If your looking for a very user friendly, full featured, and easily customizable social networking software platform then phpFox is the clear cut winner in our book. phpFox was created by Benc Enterprises and released in 2005. Over the years, the staff at Benc Enterprises have revised and rebuilt the entire social networking script to vastly improve both the user experience, but also make it extremely easy to install, customize, and administer for the owner of the social networking site. At the time of this writing, the current stable version of phpFox is 3.7. The staff at Benc Enterprises are constantly updating phpFox based on requests made within the community and have come a long way in keeping up with what is popular and necessary in social networking today.
I. Installation and customization of phpFox
phpFox can be ran on both Windows and Linux web servers. Installing the social networking script is extremely easy and should only take a novice about 10 minutes to get a social networking site online. All that needs to be done is upload the script to your web server, then run through the installation wizard. The installation wizard walks you through step by step what configuration options you will need to do. It also runs a check on your web server to ensure that you have all of the modules installed to ensure the script will function without any issues. Once you complete the installation wizard, your social networking site is ready to begin to accept members. While the installation is done, their is so much customization that a new site owner can do within the Admin Control Panel (AdminCP) to customize the social network. Within the AdminCP an administrator can easily change the layout and customize the design and theme of a site. The phpFox community has put together a lot of free themes that users can enjoy. If an administrator is looking for something more unique, the phpFox community also has members who develop custom themes and plugins to add additional benefits to a social networking site. The entire plugin and theme system is documented for developers in a guide. Anyone with some programming knowledge can easily create and integrate new plugins and themes within the phpFox script. The best part of phpFox though is that it really does not require any programming knowledge in order to build a fully featured social network with a great potential to create monthly income.
II. phpFox built in features
Monetizing the social networking site – While owning and operating a social network is fun, most administrators are interested in making some money off of the website. phpFox does an excellent job assisting administrators with various options to make money on a monthly basis. The first method of monetizing a phpFox site is the most common which is Ad campaigns. A site administrator can serve ad content which advanced filters to specify who will see what ads based on things such as location, age, gender, etc. Additionally, an administrator can allow users to submit their own ads on the site. A site administrator can designate up to 10 different areas of the site for ad placement and charge accordingly depending on the location and size of the ad spot. Ads can be set to be reviewed prior to going live to ensure you do not advertise anything on the site that you thing would be negative to your community. phpFox also allows for you to sell marketplace listings. This will allow users to sell items on your site within the marketplace. They can pay you for a listing and when an item sells the money goes directly to them via PayPal or 2checkout. Additionally users of the site can pay to sponsor items. Lets say they have a marketplace listing or an important message that they want to get more exposure for, they can pay to have the item sponsored. Lastly and probably the most powerful option for monetizing is the option to enable subscriptions. Using subscriptions allows an administrator to create different levels of groups and each group can be customized with up to 330 different options of what a user can and cannot do or see on the social network. As an example, if you wanted to build a dating site and give people read only accounts for free and sell monthly subscriptions to send messages and send friend requests, it would be relatively easy to do with the subscription options built into the phpFox script.
Apps – Just like on Facebook, users can create their own apps and games to integrate into the phpFox social networking script. The control over apps is done within the AdminCP so the site administrator or staff can approve or deny any app created for the social network. The app developer can host the app on their own server which helps keep your web server secure by only allowing your scripts and code on your server. Creation of an App Store will allow users to choose what apps they want to install and allows for easy access to them via a dashboard. Each app also gets a fan page created for it where the developer can easily support and promote the app to members of the social network.
Pages and Groups – Users can create a Fan Page or a Business type page on your site in which other members of the site can like, comment and follow status updates. Alternatively users can also create groups specifically tied to a niche topic. Groups can be joined by other members of the site and tend to become extremely active. Pages can have multiple people as administrators who are able to easily invite others to check out their page. Each group and page contain an activity feed that allows users to upload content, share links, and write status updates on the wall. The social networking site admin has full control over the approval process for creating pages and groups.
Activity Feed – Common to all social networking platforms these days is the activity feed. phpFox allows users to quickly share status updates, photos, links to websites, blogs, videos, songs, and polls right from a users activity feed. Utilizing integration with Facebook and Twitter, users are also able to share items from their feed on Facebook and Twitter. This is extremely beneficial as when users post to their activity feed, and those posts get shared to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, each person who follows the user on Twitter or is a friend on Facebook will learn about your social networking site and want to check it out for themselves. The traffic of a website can grow exponentially due to Facebook and Twitter integration. Users can also set privacy filters on their activity feed so that not everything they post can be seen by everyone else. Depending on the privacy settings, other users can also comment on a member’s activity feed.
Mobile functionality – As more and more people are surfing the Internet from mobile devices, phpFox has stayed ahead of the curve by allowing a social networking site to work seamlessly on mobile devices. The platform works great with built in and customized themes.
Privacy Settings – The privacy options allow for tons of control regarding what people are allowed to see on your social network. One option within the privacy settings is to make your community invite only whereby only people with an invitation code are able to join. This can create a lot of buzz and exclusivity which can help a social network grow. This is also good in the beginning when you are testing out your new social network to ensure everything functions correctly in a beta type sense. You can disable the invite only functionality when the website is ready to go live. The privacy settings also allow users to control who can view and comment on the things they have posted. Options include Only Me, Friends, Friends of Friends, and Everyone. Alternatively users can create custom lists as well to control exactly who can view what was posted. Another privacy option is to enable a friends only community. This will only show members items that were posted by their friends.
Customization Content Management System – The AdminCP is the back end of the social networking script. From within the AdminCP an administrator controls all of the site permissions and options, along with all of the layouts of the site. Take a look at the video below to see how easy it is to day something to an existing page within phpFox without the need to understand coding or web development.
Their are so many options to what a user can do and create that it would take an entire document to explain it all. Luckily phpFox has an administrator guide in their knowledge base which does a great job explaining how to customize and configure the site. Look through the four images below to see some screenshots of the AdminCP.
Multi-Lingual Support – phpFox comes with the English language pack by default. If a social network is meant to be global having only one language is not going to cut it. phpFox allows for importing and creating language packs which will allow your social network to display contents in which ever language you would like. Their are a lot of language packs already created by developers should you want to save some time and purchase a pack.
Other Common Social Networking Modules – phpFox has so much built in to their community software. The following are things that social networking users have come to expect on a social networking site:
Blogs, Forums, Shoutbox, Friend Request System, Private Messaging, Videos, Music, Profile pages, Instant Messaging, Events, and Photos.
phpFox has included all of the above into its social networking software platform. Each item can be enabled or disabled within the AdminCP depending on the administrators preference for using them on the social network.
III. phpFox Community and 3rd Party Developers
phpFox comes with support and upgrades when you purchase the script which is awesome. Another cool thing about phpFox is their user community. Within the phpFox homepage you can access the user community by accessing the forums. The forums are the best place to go for quick answers to common and sometimes uncommon questions. While the staff of phpFox and developers access the forums to assist with issues when they can, the phpFox veterans check out the forum on a regular basis and are usually eager to assist where they can. The community can also report bugs to developers as well as put in feature requests. phpFox developers look at the feature request area and typically implement the highest voted features into later builds of the software. Any license holder can vote up or down a feature request depending on how they feel about it.
While phpFox already contains everything you need to get started, the community also has a marketplace whereby developers release 3rd party plugins and themes. If you are looking to break away from a common themed site, their are plenty of theme developers who release beautiful layouts that will make your community look and fee like a totally different site. In addition to themes, 3rd party developers have created some amazing plugins to help your community thrive. Some of the most popular 3rd party plugins are:
Native iPhone and Android App – While the mobile theme is wonderful, these developers will build an app designed specifically for your site to work on the most popular mobile devices.
phpFox.Pro – This is a 3rd party application which will greatly reduce spammers on your site. Like it or not, spam is inevitable, and the bigger your site gets, the more likely it will be spammed. This tool will help you alleviate some of the administration of banning spammers.
Advanced Contact Importer – Allows users to invite contacts from networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as well as their email contacts.
CometChat – This is an amazing instant messaging and chat room plugin. Depending on the licensing level, you can have live video chat for your users which does not go through your server. This saves a ton on bandwidth costs and works by creating a peer to peer connection directly with the users chatting.
Check out the images below for a few examples of the community and 3rd party marketplace.
IV. Final Overview
phpFox is one of the top pieces of social networking software on the market today. The software can be purchased for a one time fee at three different levels, Lite ($99.00), Network ($199), and Community (299). The differences of each have been laid out in the image below.
If you have a great niche idea for a social networking site do not hesitate to purchase the community site license. This unlocks the scripts full potential and will allow you to grow with no hold barred. If you want to remove the “Powered by phpFox” text from your site, they do offer an additional one time fee to remove the branding from your site. If you decide you are not happy with phpFox, Benc Enterprises offers a generous 30 day return policy to get a full refund.
If you are on the fence and want to give phpFox a try without any investment take a look at the phpFox demos page. You can test drive both the front end of the social networking script from a users perspective on both a mobile device and a desktop. Alternatively if you want to play around with the administrative back end of the software, the AdminCP, take a look at the Admin Demo. You will be amazed at how easy it is to customize a phpFox site by just dragging and dropping things and all of the options that you can configure with ease.