Elgg is an open source software package that allows you to create and host your own social network. I discovered it last year while looking for this type of software. It is free and because it is open source there is a community of developers that can create plugins to help improve the software.
First, let me say how pleased I am with Elgg. It is the best open source social network software out there that I have been able to find. In fact, I would say there is nothing else like it. I also like the fact that it is open source and extendible with plugins and themes. There is a community site where users can upload plugins and themes.
However, there are several drawbacks to Elgg. First, I would say it is in its infancy now. In fact, in 2008, a new 1.0 version was built from scratch. While the 1.0 version is a great improvement, several features were left out of the new version that existed in the old version that software like this should have in my opinion.
The good thing is that development is continuing on Elgg with 2 major releases planned per year. I am afraid though that the features that are most needed are not on the radar of the developers. Here is my list of features that I feel Elgg needs in the next version or two to be much more useful.
1. SEO – Elgg needs basic SEO. Currently, blog posts, pages and files do not even have unique title tags. This is a basic rule of SEO the developers have ignored. The funny thing is that this was not a problem in the earlier version.
Update: I’ve posted a solution for fixing your title tags in Elgg.
2. An Upgrade Path – When version 1.0 was launched, there was no way to upgrade your installation without losing your data. This is a serious mistake that has not been corrected yet. If you were already using it, you can’t use the new version unless you want to start over from scratch. Why was this even considered and why hasn’t it been corrected yet?
3. The Wall – The classic version had a wall feature just like Facebook. In the new version, they got rid of it. Please bring back the wall.
4. RSS Import – Classic Elgg had a built in feature that could import RSS feeds and even create blog posts from the RSS feed. I’m not sure why they got rid of it, as that is a pretty cool feature that simlar blog platforms need a plugin for. Please bring this back as well.
These are my main concerns, but the list doesn’t stop there. It seems like the developers are using WordPress as a model. While this is a good thing, the developers should pay closer attention to the development of WordPress. I can think of a few things WordPress has that Elgg should have.
WordPress has better documentation. WordPress also has better access to support. Another cool feature would be ratings on plugins and stats on how many times plugins have been downloaded. If you haven’t noticed a pattern yet, WordPress also has this.
Hopefully, this post will start the Elgg developers thinking about these things. If not or in the mean time, maybe some sharp plugin developer will take it upon himself to find a solution to these problems. In any case, I am patiently waiting for Elgg to get better over time. It’s not there yet.