How To Create A Social Network - Part 2
In this second post I will provide you with a list of out of the box tools that you can use to create your own social network and also provide you with some resources to further expand your knowledge of what is available.
A World Of Options
Point and Click
TechCrunch has taken a sample of nine companies that fall into the point and click category - Ning, KickApps, CrowdVine, GoingOn, CollectiveX, Me, PeopleAggregator, Haystack, and ONEsite - all of these provide free baseline services, they have reviewed them individually here. I have also included a link to the chart on the right summarizing all of these companies’ offerings. Jeremiah Owyang also compiled a comprehensive list of white label social networking services.
TechCrunch has also put together a great article comparing the following companies: Affinity Circles, AlstraSoft, Blogtronix, Boonex, Broadband Mechanics, Converdge, Crowd Factory, DZOIC, GoLightly, introNetworks, Kwiqq, Leverage, Lithium, LiveWorld, Neighborhood America, Omnifuse, Pringo, Prospero, SelectMinds, Small World Labs, Social Platform, Sparta Social Networks, Telligent, ThePort, VMIX Media, Web Crossing, Web Scribble Solutions, and Webligo. Which can be fount here. Or you can go straight to the comparison chart on the right.
Another option would be to do it yourself. If all else fails and you can not find a solution to fit your needs you may need to build it yourself. The custom software option has its advantages and disadvantages but the end product is the result of your effort and hard work (or that of your developer) and is sure to fit your needs because it is build with that purpose in mind.
What Best Fits Your Needs?
I would like to compare the pros and cons of these three major options below:
Point and Click
A major benefit of the point and click option is the ease of which this social network can be created and the relatively low level of experience needed to set up the site. The point and click option allows anyone with the skills to create a myspace page to create their own social network.
In my opinion a couple of the major downsides to this option are flexibility and ownership. When I say flexibility I mean the ability to do whatever your heart desires when it comes to your social network. If you want a feature that is not made available by the point and click wizard then there is no way that you can add it unless at some point in the future the feature is added by the point and click company you choose.
When I say ownership I am speaking about you owning your website and all things contributed to your website. When creating web properties (i.e. - google, yahoo, myspace, facebook, ect.) the creators want ownership of what they have created. If you are looking to create the "next big social network" then ownership is a big deal and will force you away from the point and click option. With point and click they own your website.
The the two biggest advantages that I see in Downloadable or Made-To-Order social networks would be speed of development and customization.With an out of the box solution you can take advantage of someone else's hard work and not have to build everything from scratch. You also have the ability to tweak the features and if the solution comes with the source code then you can add your own custom features.
If you can find a good open source platform on which to build from you will gain flexibility and will also jump ahead in the development of your social network because you don't have to spend all of your time creating the basic framework for your social network.
There are some disadvantages associated with downloadable/made-to-order solutions. The disadvantages include: more knowledge needed to set up the website, must find a solution with an active community, some coding experience may be required. These are not really disadvantages if you already feel comfortable writing software but if you have never written a line of code then this solution may require more work.
The do it yourself option has both good and bad associated with it. If you are a solid developer and you feel comfortable tinkering under the hood then the do it yourself approach will provide you with the greatest amount of flexibility. But the ability to customize to your hearts content comes at a price, that price is time. The development of a solid social network requires a great deal of planning and design and will also require a more concerted effort.
It is easy to see why the custom social network provides the greatest amount of flexibility. If you are creating every aspect of your social network then you will be very comfortable with how it works and will be able to make modifications as you see fit.
Custom is not for everyone! If you do not know what I mean when I say code then you will not be building your own social network any time soon. Custom is really only an option in 2 cases: you are a software developer, you can pay a software developer.
If you have ideas about social networking that are not already available in out of the box solutions. Or if your ideas for social networking are so far out there that an out of the box solution would not suffice then you will not have any other option but to go custom. But you have been warned!