could be waiting a while to try it out. Go try it out.
Type: hosted / server install
People Aggregator would be a main contender as a competitor to Ning. It is both an open source Social Network solution that can be downloaded, while at the same time being a white label offering and a free hosted service. People Aggregator’s main USP would be the notion that they are heavily involved in all things open. Which means basically that you’ll be able to post information in and receive information out of the network easily. Down the line this give developers more scope for building web services, widgets and other data sharing down the line. It also means any other data on the web which is behind an API, it will be concentrating on accessing. i.e. Flickr, or Amazon wish lists.
Notable sites include www.weebabystuff.com– www.curbly.com and www.uncooped.com – Community Engine runs on Ruby for Rails, and is the one man project of Bruno Bornsztein.
Lovd by Less
Type: server install (Ruby on Rails)
Built with Ruby on Rails this open source project has all the basic features you will need to setup a basic social network. Based on the Mit license – Loved by less is quickly becoming loved by more.
Soceeo, thinks that it can make a difference, and gain its momentum, not by offering anything different than the other sites listed here, but instead by making it extremely simple to setup and use. If you are technically challenged and think that your organisation could use a social network such as this, you could do worse than take a look at soceeo.
Initially users will get a whopping one gigabyte of space to play with and the ability to set of forums and profiles for each of the users that joins.
Administrators in addition will get the option to run banner ads, keeping 100% of the revenue generated – and you can also charge membership fees to allow members to join, which may suit some people who think they have the next big niche.
In a BuddyPress installation, users are able to create both their own blogging platform and activity stream – its like a social offshoot of WordPress MU, and as with WordPress, has a burgeoning and active community of plugin developers and others willing to help you get it off the ground. The code is clean, crisp and easy to understand so it may be an option for some of you keen to hack it further to meet your needs. Probably the best way to see what BuddyPress is capable of is probably to go to http://buddypress.org/showcase and check out their example sites.
Link Building / Sharing
If you are looking to build something which is much more like a delicious or digg clone. Check out a few of these. Already we have seen sites such as designbump and Sphinn quickly jumping in on the action. There is probably room for a few other verticals in this space. I recon we will see the explosion of some of these in 2009.
Drupal vote Up down module
Pligg is the main contender in this “link drop” social network field. DesignBump, DesignFloat and Sphinn all use highly customised pligg templates to achieve their current look.