Blogs and social networks are often contrasted. For example, we could say that blogs are about content, and social networks are about connection.
It may seem strange, then, that there are a couple of reasonably prominent projects out there that use the WordPress blog software to build social networks. One, DiSo, is prominent because of its links with standards efforts.
Another, BuddyPress, has just become more prominent because it has become part of Automattic. By that, I mean that Automattic has just hired Andy Peating, developer of BuddyPress, and has added BuddyPress to its projects.
In announcing the news, Matt remarked that the future is social, and Om said that we told you Automattic saw it that way.
A bit of history: Andy developed a social network called ChickSpeak, using WordPress Multi-User to do so. BuddyPress was his project to take that work and make it an open source social network platform. It’s still his project, but now he a paycheck and other support from Automattic to work on it.
In terms of Automattic’s direction, the most interesting aspect of BuddyPress is the contrast with the Prologue theme. Matt described a WordPress blog with that theme as like a group Twitter. He went on to say that:
Some folks have suggested that using WordPress, Prologue, and RSS you could create a pretty effective distributed version of Twitter. This isn’t something we’re personally interested in, but we’ve made the theme available as open source under the GPL so if you want to hack around it yourself you’re welcome to.
So, Automattic isn’t going to pounce on Twitter; it’ll leave that to Pownce. But it is going to jump on the opportunity to build an open source social network platform.