Although there are specific softwares for social networks, WordPress MU, the multi user version of WordPress, has the potential to be transformed into a social platform. WordPress MU is what powers the WordPress.com blogs, handling millions of blogs so you can get an idea of its power. But WPMU doesn’t offer the social network functionality out of the box.
A bit of history
Back in July 1 2007, Andy Peatling anounced that he had completed a social network using WordPress MU:
I recently completed my biggest project yet; a fully fledged social network aimed at female college students. The difference? It’s built on WordPress MU.
WordPress MU has the basics of a social network right out of the box – individual member blogs, member profiles and the ability to scale well.
You must have WordPress MU running to start buddypressing it. I have installed WPMU into a WAMP server and there are some pitfalls in doing so. You can’t just use localhost as your host, instead, you must use localhost.localdomain or something like that, and you must add the new hostname to the hosts file located in c:windowssystem32driversetc. If you use a proxy and your browser was set to not to use a proxy for the localhost hostname, you may have to add localhost.localdomain to the list of words that doesn’t require proxy.
After that, create a database using phpMyAdmin and name it something like “social”. Unzip WordPress MU into a folder inside the www folder in your WAMP installation directory, let’s name it “social” as well. Enable the rewrite_module, turned off in WAMP by default.
Launch your browser now, and go to http://localhost.localdomain/social and enter the required information, your database name, user and password. For example, social could be our database name, and if you haven’t defined an user, just type root as username and leave blank for password. Set the rest of options like choosing if you want the user blogs to be created in a user.domain.com fashion or a domain.com/user/ fashion, set your title and click Submit.
If everything went ok you are now on a new screen asking you to login using admin as a username and a generated password. Proceed to login. We’ll come back to the admin area later.
Buddypressing your WPMU
Let’s assume your base folder name is social. Unzip the latest BuddyPress and move the content (not the folder) of the buddypress-theme folder to socialwp-contentthemes. Move the remaining files and folders to socialwp-contentmu-plugins.
Into the admin area
In the admin area, go to Site AdminThemes. You will find here the BuddyPress themes ready to be activated. Click the Yes radio next to BuddyPress Home Theme and BuddyPress Member Theme. These are the themes that will be used for the social network homepage and the theme to be used for the page/blog/profile of individual users. Now you can go to AppearanceThemes and enable the BuddyPress Home Theme like any other WordPress theme.
You need to enable registration for your users and they will be able to create their profiles pages. Go to Site AdminOptions and change Allow new registrations from “Disabled” to “Enabled. Blogs and user accounts can be created.” At the bottom of this page, check the Plugins checkbox if you want to enable plugins site-wide.
Now you are ready to BuddyPress!