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Whether it’s for your local bowling league or a company’s workforce, there are various solutions out there that already have all the pieces. All that’s needed is someone to put them together in an inventive way to create a budding new social network.
These networks offer you the freedom of getting what you want without having to actually develop it from scratch. They don’t compete directly with social networks like MySpace or Facebook, because they cater to people who want to create their own social networks around specific interests. They also usually allow clients their own visual design, choice of features and member data.
Here are a few of the bigger players you should check out.
Launched in October 2005, Ning is a platform for building your own social network. It was co-founded by Marc Andreessen — who also founded Netscape — and Gina Bianchini. The word “Ning” is Chinese for “peace”. According to Wikipedia, Ning was a free-form platform for the development and hosting of open-source social applications. Since then, there have been some changes and Ning now comes in various free and paid-for flavours. The free version essentially has to run ads that Ning controls, whereas paid-for versions allow users to control ads or even remove them completely. Free networks are however being phased out with Ning putting its focus on a paid-for only solution. In 2008 Ning made the decision to stop hosting “Adult” networks and gave their owners a month to move to other network providers.
According to Wikipedia, SocialGo is based in Britain and was founded by Alex Halliday, Steve Hardman, and Bright Things CEO Dominic Wheatley in June 2007. Like Ning, SocialGo also comes in a free and paid-for version. The paid-for version has more features, extra bandwidth and storage. It also gives users the ability to own a unique domain name.
SocialGO enables you to create an online community website which can be operated as a stand-alone network or bolted onto an existing website. The networks come with all the usual social networking tools like photo sharing and blogging. SocialGo doesn’t offer users anything special, but it has all the basics one would require to build a network.
KickApps — founded in 2005 by Eric Alterman — is another social network builder that has made a splash with over 100 000 sites using their technology. According to Wikipedia, these sites include notable media companies like NBC Universal, The BBC, H&R Block, and Scripps Networks.
The popularity of KickApps is in large part due to the robust toolset offered to clients and API sets that make integration into existing sites extremely easy. This network builder, however, only comes in a paid-for version with a limited free trial. This sets it apart as most other network builders offer some form of free service.
BigTent — founded in February 2006 by Laney Whitcanack and Nicholas Chim — is a self-described organisation and communication portal for groups with many social networking features. As with many social network builders, BigTent comes in paid and free varieties, where the paid users can remove ads and have more control. The network is a members-only site and all content is only visible once you have joined the site. There is also a strict community code that doesn’t allow any hate speech, nudity or sexual content in the groups.