Build a social network with BoonEx Dolphin
BoonEx Dolphin has been making a name for itself in the social networking software world since 2006. BoonEx, the company behind the Dolphin social networking script started in 2005 with a few other platforms for web sites and released Dolphin 5 in 2006. Since then Dolphin has been a popular platform for building social networks and dating sites. The platform is extremely full featured with an active user community and a large marketplace for 3rd party applications. The current version of Dolphin as of this review is Dolphin 7.1.4.
BoonEx Dolphin is a self hosted social networking application. Installing the software is relatively simple utilizing the Dolphin instillation script. Once you have the BoonEx Dolphin script, all you need to do is upload it to your web server, create a database for Dolphin to use, and run the installation script. The installation script will walk you through the installation of Dolphin. Dolphin also comes with a free media server application based on Red 5. The media server is a requirement for certain media streaming modules within Dolphin. This could make the installation of BoonEx Dolphin a little more difficult as not all web hosting providers have Red 5 supported by default. Once BoonEx Dolphin is installed all that is left to do before you can use the social networking platform is to register your license.
II. BoonEx Dolphin built in features
BoonEx Dolphin current has over 30 modules that are common to social networking sites. We’ll discuss the most common and any unique modules below:
Ads – The Ads module allows an administrator to create various categories in which users can post classified advertisements. This is similar to the way that Craigslist is formatted.
Articles – This module allows users to post articles on the social networking site. Other users can read and comment on any of the articles they have access to.
Blogs – Similar to articles, this module lets users create and post their own blogs on the network.
Payment Module – This allows an administrator to pick a payment gateway for the purpose of charging for different forms of membership.
Photos – Allows users in the community to upload and share images across the social network
Profile Customization – This allows users to customize the background, font and border of their profile on the site.
Groups – Allows users to form and administer custom groups in which other members can join.
Shoutbox – A test box that allows members of the site to communicate with others who are online. These people can see anything posted into the shoutbox and post whatever they want as well.
Forum – a lightweight forum is included with Dolphin. Users can create threads, read others posts and respond as well.
Admin Dashboard – The back end of BoonEx Dolphin has a clean and easy to understand interface. It is broken down by section which includes Members, Modules, Tools, Builders, Settings and License. The members section allows an administrator to view, ban, unban, deactivate, activate and delete any user on the site. The Modules area lets an administrator configure all of the modules installed on the site. The Tools menu allows an administrator to control the anti-spam features, blacklist IP addresses, clear the site cache, and perform database backups. The Builders section allows an administrator to easily modify the look and feel of the website by modifying various pages of the site. No knowledge of web design is needed as an administrator can literally drag and drop blocks onto the pages. Each block contains a specific module which can be added or removed on any type of page on the social networking site. The Settings menu allows an administrator to modify specific settings to the social networking website. This includes site templates, category settings, email templates, language settings, etc. Their are tons of additional settings that can be configured in this area of the administration area. Lastly is the License menu where you would input your license for BoonEx Dolphin.
Take a look at some of the Admin Dashboard and how easy the drag and drop interface is within the Menu Builder in the images below.
III. BoonEx Dolphin Community and 3rd Party Marketplace
BoonEx Dolphin has a user forum based community. The forum is a bit difficult to navigate compared to more professional type forum software. Searching for content in the forum can be a bit tricky as a lot of results are returned and not easily sortable. I will say that the Dolphin community forum is extremely fast when loading searches and content though. Their are tons of helpful posts by the community members and should you need quick help with something the forum could be very beneficial. When you license the Dolphin script you get support from BoonEx for issues but if you are not in the Australian timezone, it might be a while before you get a response to your ticket. Using the community forum might be quicker for general issues.
The BoonEx Dolphin Market has over 400 3rd party add-ons. These modules are categorized in the market so an administrator can search in a specific area for what they might want to add into their site. In addition their is a fast search engine built into the market. If a module does not exist, you can post a new job offer within the BoonEx Jobs section. Anyone can view your job request and bid on it.
Take a look at the images below for a quick look at the Dolphin forum and 3rd Party Market.
IV. Final Overview
BoonEx Dolphin is one of the fastest social networking platforms I have seen. The speed though is dependent on your web server and how much traffic your site will be getting. According to the BoonEx FAQ, the platform can handle a billion users; however I am not sure how one would need to scale their server to truly be able to handle that many people. The only real negative to BoonEx Dolphin is that the installation is not as straightforward as some of the other platforms available. Getting media to function properly requires a host with Red 5 configured plus the BoonEx Dolphin Media Server application. If you are comfortable working on web servers this should not be an issue, but if you are a novice it might take some assistance. All of 36 modules are included with both the Standard and Prime licensing. The Standard license is a one time fee of $399.00 vs a one time charge of $799.00 for the Prime license.
The Prime license gets you additional bonuses such as premium BoonEx membership, discounted 3rd party modules, a professional installation service and probably the most valuable piece is native iOS and Android apps for your social network. The source code for the mobile applications is provided to you and can be modified for re-branding the application to match your site name and theme. BoonEx Dolphin also has a free trial license. If you want to get your hands dirty with BoonEx Dolphin you would probably want to start with this trial license. When using the trial license, the social networking script is fully featured. The only drawback is that you are required to display visible links and banners referring visitors to BoonEx. If you want to keep your members a bit in the dark about what social networking software you are using, the trial license isn’t going to cut it as BoonEx Dolphin will be prominently displayed across your social network. BoonEx Dolphin also comes with lifetime updates and support. Overall BoonEx Dolphin is a good social networking script at a decent price. It is most comparable to phpFox in terms of features and price. BoonEx Dolphin’s standard license is a bit more expensive than phpFox for the same functionality and feature set. Going with the Prime license does get you mobile applications but at a high cost. 3rd Party developers for other social networking platforms can also build mobile applications customized for your site at a much lower price point. Visit the BoonEx Dolphin Demo pages if you want to give that platform a test drive.
If your looking for a lower cost version of BoonEx Dolphin with the same type of features and a much easier installation take a look at our phpFox review for a good comparison.