Internet Social Media

The 5 Best Open-Source Social Networking Software

Damien Oh 17-10-2008

The 5 Best Open-Source Social Networking Software socialnetworkPreviously, Abhijeet has highlighted three awesome sites where you can create your own social network easily Three Awesome Tools To Create Your Own Social Networks Read More . However, if you are one of those who wants more control of the site, including the branding, the domain name, the features, the design, the community rule, or even the database, the best way is to install and run a social networking software on your server.


While there are plenty of scripts (both free and paid) that you can use to run your own social network, there are only a few that are stable, good and easy to use.

Here we have handpicked 5 of the best open-source social networking software for you to choose from.

1. Elgg

elgg - open source social networking

Elgg has just won the best open source social networking platform for the year 2008, so there is no doubt about the usability of this software. Overall, Elgg is a powerful software that offers blog, networking, community, collection of news using feeds aggregation and file sharing features. In fact, it is one of the most versatile pieces of software that offers almost everything you need to start a social networking site.

Elgg operates on a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql and Php) environment and it is easy to install and configure. With a little php knowledge, you can get your social networking site up and running in no time.


Before you install Elgg, try out its demo site.

2. Mahara

mahara - open source social networking platfom

Unlike the rest of the social networking software that is meant for general use, Mahara is designed as a platform to allow its users to demonstrate their life-long learning, skills and development to selected audiences. With Mahara, you can create an e-Portfolio platform and set up an online learner community. Features in the software include blogs, a resume builder, a file manager, institutions detail and the social networking aspect where you can add and maintain your list of friends.

Mahara runs on LAMP, although Postgres is preferred over MySql.


Check out the demo site

3. Lovd by Less [No Longer Available]

lovdbyless - open source social network software

Lovd by Less is among the first and only few open-source social networking platforms built on Ruby on Rails. Some features of Lovd by Less include blogs, photo gallery with captions, site search for friends, activity update and user-to-user messaging. Other things that are built into the software include Flickr and YouTube integration.

One thing good about Lovd by Less is that it is easy to use and contains most of the applications that you need. For those who prefer Ruby on Rail rather than php, this would be a good alternative.


Try out the demo site.

4. Xoops with Yogurt extension

xoops - best open source social network script

XOOPS is an extensible CMS that allows you to build sites based on your needs. You can first start off as a personal blog and expand later to include social networking, forum and much more via the use of appropriate modules.

Yogurt is the particular module that allows you to build a social networking site with XOOPS. You can setup your personal album of pictures, videos from YouTube, mp3 files, add your list of friends, a public wall for messages (scraps), to create communities (tribes) and many more useful features.


XOOPS and Yogurt are based on php and work well in the LAMP environment.



AROUNDMe is slightly different from the others. Instead of building a social networking site, it allows you to create your own collaboration server which enables your users to setup their own social networking site, community or webspace (like Ning, Google Groups, Snappville, CollectiveX).

With AROUNDMe, your users can have access to a guestbook (a wall), a group blog, a forum and a wiki which they can drop into web pages. Every single group is fully customizable using xHTML, CSS, Javascript and PHP and the user can decide if the group is private or public.

Other Candidates

Here are some of the candidates that didn’t make it to the top 5:

Phpizabi – works fine for a small network, but could become buggy as your network get bigger.
Dolphin – while it is free to download, you will have to pay to get the ad module removed.
Insoshi – a new social network software built on Ruby on Rails released only early April this year. It could have be better if some of its features are more polished.

Have you built your own social networking site before? Which software did you use? Which one would you recommend?

Related topics: Web Development, Web Server.

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  5. Martin Diaz Alvarez
    January 6, 2017 at 11:43 am

    I need a fresh list some of those listed here are no more available.

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  8. Oliver
    March 22, 2015 at 2:42 pm


    Good article. However, currently I use pH7CMS ->
    It is quite new but very powerful and has a very nice template by default, that's why I use it.

  9. Jackie
    February 13, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    I am thinking of starting a social networking place. I am new to face book but I had one in NING and Flickr. I want to be the owner of one the one in control. What would you recomend me to do for a beginner. I know start small. I have been researching today on google.And came across this page. I am thinking of buying the software for the licence and running it off my website. I am looking for sugestions and a way to beat fb at thier own game by keeping it clean.
    I have the money to use. I don't know where to start and I just came off of 2 bad business promoting things Text Ads and Traffic Exchanges. Like just this week. So I want something for me to run and make people happy and feel safe.
    Where do I go from here email me at
    Thank you Jackie Popp/ Arkansas

  10. Julian
    February 4, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    I don't know anything about this technology. I'm wondering about the possibility of an open source SN site to compete with Facebook, one that would have similar features but much better privacy settings, be free of advertising, being supported by low-cost subscriptions (such as $10 a year).

  11. Noam
    February 2, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Don't forget SocialEngine ( SocialEngine is a strong player in the white-label social networking market and allows you to setup a PHP-based network on your website.

  12. jack
    January 22, 2010 at 4:20 am

    This is one of the best social networking software missed to add in this page
    social networking script

  13. Chris Thompson
    January 15, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Social Network Empire is a platform that is mainly sold in the "internet marketing" arena, but it seems to be a pretty cool "Hosted by them" solution. I recently purchased from them. I believe it is only an invite only kindof thing or that they only open their doors a couple times a year.

    I have tested a ton of various scripts and my favorite from your list of 5 above is elgg.

    Nice post.
    great SEO.

  14. Peter
    January 13, 2010 at 12:46 am

    The problem with most of the social network scripts you have mentioned there is that they are maintained and coded by enthusiasts and not businesses. This means that critical bugs can take a while to be fixed, there are not frequent updates and support can be lacking.

    I'm surprised Joomla didn't make the list along with buddypress, but if people are looking for a robust solution, paid software like Dolphin, iSocial and SocialEngine should be considered.

  15. Flash Video Streaming
    January 2, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Trying to integrate flash video plug ins including Video Conference, Live Streaming, Video Recorder software with best platforms.

  16. Carfuel
    December 27, 2009 at 4:04 am

    Great list, you can also add - Health related social bookmarking sites.

  17. Medplaya Network Social
    December 22, 2009 at 1:07 am
  18. rovug
    December 8, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Buddypress at should be added to the list - in fact, buddypress and elgg are the real toppers.

  19. Cynthia
    December 2, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Nice article thanks for the information. My work is looking for a wiki or social networking type software. We like the wiki idea but the we need something easy to edit, something WYSIWYG instead of the code most of the wikis use. Is there anything like a combo of wiki and SN software that's open source? Thanks.

  20. Planetwebfoot
    November 26, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    This a great list of social networking softwares. I find the free software is really good for building small online communities or using it to determine feasibility. Social Networking Software

  21. Sijio Software
    November 24, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Sijio is a PHP based fast, high performance, easy to use and fully customizable social networking platform with open source code. It is equipped with all necessary professional tools and features to run a full fledged community site.

    November 23, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Very interesting article... The people who are the beginners can make use of these tips to build up a social networking site...... good job...... Thank u all for sharing their own thoughts..... ll make use of these.......

  23. Timothy Fisher
    November 5, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Readers may also want to check out a brand-new Ruby/Rails based Social Networking platform called EngineY. You can find this at Features include user profiles, groups, blogs, activity streams, photos, events, private messaging, friending, integration with Twitter, and more..

  24. V N
    October 29, 2009 at 12:57 pm


    I am f=Founder & CEO of an early stage start up firm. We're aiming at developing our own social networking site for a user base of around 4 million users. What technology environment / open source suite would you suggest for above described network?

  25. Sherry
    October 28, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Does anyone know about They have a good marketing "talk" on the site but no address or phone number.

  26. Mitch
    October 25, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Award or no award ...
    PLEASE tell me why one would choose ELGG at all?

    As far as I can remember - McDonald's got many awards, too, yet everybody knows how worthless their food is! So please, don't impress with awards. An award is doing nothing except misleading ignorant audience!

  27. jon
    October 17, 2009 at 7:09 am

    I will check a few of these out, I did try phpizabi but I found this a little buggy.

  28. statistics help
    September 23, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Very very good list of social networking sites. Probably the best so far i have seen on the internet.
    Thank you so much

  29. Wallpaper
    September 9, 2009 at 9:14 am

    This is a great list, some of them I never heard of, live Loved By Less.

    But they all require so much tweaking to get a site up, and still missing features like Group pictures. Some don't even seem to have groups at all.

    Even the paid scripts at $300 each don't seem to have very good functionality. It's so hard to find something good.

  30. Richard
    August 31, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Is there anyone who is currently running a social networking site using any of the software listed? Which is the easiest to use? If you are using one of the above, what are the pros and cons of it? Would you recommend the one you are using, or would you recommend a differnt one? Thanks.

  31. Christian
    August 29, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    So, would this be good for building traffic for my own seo or for companies that I'm working with. It's not like we can even dent the large social networking groups, right?

  32. Julia
    August 23, 2009 at 1:32 am

    Do any of these offer a calendar function with the ability for members to rsvp for events? I'm looking to create a site that works similarly to but that has only one main group and an administrator blog. Any suggestions?

    • Sherry
      November 16, 2009 at 1:37 pm

      Have you picked one? I'm just starting my search and your problem sounds like mine.

  33. Tobias
    August 20, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Hi Guys,

    I need some help, I am currently developing a social site:network for a very niche but very large global community and it will be a real money spinner as there is nothing really serving this community at the moment, similar to a linked in but with unique features, plus banner advertising jobs etc and i need some help, if there are any developers who want to get involved please get in touch and in return you can share the wealth with me

  34. cels
    August 9, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Hi there,

    I am looking into doing a project that involves the use of friends networking technology, but not a social networking site as such. I just need something that can tell me if John does something, it updates John's friends (possibly via email).

    What would be the best option to achieve this?


  35. Tyson
    July 9, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Thanks for your post. I am still tied up between Elgg and Buddypress and keep going back and forth. I know buddypress wasn't mentione in your post, but I'm curious what your thoughts are between the latest release of Elgg 1.5 and Buddypress 1.0.2.


  36. Jucktion
    July 9, 2009 at 8:30 am

    I dont like dolphins design although they have great features. I am currently using phpizabi for my site and it worked great.
    Although i think the paid ones will do the best job.

  37. SE Partner
    July 2, 2009 at 10:43 am

    How about Google Friend Connect?

    • Damien Oh
      July 4, 2009 at 8:35 pm

      Google Friend Connect is not really a software that you can use to build a website.

  38. Doppresent
    July 2, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Cool list, thanks!

  39. UstillUp
    July 1, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    What about Social Engine. I think Social Engine is way better than the five you have just suggested. It also comes with tons of extra addon plugins. I checked out all the demos from the sites you suggested, and I honestly wasn't impressed with any of them. They really don't have that many features. People will get very bored with social networking unless you give them lots of extra features like: Instant Messaging, Chat, Webcam Chat, Interactive Games, etc.

  40. George Wallace
    June 29, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Hi Damien,

    Thanks for an interesting and helpful review. I'm surprised that I have not seen them all.

    The social networking software mentioned here targets different audiences. For example, ELGG is more for education use. I'm not sure how you can rank them together.

    For business, I would say Miniweb 2.0 is the best because of its design and availability of 20 modules.

    For MySpace type of usage, DZOIC is probably the one to use.

  41. Doni
    June 6, 2009 at 10:04 am

    I need a platform that will enable me to design a social network which is something between myspace and facebook where users can post videos with ease and pictures and so on . And it has to look appealing , can someone please help me select one . Thanks so much

    • Damien Oh
      June 8, 2009 at 1:38 am

      Have you tried Dolphin 6?

  42. sima
    June 1, 2009 at 11:49 am

    hey this article was very informant for me but i decided to use buddypress which worked out great for me i tried dolphin ,xoops with yogurt, drupal and many others but buddypress worked out better for me have a look for yourself cheers sima

  43. Jaxfly
    May 20, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    I recommend

  44. Maxwell (MaxTheITpro)
    May 20, 2009 at 4:53 am

    GREAT post dude!!
    THANKS a million for the links, advice, etc. I see BIG potential in setting up social websites for businesses (finance/banking/insurance, eCommerce, Art/Entertainment, Education/schooling), Religious "crap", government, NGOs, etc. here in East Africa - especially once those 3 undersea fibre optic cables connect this region to the rest of the world. Some say Rwanda is poised to become the Singapore of this region. And Tanzania is slowly coming up nicely as well as Uganda. Kenya is all politics but with a good business climate.

    So, let the social networking opportunities begin!! :-)
    What's your views on Ning,, Mixxt, SocialGO, KickApps?? Which has the best overall features and pricing in addition to a responsive network speed??
    Can I install Elgg on my HostGator shared service? What's the threshold in terms of users before I have to go to a VPS or dedicated server???

    Thanks again!

    • Damien Oh
      May 24, 2009 at 4:41 am

      You shouldn't have any issue with installing Elgg on Hostgator, but you must be prepared for frequent downtime when your user base grow. It's hard to say what's the threshold. It's all depend on the amount of bandwidth used.

  45. Danilo DaVinci
    May 17, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    I've been reseraching hard for the last couple of days, and did not bump into the top 5 rated here. So I am pleased to know that there is more to what I found. So far I had found iscript and DZOIC as the most compelling ones. I guess I will continue looking in it.

    To me multi language and online shopping functionalities are key. If someone has a suggestion, I will appreciate it.

  46. Kenny
    April 26, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Thanks with your sourcing information here.

  47. IT Buzz
    April 25, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    I think elgg is best among them and buddy press 'll soon become as powerful as elgg is but i hadn't yet tried it lets see.

  48. Eecia
    April 4, 2009 at 2:00 am

    :) Here's the Coolest and Fastest Growing Social Networking Site That Helps People Achieve Goals - .. Check it out and be invited! :)

  49. Rose
    March 21, 2009 at 6:34 am

    This is great article. I never new even social networking exists for the social networking. i am going to try the one i like. Thanks for the great article. But one question can we compare them to top class social networking sites like hi5 and others

  50. Jesse
    March 1, 2009 at 1:11 am

    I personally preferred to have mine made professionally so that my site was a little more specialized, made it so the site was not only personalized to the subject matter of my choice (Skateboarding) but it made it so users on other specialized SNs from the same service could just log in using their logins from the other SNs they're signed up on... Makes it nice and easy. If anyone is interested it's They're amazing to deal with, and friendly guys all around.

  51. Osawuyi Osawaru
    February 8, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Hi i am looking to build a social network for about a million users. I have been looking to go open source or to perhaps buy software that can serve well.
    I do not have programming experience so I also need advice on how to get help on this.

  52. tips photo
    February 3, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Thanks for sharing this software. I love social networks and hope these help make it a better experience.

  53. Flor
    February 3, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Hi Everyone! First of all, thanks for the article. I want you hear your suggestions about something I need to develop:

    I'm doing my thesis, it is something like "social networking tools", where I introduce: OpenID, OAuth, hCard, XFN, OpenSocial, etc, etc, etc. So I have to develop something that has to do with it. My thesis mentor told me that it shouldn't take me more than one or two months of development. I was expecting to get an existing open social networking code and integrate it with some of the tools I introduce. I looked at Elgg, but it already has everything integrated and a lot of plugins! So I need a more basic social networking code, and integrate it with some social networking tools. So I have two questions.

    Which open social networking code should I choose? (I guess I need some simple code that has connections, groups and profiles)

    Which tools do you suggest I integrate? (This is not supposed to take me more than two months. I'm a 3-year-experienced Java and PHP developer).

    Thanks in advance.

    • Damien Oh
      February 3, 2009 at 8:34 pm

      @Flor: It is difficult to find a open-source social network software that has only basic feature. On the end-users point of view, who would want to use a software that is limited in feature? I would suggest you to use WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Xoops or other CMS software and built your way up. There is a wordpress plugin (buddypress) that allows you to have social network ingredient in WordPress.

      As for the tools to integrate, it really depend what you want your social network to do. Social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook serves different audiences and different groups and thus they need different set of tools.

      Hope this helps.

      • Julie K
        March 18, 2009 at 8:49 pm

        I a bit overwhelmed with all the choices. I'm looking to build a social networking site this summer. I want to maintain control of the site and realize it will cost me a bit more to do so. The format of Linkedin is very much what I have in mind.

        Any recommendations?

  54. John
    January 26, 2009 at 1:25 pm ??

    • Damien Oh
      February 8, 2009 at 10:27 pm

      buddypress is still in development, but I am sure it'll become an useful and much needed plugin in the future.

  55. Kooly
    January 15, 2009 at 4:31 am

    Hi! Could also mention although rather expensive.

  56. Frank
    January 7, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks for provide the information on social networking solutions.

    I am looking for a social network solution through website. so anyone want social networking then visit my site.

  57. Llevon Oliagat
    December 22, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Hi, I have tried phpizabi, the software looks good, IDK if you allow links here but you can edit this comment, ive installed phpizabi here

    it works find at first, but it doesn't really give the users the much needed interactivity, there is nothing interesting with the software, well what can you expect from an open source, there are mods though that you can purchase to perk up the software.

    But i m interested with the Lovd by less software. I should try that, thanks for this nice article.


  58. kwinc
    December 19, 2008 at 7:22 am


    Thanks for the information on social networking solutions.

    I am looking for a social network solution which runs very stable and can handle a massive number of users (arround one million).

    Can anyone make a related recommendation?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Damien Oh
      December 19, 2008 at 7:54 pm

      If you are going to run a social network site that have about 1 million users, you better make sure that your server can support it.

      One way that you can consider is to use third party sites // where they do the hosting for you.

      If you are looking to do your own hosting and own domain name, I would consider elgg. It is simple to use and extensible. Yes, it can handle large number of users too.

  59. Martin
    December 5, 2008 at 5:11 am

    Hi all.
    IMHO: I think Elgg is good one if you want to get a (social network software solution) and start your own social network. One thing I like in Elgg is the activity page just on your dashboard. But you will need to know PHP. Otherwise your web site will be "half-baked".
    As for Mhara and Xoops they seemed to be platforms for weblogs.
    Never mind it was my humble opinion.

    • FourCultures
      December 17, 2008 at 8:49 pm

      Many thanks for the useful article. I'm researching social networks to enhance my blog, and don't want to be handing the whole thing over, as with Ning. I actually started by trying to blog with facebook, which was really inadequate. Now I use a feed into facebook from, but need something better integrated. I'd add that you might like to take a look at the beta of BuddyPress - a set of social networking add-ons for WordPress. The distinction between 'blog' and 'social network' is going to be hard to maintain in future.

  60. Vinny
    December 3, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Community Server Express is an ASP.NET social network software solution. Worth taking a look at. Can download free for non commercial use. Great UI.

    • Damien Oh
      December 3, 2008 at 7:22 pm

      @Vinny: Thanks. I will check it out.

  61. Shailu
    November 26, 2008 at 4:24 am

    I have built a social networking site based on PHPzabi an year ago. It has now around 500+ members (not much but consistent). Its a small networking site for Non Residents Indians all over the world.

    Anyone, Please let me know how can I move from PHPzabi to Elgg? I mean how do I move my users data.

    Help much appreciated!!!

    • bhavya kamboj
      April 26, 2009 at 10:41 pm

      if you like, ask the same in mahalo community. you will get the net filtered for you

  62. Steven Bristol
    October 20, 2008 at 7:27 am

    Thanks for writing about Lovd By Less. We were glad to do something to give back to the open source community. We wrote Lovd for developers, to give them a head start on their projects and hopefully to increase their profits and their fun.

  63. Ted Murphy
    October 18, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Elgg looks good, I'll try it out. Do you actually dislike WP? If so, why?

    • Damien Oh
      October 19, 2008 at 3:50 am

      In fact, I love WP the most. I didn't include it because it is set out to be a social networking software.

  64. Michael Hartl
    October 18, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Thanks for the Insoshi mention; it's too bad your review didn't come out a couple days later, because Insoshi just released a new version that adds a more polished UI, a new icon set, and photo galleries. You can see in it action at the Insoshi demo site, and the source is available on the Insoshi edge branch at GitHub. Once we've ironed out any lingering bugs, we'll deploy it to the Insoshi developer site and release the new code on the master branch. Give it a look and let us know what you think!

    • Aibek
      October 18, 2008 at 3:31 pm

      Thans for he informative post, several people have asked me for advice on the best open source social networking app and I didnt know what to recommend. Now I'll direct them right here. :-)

      • www
        December 27, 2009 at 11:22 pm

        weat now be anty