Sometime in 2011 I was asked to assist a friend in setting up Buddypress. Buddypress was a special plugin that, along with WordPress MU or WPMU would make your WordPress site into a social network. It was a bit of a dream at the time, to be able to plugin this in and that in and get a basic Facebook. It was not easy and there was a bit of trouble, because it was actually built on top of WPMU which was really many blogs in one. So it was very convoluted.
I heard WordPress acquired buddypress a few years ago. Well, the 2011 version of Buddypress did not implement very well. From what I remember we stumbled into it and found that we needed a developer to do this or do that. Eventually we lost interest in the project, because we were just trying to create a basic social site.
Many Buddypress plugin functions hardly worked, and you were really limited because at the time you had to use a special WordPress template that was Buddypress compatible. In fact, you had to not only have a special template or create one yourself, you also needed to hire a programmer to get Buddypress to pretty do anything out of the ordinary. So, what this meant is you ended up with a common looking Social site that was no different than Facebook, so nobody cared. In fact the template issue was as big a stumbling block as the custom coding issues.
So, fast forward 4 years, and we are now popping the new Buddypress into action. Basically it is a whole different world. I know that WPMU became part of the standard WordPress build. So, it is not really worth going into, but basically Buddypress can allow you to not only create a social site, it can be combined with BBpress to create a multi-blog site for your users, where every user can have their own blog. Does not sound too important, but that was the basis of Buddypress in the beginning.
The big improvement, because I have been away from this plugin so long, is that you can pretty much choose any WordPress template to work with Buddypress. Does not sound too important, but it makes it possible to design your social site anyway you wish if you are designer. The end result is you can find that killer template, pay a small amount or get it for free, plug this and that new WordPress plugin in and you have a real social site.
I have worked on a bunch of custom social sites, so I know as well as anybody what it takes to build out a real social site. Obviously you are going to have to sacrifice some level of customization to make Buddypress work for your concept, but if you are not that concerned about custom functions, this is pretty much going to do the job.
So, want your own Facebook or social app, you can configure Buddypress and WordPress and get something special. If you have a WordPress site already and want to figure this all out, let me know.