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.
I don’t think BuddyPress will be something you use instead of your existing social networks, I mean all your friends are already on Myspace, but if you wanted to start something new maybe with more control, friendlier terms of service, or just something customized and tweaked to fit exactly into your existing site, then BuddyPress is a great framework to use. Maybe even someday you’ll be able to connect your BuddyPresses to each other and to the existing monolithic social networks.
This is just a 1.0 release and it’s not for everybody yet, for example it currently requires using MU which is a bit trickier to get set up than regular WordPress, but regardless I’d recommend diving into the community at BuddyPress.org, which is great example of the software in action.