To create a social networking site, you can either register a free account with a third party social networks provider or install open source software on your server and be your own administrator. There are pros and cons in these two methods. The first method allows you to handle your social networks without any technical knowledge, but you risk losing all your data when the third party site close down. The latter requires you to have certain technical knowledge, but you get full control over every single detail in your site.
With the release of BuddyPress, there is now a third way that is both easy to handle and allows you to have full control: turn your WordPress site into a social networking site.
BuddyPress is not a standalone social networking software. It is in fact a set of WordPress plugins and themes that enables the users to add social networking modules to their sites. You can either use it as an addon service to your existing blog, or convert your domain to a full fledge social networking site.
In case you are rushing off to grab the software and install on your site, here is the warning: BuddyPress doesn’t work on just any version of WordPress. You have to install (or upgrade if you are already running WordPress) WordPress MU before you can run BuddyPress. WordPress MU is an extension of WordPress that allows the users to easily create multiple blogs in one domain. BuddyPress requires this multiple blogs creation capability of WordPress MU to allow the users to register, set up and create their user profile
Since BuddyPress is essentially a series of WordPress plugins, installing BuddyPress is as easy as activating the plugins in the Plugins page. To fully integrate BuddyPress into your site, you’ll have to first change your WordPress theme to a BuddyPress-capable theme, then add the respective modules (widgets) via the Appearance -> Widgets section. Unlike WordPress, there are only few BuddyPress themes available for download. However, if you have experience with creating/modifying a WordPress theme, you shouldn’t have any problem in creating your own BuddyPress theme.
Activating BuddyPress in the Plugins page
Adding social networking widgets to the site
Some of the features that you find in BuddyPress include extended profile, private messaging, adding of friends, forming of groups, activity streams, own blog etc.
BuddyPress is also able to integrate with bbPress, the WordPress-style forums. In future release, other features such as status update and photo album upload will also be included.
Back when BuddyPress is still in development stage, there has already been plenty of plugins available to enhance its functionality. These plugins are usual WordPress plugins and you can easily install/activate them in the Plugins page.
Here are some of the links that would be useful to you when you are integrating BuddyPress to your site.
- BuddyPress demo site: http://testbp.org/
- WordPress MU installation guide: http://codex.buddypress.org/getting-started/installing-wordpress-mu/
- BuddyPress installation guide: http://codex.buddypress.org/getting-started/installing-buddypres-from-combo/
- Buddypress plugins: http://buddypress.org/extend/plugins/
Have you tried BuddyPress? How do you find its functionality compared to other social networking software?
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