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

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.