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Sneak Peek: The Next Big Extension to Hit the Joomla World

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Last time I counted, there were 1.15 billion Facebook users, 699 million of whom used Facebook every day. There are 50 million Facebook Pages and 10 million Facebook apps. Whether you love Facebook or not, it’s hard to deny their success (as long as you’re not a shareholder). The number of businesses that are using the platform to engage with their community is extraordinary and in some cases, Facebook is the primary or only online presence for a business.

Given that 1/7th of the planet is “on Facebook”, why would you use any other platform to create an online community? There are several Joomla social networking extensions and as I’ll reveal shortly, a new player is about to enter this game. But is it worth the hassle and expense to buy and maintain your own solution when Facebook is so dominant? Will users be happy to register for yet another site? Before answering, let’s take a quick look at the available options for Joomla.

Community Builder (CB) - this is one of the oldest Joomla extensions around and for a long time the only social network option. There are many extensions available for it including a paid membership option that we used for a time. CB is free and the developers have provided enormous value with their creation. However it has not evolved much and as such, its popularity has declined.

JomSocial - When released, this was a much welcomed extension because it provided the features and functionality that were lacking in CB. Many third party extensions have been developed and although it is only available as a commercial solution, it quickly became the leader. However as often happens with a large project, development and support started to falter and last year JomSocial was sold to iJoomla. They are currently redeveloping it with a host of new features.

Undiscuss - Another contender has recently emerged and it appears that it has been developed by the same folks who developed JomSocial. If that’s correct, I can’t help asking if their sale contract included a non-compete clause! Although I haven’t tried a live version of this, the demo seems polished and professional. But who chose the name - Undiscuss?

EasySocial - Drumroll please … join me in welcoming the latest contender - EasySocial. This is brought to you by the team behind EasyBlog (which powers this blog), EasyDiscuss (which powers our forum) and Komento. It’s not out yet, but you can get a sneak peek and register for more information. I’m excited about its potential because other extensions by StackIdeas are awesome and their support is phenomenal. Months of work have gone into its development and I’m hopeful that the end result will be as good as their other creations. They will no doubt introduce a bundle that includes all of their extensions which will be a great way to kick-off any community website.

Although there are differences between all four solutions, a winner will need to emerge as I can’t see the market being big enough for all four. Community Builder might continue to draw a following as their solution is free. Undiscuss appears to have experienced developers, but they are effectively starting from scratch. Despite my love for their other extensions, StackIdeas has a lot of work to do to catch-up to JomSocial’s boast of 160,000 installations. Then again, they have a large team and have attracted a loyal fan base with their other extensions. So they’re working from a solid foundation.

One feature that can drive these platforms is a paid membership add-on option. A lot of people are looking for this solution for Joomla, so if this integration existed and was promoted well, it could be the feature that delivers a winner. For example Akeeba Subscriptions and jPayPlans integrates with JomSocial.

So back to my original questions. Why bother buying and maintaining your own social network site when you can simply direct your audience to Facebook? Despite the numbers, not everyone uses or likes Facebook. It’s amazing they’re still so dominant despite their history of upsetting users with privacy and feature changes. A lot of people are hesitant to use it for these reasons, along with the fact that the novelty of reading how everyone else’s life is perfect, is starting to wear off. Hopefully your users will be far more trusting of you and therefore happy to interact via your website.

Would users be willing to register for yet another account? Well, ironically I guess, these extensions allow you to login using Facebook and other services. Also if you’re using it for a private membership site such as a club, school or church, you need to get those details or quite possibly your members are already registered.

I’m looking forward to the release of EasySocial and if this interests you I encourage you to register to be informed when it is released. Have you considered integrating social networking into your website? If you’re already doing this, what’s your experience? Which extension are you using? Or are you sick of the whole concept and can’t wait to close your Boastbook account? Share your thoughts with me below.

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Comments

  • Andrew
    Andrew Friday, 26 July 2013

    "Last time I counted,"

    Richard you have too much time on your hands :-)

    Having looked at the intro site it appears to cover the features I was looking for a site I had in mind last year.

    Maybe I have it wrong but it looks like an option for a Joomla site to work in a similar way to the main WordPress site?

    A subscriber could have their own home page / blog while communicating with the rest of the members?

    The idea we were looking at is a site for a specific service industry where the public would have access to the service providers public pages while the community busy in the private section discussing all the challenges they encounter on a daily basis.

    We were looking to build a site where the suppliers to that industry could advertise, maybe take part in the discussions in the private section where they get to know their customers needs better.

    Obviously way beyond my programming abilities maybe the site will not be a pipe dream anymore.

    Andy.

  • Richard Pearce
    Richard Pearce Saturday, 27 July 2013

    Andy - I don't know if this is the best solution for your goals. Rather than try to compare it to WordPress, think of it as your own private version of Facebook or LinkedIn. It has features like groups and discussions. It is much more than a forum and if you want to, the public or your members can create their own groups.

    Reply Cancel
  • Michael Ellis
    Michael Ellis Friday, 26 July 2013

    Richard, great overview of the Joomla social extensions. You didn't mention JFBConnect which seems to be attracting a lot of users.

    A key requirement for me would be the ability to manage multiple social apps from my single site, so effectively I need a social dashboard to integrate into my site. When I make a post, from within my site, I want it to go to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc etc. I then want to be able to monitor the uptake of that post from my site.

  • Richard Pearce
    Richard Pearce Saturday, 27 July 2013

    JFBConnect is somewhat different to the ones I listed. It integrates with Facebook rather than provides your own private social network. I like it though. At some stage I will create a series on social networking and may well include it along with Social Connect.

  • Bill Branham
    Bill Branham Friday, 26 July 2013

    I had the same impression about CB, that it wasn't keeping up, but I stayed because I didn't want to go to the work of migrating. Now, I'm glad I stayed. They've really come out with some great features lately. You might want to take a fresh look.

  • Charlie Hein
    Charlie Hein Saturday, 27 July 2013

    Richard, I don't know if a social networking extension is really something that would work in my club's website environment or not, but I can't pass by this post without putting in a giant sized "atta boy" for the folks at Stackideas. You used the word "phenomenal" to describe their support, and I agree only because I literally can't think of anything grander to say about them. They have totally exceeded any expectation I could have had by a large margin.

    One of the main reasons we wanted to add EasyDiscuss to our web site was to coax our members who prefer to contribute via email to our closed Yahoo! Group into using the post by email features of EasyDiscuss, bringing that engagement and content onto the club's web page and into the public eye. When I installed the extension and started to "kick the tires" it became evident that the post by email feature was not really at a stage where it functioned as closely to the Y! Group email posting as we needed to pitch it to our club as a replacement.

    Stackideas support has worked with us cheerfully and tirelessly for the last few weeks to bring this functionality up to where we needed it to be, and with the exception of some very small remaining issues we are now ready to unveil EavsyDiscuss to the membership. I even understand that these changes are going to be rolled into the core product's next release.

    I have never experienced this level of support even in my professional experience. I cannot recommend these folks highly enough!

    Charlie

  • Richard Pearce
    Richard Pearce Saturday, 27 July 2013

    I setup JomSocial for a Rotary Club. The people involved in contracting me to do this were super-excited. But it turns out that the rest of the club were lukewarm at best. As such, the project eventually failed. There was nothing wrong in the ease of use or features.

    I think every club should have one, but unless you can get a good number of members actively using it, it's going to be a struggle.

  • Guest
    Mark Lee Sunday, 28 July 2013

    Thanks for sharing this Richard! This is going to be awesome!

  • Richard Pearce
    Richard Pearce Sunday, 28 July 2013

    We're looking forward to it Mark. I can't begin to imagine how much work you guys have put into it.

  • Guest
    fuqaha Monday, 29 July 2013

    Hi Richard,

    FYI, none of the original developers for JomSocial and Offiria is actually associated with Undiscuss. Since Offiria source code was made open source late last year, people are free to fork it and play with it; though in Undiscuss case, it's just a change of name.

    Regards,

    Fuqaha,
    (ex) JomSocial Project Manager.

  • Guest
    Paul Tuesday, 30 July 2013

    It looks like there's at least on link between Undiscuss and Offiria:

    http://my.linkedin.com/in/nabilfeisal - notice the CEO @ Offiria reference

  • Frank Ugochukwu
    Frank Ugochukwu Monday, 9 September 2013

    It sounds like it is going to be awesome. I really enjoyed their other product.

  • 3by400, Inc.
    3by400, Inc. Thursday, 19 September 2013

    Thanks for the article, Richard. I recently participated in a review of EasySocial. As it turns out, the StackIdeas lead developer for this project was on the original JomSocial development team. Although I had a similar thought around no-compete clauses, I chalked it up to the differences in Malaysian law and made a mental note to keep EasySocial on the horizon for future projects. Obviously, they are coming from the place of re-engineering some of JomSocial's more fatal flaws.
    I whole-heartedly support the comment above regarding StackIdeas' level of support. It is fantastic--fast and thorough--and quite uncommon in the Joomla world. That support has made EasyBlog one of our "go to" tools. They certainly go the extra mile to delight their customers.

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