Meet PeepSo: BuddyPress’ Newest Competitor in Open Source Social Networking for WordPress

When the first BuddyPress beta arrived on the scene in 2008, there was nothing like it for WordPress. Facebook was still relatively new to the public and Twitter was just a couple years old. A plugin that transformed WordPress into a social network was an exciting prospect.

After seven years of virtually unchallenged dominance among WordPress social networking plugins, BuddyPress has a new competitor. PeepSo, trademarked “Your people. Your community. Your way,” is the newest contender in WordPress’ open source social networking plugin niche.

Unlike BuddyPress, which for the most part has improved slowly through community contribution, the PeepSo project is run more like a startup and is 100% self-funded. It is currently being marketed as an alternative to BuddyPress.

The PeepSo plugin, available on WordPress.org, offers many of the same core features as BuddyPress but was launched with a collection of commercial add-on plugins for things like photos, videos, moods, tagging, locations, friends, and messages. A groups feature is noticeably absent from Peepso but planned for version 1.4. Current extensions seem to focus primarily on adding multimedia features to the activity stream.

peepso-profile

Who is Behind PeepSo?

merav-peepsoPeepSo was founded by Merav Knafo, owner of JomSocial, Joomla’s most popular social networking solution. Knafo, a veteran in the Joomla community, brings a unique perspective on the differences between the Joomla and WordPress markets for social networking software. As Joomla captures roughly 7% to WordPress’ 60% of the CMS market share, Knafo saw an opportunity to break into a larger market.

“As a business owner, it’s my job to pay attention to trends in my industry and unfortunately, Joomla has been on a downward trend since 2009,” Knafo said.

“Many of our JomSocial customers have asked us to ‘make JomSocial for WordPress,’ because they wanted to switch to WordPress but there was nothing like JomSocial for WordPress. Finally, I could not ignore the trend nor the requests and decided to get into the WordPress market as well.”

Knafo hopes to parlay her experience with JomSocial into her new venture with PeepSo.

“We stuck with Joomla for almost 10 years now and took JomSocial to a whole new level when we took over in 2013,” she said. “I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished with JomSocial and super excited to implement all this experience and knowledge into PeepSo.”

How PeepSo Got Started

The idea for PeepSo was incubating for a few years before Knafo had the opportunity to execute it.

“Brad Bihun used to be a customer of ours at iJoomla, and then he switched to WordPress,” she said. “We happened to live very close to each other in Encinitas, California, so we met up and suggested I’d created ‘JomSocial for WordPress.’

“At that time, I didn’t even own JomSocial and I was too busy with all the iJoomla products. Then a couple of years later, I acquired JomSocial and he approached me again, but once again, I was just too busy. A year and a half into JomSocial acquisition, when things got a lot smoother, I finally said yes, he introduced me to the SpectrOM team, and we got started.”

Although the plugin appears to be marketed as a direct competitor to BuddyPress, Knafo said that it wasn’t created specifically for that purpose but rather to give WordPress users a more robust array of options for building networks.

“Obviously we felt there was a need for another product as an alternative to BuddyPress,” she said. “Leaving users with just one option is rarely a good idea, people like options.

“We don’t necessarily plan to take on BuddyPress, we just want to offer those who want an alternative, a product that is of high quality and that is being continuously developed. Ultimately, people will choose the solution that serves them best. We are just getting started, but we have big plans and an excellent track record doing this successfully with Joomla.”

The Differences Between PeepSo and BuddyPress

I asked Knafo what her team perceives to be the most notable differences between PeepSo and its more established competitor, based on what they found to be lacking in BuddyPress.

“I’d say the look and feel is a lot more modern in PeepSo right off the bat with no special themes needed,” she said. “The features are more up-to-date with the latest and greatest features of big social networks, such as Facebook – from cover photos to ‘likes’ and so on.”

BuddyPress core developers have opted to leave the aforementioned features to separate third-party plugins as opposed to packing them into core. With certain features, i.e. photos and videos, PeepSo does the same, except the add-ons are supported by PeepSo core developers.

“PeepSo is lightweight and allows you to only add features that you need, to keep it lightweight,” Knafo said. “PeepSo’s code is so beautiful it made our developers shed tears of joy when they first saw it – that said, I never looked at BuddyPress’s code, nor would I be able to tell whether it’s beautiful or not.”

In terms of code differences, PeepSo’s development team cited what they believe to be a few major differences between their codebase and BuddyPress:

  • All object oriented – from the PHP to the Javascript
  • Built with a templating engine similar to what you see in shopping cart systems. This allows use with virtually any theme.
  • The JavaScript uses an extension mechanism, allowing add-ons to extend the abilities of the postbox.
  • We made the database queries as optimized as possible to allow for greater scalability.

“We have a track record creating and supporting a very large social networking application (JomSocial),” Knafo told the Tavern. “We know the ins and out of this business. We may be new to WordPress, but we are veterans when it comes to social networking applications.”

Where is PeepSo Headed?

The PeepSo development team, guided by lead architect Dave Jesch of SpectrOM, has an aggressive roadmap for improving the plugin’s core and adding more features via commercial plugins.

“Our main goal is to add more plugins to PeepSo, you can see our road map here. We’ll start with a chat plugin, custom profile fields and then groups, events, pages and so forth,” Knafo said. The team also hopes to partner with other developers who want to create PeepSo plugins.

I asked her if the team plans to create a hosted PeepSo platform for community managers. Knafo said it isn’t totally out of the question but isn’t high on the priority list at the moment.

“We tried to do this with JomSocial but we had a hard time finding the right hosting solution for it,” she said. “That said, we are open to the idea, a bit down the road.”

PeepSo is just getting started and has not yet attracted many customers. However, Knafo’s experience of successfully running an open source project for the past 10 years has given her the determination to break into a new and unfamiliar market.

“The sales have been as can be expected this early after the initial release, not too shabby to start with but we expect whole lot more sales as the WordPress users become aware of PeepSo, download the free version and give it a try,” she said.

“We’re here for the long haul and we take no shortcuts in doing this right. We know it’s a huge undertaking; there is so much more to do. I am confident that investing in WordPress was the right move, I’ve been very pleased by the feedback and the community. My hope is that WordPress developers will join us and create awesome plugins to take PeepSo to the next level.”

42 Comments


  1. Someone familiar with social networking for WordPress and another platform. I’m happy to see it. And I hope they give BuddyPress a run for their money (so to speak). WordPress social networking functionality can use a shot in the arm with regard to competition.

    Until now, there have been some rather “greedy” attempts to promote plugins which haven’t been adequately tested prior to release or, the developer wasn’t really familiar with WordPress or platforms similar to WordPress or they just give too little in order to get their plugin listed in the WordPress repository. Just because someone uses PHP doesn’t mean they know the WordPress world. At least that’s what I think. And I have worked with a few of them.

    I say, great … Let’s see what they are about. I will be testing this one for sure. Thanks Sarah for this post. Social networking plugins are my passion. And I have clients who have been very disappointed with the other “BuddyPress Alternatives”.

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  2. It’s unquestionably prettier than BP, but there doesn’t seem to be a front end listing of all members. Doesn’t do any good to have a search when I don’t know who’s there to search.

    Nevertheless, definitely worth following. Thanks Sarah.

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    1. I’ve just downloaded the RC4. Hopefully there is going to be some enhancements there. I haven’t tested yet.

      I did notice on their “developers” page that they are asking for assistance with different types of plugins to connect and interact with. At least they are advertising they are wanting to work with others. That’s not really something the other “Alternatives” have been very interested in doing. Good start, IMHO

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    2. Just another observation. Having looked at their demo. The funcitonality if much more close to the FB type functionality with regard to showing members. I am not actually in favor of the “Members” page showing everyone. The way this plugin is doing it should be more consistent with the way people are familiar with social networking. Just a brief observation.

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      1. I’m used to social sites like Ning and SocialEngine. The more intimate nature of those site make them conducive to socializing with stranger, while the mega-sites you refer to only promote socializing within your circle of friends. I doubt anyone will use either BP or PeepSO to create a mega-site.

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      2. Oh, but one never knows these things… LOL

        I agree, most of what is available for WordPress relies upon a members page. But there is also argument against such a thing when considering the European approach. Privacy is a big thing over there and showing up in a corral with everyone else isn’t the way they like to do things from what I have heard and seen.

        So, the more private approach and requiring a search may actually be a big plus here.

        Having said that, there could be the option to have a members page for the more “intimate” niche sites where the corral approach is good. I think that would be a great option to have.

        Have you seen the trends in social networking. Many people are abandoning the “crowd” sites for more specific and limited to their own social circles. This is a good thing if anyone is wanting to capture some of that audience.. Just saying.

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  3. It’s awesome to see a social platform for WordPress that is commercially supported. BuddyPress is great and all, but just like membership and ecommerce plugins I can see the bulk of the market preferring to pay for something so complex and so critical to a site over the free options.

    It’s worth noting as I’ve followed this project for a while that it was a ground up build by a team of WordPress developers I’ve known and trusted for years. It’s not a port of JomSocial > WordPress, nor written by Joomla developers trying to figure out WordPress for the first time.

    We’ve played with it internally and are looking forward to putting it into production very soon.

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      1. Which comment? To my knowledge none of the BuddyPress developers run a commercial support entity for BuddyPress. They do client consulting work for hire, but that’s a different arrangement entirely.

        Perhaps you misconstrued my comment that PeepSo is well coded by WordPress developers to suggest that BP isn’t well coded by WordPress developers? However that is not at all what I said or implied.

        I’ve seen code disasters when someone tries to port code from Joomla to WP. PeepSo isn’t that. It takes the UX experience from JomSocial (which IMHO is a better UX than BP) and rebuilt it from the ground up to WordPress coding practices.

        JJJ, Boone and Paul write great code… not suggesting otherwise at all (well as long as I confine that statement to BP 1.9+, I remember working with 1.6-1.8 and those aren’t found memories).

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  4. If someone would like to chime in on this, I would like to see or hear about a comparison between WP Symposium, Buddy Press, and Peeso? has anyone done this or have experience with these. At the moment I am running WP Sympsoium (just started), but before I really get committed here, I would like to know which one is the best? – Bill

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    1. Which one is the best? That would depend on what your particular needs are and how well the three options meet them. If I were in your shoes I would put together two lists, ‘must have features’ and ‘would be nice’ and then go through the 3 alternatives and see how well they stack up. Keep in mind that BuddyPress has tonnes of plugins which can extend its core functions and it has been architectured that way from the start.

      All in all, I’m glad to see more competition in this area of wordpress development.

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      1. If I were making the decision, I personally left the other options and returned to BuddyPress. Here is the thing. Though this one seems quite nice and has features which are similar in functionality to major social networking platforms (familiarity is important to users), BuddyPress has extensions which have been created which are free and will give the functionality the paid plugins for this one are offering.

        However, even with that, I would not look away from this project just because they aren’t offering everything for free as with what is available for BP. There are drawbacks to BP. But there are less drawbacks than there were a few months ago because of aggressive updates recently.

        I would rule out WPS unless you want to be stuck with just what they offer. They aren’t very open with regard to extendability. That’s a major drawback considering the price they want for everything. And that’s the way that project has been for a very long time.

        Again, this project is young and what is being offered for download is RC4 which means it isn’t really a full release.

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    1. Unfortunately this is not the case they are offering (currently) less for a higher price than the competition. Makes absolutely no sense what-so-ever.

      ..but good luck as I always welcome new blood into the sharkpit. Hope they do well in the long-run.. if they manage to achieve half the capabilities of jomsocial then they will be streets ahead of the competition within wordpress.

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  5. I have to chime in that if you didn’t go with a mobile app social network first then forget having a “crowd site” as explained above. Desktop only sites are good for small niche networks and most are not willing to pay for this. Trust me, I’ve sold BP plugins before and the amount of interest is not significant enough to support the development. If anyone says that’s not true has not done their homework on mobile app usage.

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    1. Absolutely true. Anything not having a mobile app attached to it isn’t going to be doing a whole lot. And from what I understand, it’s even better if it is purely mobile.

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  6. My comment may not be creative or nice here but is is funny to see how everyone is claiming to build another BuddyPress alternative. I have seen 3 plugins recently, A quick look at the code suggest otherwise.

    Not to be mean, but I hope while claiming to write object oriented code, they do understand what object oriented means, putting everything in a class does not make it object oriented.

    While working with WordPress, I hope people will follow the WordPress coding standard, specially for new plugins(as they have a better chance at following it).

    BuddyPress may have issues but I have yet to see a plugin that is as extensible and coded well like BuddyPress. The BuddyPress team has been doing great work at making it flexible and a life saver for developers like me.
    My prediction: None of the so called alternative is going to gain much developer mind share, If you want developer mind share, write better code, make it readable.

    A quote from my favorite author:

    Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand. — Martin Fowler

    Disclaimer: I have my business interests involved in BuddyPress development but the above view has nothing to do with that. I did try the other alternatives for a client recently and looking at their code made me happy that I have been working with BuddyPress for so long.

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    1. Thank you for saying that. I have been involved with the development of at least three other “alternatives”. I left for the very reason of them refusing to follow WordPress standards and because they would not open up to others helping to expand their projects.

      That is why I returned to BuddyPress in the first place. And really, with as many sites as are running BuddyPress I doubt anything is going to be substantial enough to make them change.

      For new projects, sure, but established sites tend not to shift too much.

      I do hope this project gains ground because they seem to be very open to extendability. It’s in their interest to do that. I don’t understand “developers” in the WordPress community who refuse to work to make a more robust and option filled community of plugins.

      Thanks for speaking up @Brajesh Singh. For someone who uses BuddyPress and is involved with the BuddyPress development, it seemed fairly well balanced.

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  7. Was wondering when she was going to make the jump over. congrats. If it works anything like JomSocial it should be a very good alternative.

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  8. The biggest difference I see is that BuddyPress is a community driven project with developers and users in mind, while PeepSo seems to be a business driven project with profit though premium “users” and plugins in mind.

    While we can compare functionality..etc, I don’t think the “whole” comparison is applicable here as the core scope is different.

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    1. Thanks Sarel, just taking a look at Halo.Social (didn’t even know .social was a tld now). I don’t think there is any relation between them and Peepso but they both did kickoff their products at around the same time judging by the first entry of their blog. Here’s their team page: http://www.halo.social/team/ they seem to be mostly Indonesian developers.

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      1. Jomsocial is based out of Indonesia and Hung Tran was part of the Jomsocial team I believe so what’s up??

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  9. I think it’s healthy to see more competition in this space and I’m very curious to see how this product will evolve. I’ve played around with the front end and backend of Peepso and for the most part I like the ambition of the plugin.

    For me the absolute biggest problem is how the default styles do NOT integrate with any theme. Sure they display the content but it might as well do so through an iframe.

    See: https://www.dropbox.com/s/u0ofuzgzy7gmka4/Screenshot%202015-07-28%2014.10.09.png?dl=0

    So basically you use shortcodes to display parts of your social network on a certain page. All of the social functionality is now contained inside the wrapper on the page. So the entire experience feels like a site within a site. The colors, fonts, padding/margin and UI elements are completely different than your actual theme which makes the experience jarring and confusing.

    That being said this could all be fixed in subsequent releases and in terms of features and the team behind it there is certainly potential. I wish them all the best :-)

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    1. I agree, it needs to fit within your site better. Does feel like a site within a site and I hope they fix this asap, looks very promising.

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  10. Peepso look good but look similar to Userpro on Codecanyon. I also tested the demo and was able to delete all avatar and cover photo of each members…nice bug!

    WP Symposium Pro is in the same price range with better control of what you want and where you want to display your stuff because it work with shortcode. It require more work but you can get a more customized social site.

    I’m not affiliated in any way with WP sympsium pro, just a customer.

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    1. Thank you Jee! Glad to see someone likes WS Symposium. However, it makes me wonder why there are not more people that are pro Symposium. I have the free version at the moment and if I am going to keep it, I will upgrade. I just need to make that decision. Thanks again!

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      1. For anyone wanting to have a comparison regarding BuddyPress and WP Symposium Pro, I would look at this page: http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-social-network-showdown-buddypress-v-wp-symposiumpro/

        With regard to Ultimate Member, I find them too limited on options without paying. That is why I have chosen not to work with it. Sure, for the look and feel of the basic version, it does have appeal. However, given the serious limitations of the basic version, one can only expect it to be very fast. The claim of it being fast is really an unfair claim, given the limited functionality of the basic version. How does it do when added to other plugins, as well as it’s own extensions? And that question can only be answered after purchasing the extensions.

        UserPro has had several issues (a heck of a lot) with compatibility relating to both themes and other plugins over the two plus years of it’s existence. It IS the most popular paid option available on Codecanyon. But, again, it can’t be tested in any form without paying. That doesn’t make it a viable alternative to substantial and free BuddyPress. I will say, I bought UserPro (with extensions) and have chosen to stop using it on any of my own projects and do not recommend it to any of my own clients.

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      2. I will also say about WP Symposium Pro, their support appears to be good, however, I have seen a lot of “buy” in their response. I don’t like it when I pay for something and have to pay for something else to get adequate support.

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    2. Hey @jee, thanks for checking out the PeepSo demo! The demo doesn’t have a bug. It’s allowing you to login as an admin, and as an admin you can do lots of things that regular users can’t do, including changing avatars, cover photos, ban users, edit posts, etc.

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  11. I want to give them a try. They are a little pricey especially for a 1.0 version product. Documentation is severely lacking – I could not find instructions for installing and getting started. Amazing!

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  12. Peepso looks decent. Played around with the demo. But I still like Ultimate Member more. It looks better and more modern right out of the box. I am currently building a new site, not launched yet. We are going to be launching next week and we have built around Ultimate Member. I was really hoping I didn’t have to switch over to Peepso, that happens to me so often. Right before launch someone releases something better and I have to switch my code over.

    Peeps doesn’t look bad, but after comparing them I am just a bigger fan of UM.

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  13. Out of all these social networks, and I’ve tried everything from Buddypress to other paid options, I have been most happy with Ultimate Member (which I also learned about here on WPTavern: https://wptavern.com/ultimate-member-a-new-free-community-and-user-profile-plugin-for-wordpress)

    It’s a free plugin with paid options as well. The code is VERY clean and well written and fast, it looks great, the developers are very responsive and they even allow you to hook into things, customize things, etc.

    They even publish complete transparency showing exactly how much money they are making.. which I think is very cool: https://ultimatemember.com/open-metrics/

    So, for me, I find it the best so far.

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  14. Ms. Knafo,

    I’m going to give it to you straight: I love what you’re doing with this plugin, I plan to bring it into a site later this year, I see great things ahead for it, but the name kills it for me. A lot. It’s awkward, or as one might say in the plugin’s vernacular: AwkwardSo. It’s probably too late to reconsider, and the site verbiage as well (So this! So that!), but if it’s a better alternative to BuddyPress… well… I guess I’ll just have to learn to love it.

    Name aside, I wish good things for your product and look forward to using it.

    Cheers

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    1. Hi Ansel, thank you for your great feedback! Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a reasonable dot com nowadays? :-) I bought PeepSo domain many years ago. I get it if you don’t like it at first. I remember I hated “Joomla” when it came out in 2005, it grew on me eventually :-) either way, none of your users will ever know the name of the plugin, so no worries!

      Thanks for the good wishes and please let me know what you think about PeepSo once you have it up and running :-)

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    1. Hello John, I have installed and tested PeepSo on multi-site and it works. Have you tried it on a multi-site yet?

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      1. No. A search for it came up in a forum post June 2015 stating it is not compatible so I didn’t bother.

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  15. WordPress users, you’re in for a real delight with Merav, and how she operates her business. Totally first class. I’ve used JomSocial for years, and it’s great, but they’ve made major improvements on top of a product that was already best of breed. Give this a try and you won’t be disappointed with the quality of code, support and true dedication to the community!

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  16. It’s almost a year old now this article, but I would like to share my opinion after a decent long period of testing plugins and how they work and the compatibility with themes and other plugins.

    I’ve tried almost all of them out. PeepSo is the one I’m sticking with now. It has a solid base as script. Many features, looks fresh and modern. And support is super!

    I’ve tested with many themes now and works with all of them without problems. The same cannot be said about most other plugins.

    Okay, PeepSo hasn’t have Groups yet, but they are working on it now … So give it a try with the free plugin and you can add extra functions by getting the premium addons as well :)

    Hope this helps some people in their decision :)

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