As many of you out there have noticed, when it comes to (hosted) Social Networking communities, you really only have two-and-a-half solutions: 1) BuddyPress, 2) Elgg and 3) Boonex/Dolphin. Clearly, this blog is titled “BuddyPress vs. Elgg” with no mentioning of Dolphin even though it has been in development for some time. Here’s why: If you’re looking for a hosted social networking platform, you clearly want it to be a white label solution. Boonex will charge you to remove their linkbacks on the footer of your networking site. Total Damage: $40/year or $100 lifetime. That may not seem too shabby but Dolphin without its plugins Ray/Orca — I know, were they high when they named this software? — is useless. So you’ll have to scrape up more dough because those modifications to make it a true social networking system will cost you an additional $40 per plugin per year (or $100 per plugin for unlimited upgrades). All in all, you could end up spending $1,000 for this system the way it’s configured in the demo. Still, it’s a relatively reasonable price, depending how you look at it.
So why isn’t it among the Big Two of social networking start-up sites? Development Community. Even some of the plugin developers charge upwards of 30 bucks for their plugins, which aren’t very polished sometimes. Worst of all, there is an absolute lack in support for this system, because the core keeps changing, which leaves a lot of people stranded after upgrades (ie. read: broken themes/plugins). Unfortunately, things don’t get better when it comes to Elgg. Most of their support is dried up and Google searches point to some issues dating back as far as 2005. Most surprisingly is the fact that no *actual, dedicated Elgg forum* really exists yet. If you try to search for anything specific, you’ll be presented with a long list of related tags, not actual search engine results — you know, the kind you’re used to on Google/Yahoo/MSN. As a result, some Elgg people have started bbPress forums while others are talking to each other via Google Groups.
Enter: BuddyPress. When it comes to the development and support community, BP is virtually unrivaled. I see posts as fresh as several minutes old. This is, no doubt, largely due in part by it being built on top of the most popular open source blogging system on the Web. And while some of BP’s posts are still unanswered, the thirst for continuous improvement is there. It has a large *fan* base, which translates into more support and less coding errors. Not to mention, I have never seen anybody as involved as Andy has in the production process; I’ve seen him comment on user issues outside of buddypress.org — amazing. Technically, BuddyPress ought to score big in this round then, but I’ll hold off on this simply because if you’re a knowledge PHP programmer, Elgg is still a very reliable, solid system.