Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress and Automattic, announced the release of BuddyPress last week on the official WordPress site. The BuddyPress site is live, with free downloads and installation instructions for BuddyPress 1.0 – which expands a typical WordPress blog installation into a full social network with most of the features of mySpace, Facebook, Ning, and other popular sites. My first reaction on this is… amazing, massive, incredible, exactly what was needed, soon to be huge, and really nice design over all. Congratulations to all involved in the development and publication of this release, it looks like a very important move in the future evolution of the WordPress platform and something that will encourage many social network developers to build with the CMS.
“What if there was software with the elegance and extensibility of WordPress but all the features you’ve come to expect from social networks like Facebook? Now there is: check out BuddyPress. BuddyPress is an official sister project of WordPress. The idea behind it was to see what would happen to the web if it was as easy for anyone to create a social network as it is to create a blog today. There’s been an explosion of social activity on the web, it’s probably the most important trend of the past few years, but there’s been a dearth of Open Source tools that enable the social web. In WordPress we have a robust and extensible base that can scale to many millions of users, and BuddyPress is essentially a set of plugins on top of WordPress that add private messaging, profiles, friends, groups, activity streams, and everything else you’ve come to expect from your favorite social network, like a Facebook-in-a-box.”
To take a look at the BuddyPress demo site, visit: http://testbp.org/
BuddyPress includes user profiles, private messaging, friends / buddylists, groups, activity streams, a wall / stream like section called “the wire” for status updates and tweet-like on-site micro-blogging, in addition to multi-user blogs and forums. I use this same profile quite a lot in building social networks with Drupal using Panels, Advanced Profile Kit, Buddylist, Private Message, Flag, Activity Stream, Views, CCK, Content Profile / Bio, Organic Groups, and other modules. Because of the multiple development teams managing the combination of modules needed to build the working equivalent of this in Drupal, and the 5.x / 6.x / 7.x development cycle variations + all the time assembling, theming, and debugging a social network install in Drupal… the out of the box offering from BuddyPress will be a strong challenge.
For examples of sites that have been built with BuddyPress, see:
Sample demo profile page: http://testbp.org/members/galen/
WannaNetwork – Online Real Estate Community: http://wannanetwork.com/
Flokka – Women in Business: http://flokka.com/
GrungePress – Online Music Community: http://grungepress.com/
Working daily with both WordPress and Drupal both for web publishing and building social networks for clients, I have long felt WordPress had many advantages for single user blogs (really nice themes, for example) vs. Drupal, but lacked the module expandability to allow the construction of social networks. BuddyPress completely changes that and offers out of the box what is very challenging to build in Drupal. It could save 2 to 3 weeks development time on a complex social network site, and allowing the designer to focus work on the theme and content rather than building the module architecture.
My hope is that Acquia (or another company or developer) will release a “social network” installation profile for Drupal that is similar to this. Despite the large number of social networks built with Drupal, I don’t think there has been anything close to an “official” social networking profile like BuddyPress. One reason for this – and it may be related to the release of BuddyPress as a “sister project” rather than just a collection of modules that plugin to WordPress, is to create a complex social network site that deploys on an installation profile you need to install in a way that the database is pre-populated with all the correct settings, permissions, and everything is automatically positioned in the site by block, section, menu, etc. To do this in Drupal, you basically have to include a mySQL database map with the installation profile – something that I also haven’t seen often, but we are working on at TypeHost. Then you have to have a GUI layer that makes it easy for the user to transform the archetypal site structure into a personal site. From the way it looks, Automattic has done this perfectly with BuddyPress.
In terms of branding, the name is not the absolute best choice here in my opinion, but there must have been a clear reasoning behind not just releasing it as another version of WordPress, like “WordPress – SN (Social Network)” vs. “WordPress (Blog or Standard version).” Also it is interesting that the projects seem to be on independent / co-dependent / inter-related development paths, but that BuddyPress is not being considered “the next” version of WordPress. Again, similar to Drupal, there is some decision making that sees these not as “core” modules – despite the fact that many people see them as core to the functionality of the CMS. WordPress functioning as a full social network may not be needed by the majority of single user blog publishers who use the CMS as a platform, but this release is going to make a big difference on the web. It will be interesting to chart the usership statistics of BuddyPress vs. WordPress over the next year to see how many sites adopt the new changes.
Summary: combined with WordPress themes and publishing ease, the addition of full social network functionality to the platform with the release of BuddyPress 1.0 is a slam dunk / home run for Automattic, bloggers, traditional WordPress users, and social network developers. Look to see this on even more websites than WordPress in the future, and to pull a lot of development away from Drupal, which still lacks a unified offering that builds a social network as simply and easily as BuddyPress.
LifeRay is one of the leading open source CMS software platforms available for social networking, portal development, business intranets, corporate extranets, forums, archives, and general web publishing. LifeRay has already been downloaded over 1 million times, with an average of over 60,000 downloads per month. The software comes with numerous bundled versions and has already won accolades such as the InfoWorld 2007 Technology of the Year Award for Best Open Source Portal.
The LifeRay Portal is composed of two main sections: the LifeRay Journal and the LifeRay Collaboration Suite. The LifeRay Journal is the content management system of the portal, allowing web publishers to easily post content, manage pages, create hierarchical menus, and site structure. The LifeRay Collaboration Suite is the social networking aspect of the portal, which includes forums, wiki collaboration, blogs, email, calendars, and tagging. Both of these can be extended by open source “portlets” that add increased functionality to the system.
Statistics to go!
In September SILEX has been installed in the following countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Korea, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia.
Also in September, on the 1405 downloads, 141 installations have been made online and about 400 on local computer. For the online websites: Europe 60% – North America 30% – (27% France – 26% USA)
Over 30% of these installations have been made by webdesign agencies.
In October SILEX has been downloaded 2454 times, 75% increase as of September and 173% increase as of August.
The WordPress 2.7 release is scheduled to be ready on November 10th – for those interested in an early preview of the new features, a set of black and white wireframes showing the current navigation structure has been released at:
What major changes will we see in the new 2.7 WordPress release? The biggest is that the main navigation menu has been shifted to the left side. The logic here is to reduce the amount of scrolling needed on pages and to increase the amount of content space in the main section. The header size has also been reduced and “includes breadcrumb navigation links in place of the large screen headline in the work area”. I see this as a nod in many ways to the trend highlighted by the release of Google Chrome, which includes quite a bit more active space in the main frame of the browser compared to IE and Firefox, and of course to the continued rise of AJAX in user interfaces to dynamically load content without refreshing the page.
As a web designer working online since Netscape 1.0 building sites for clients, the biggest change I’ve seen in thirteen years in the industry is the advent of the Open Source Content Management System as the preferred platform for development. Nothing is more illustrative of the change between first generation web standards and the web 2.0 evolution than the CMS trend. Providing a great base for social networking, including blogs, forums, wikis, image galleries, comment logs, ecommerce, voting, bookmarking, tags, and innumerable other extensions along with traditional web publishing methods, the CMS is the preferred platform for most web designers building sites today. Open Source has led to the establishment of huge, user-powered development communities that are dynamically changing and constantly upgrading, offering free software, themes, and modules for building professional web sites. The ubiquity of the shared hosting LAMP – Cpanel – Fantastico set up has popularized the CMS far beyond even the developer/design community.
The top 10 Open Source Content Management Systems:
4. Media Wiki
10. Movable Type
Xoops, Geeklog, e107, Mambo, Nucleus