Netropolitan “Facebook for Rich People” is Powered by WordPress and BuddyPress

photo credit: Netropolitan
photo credit: Netropolitan

Netropolitan, colloquially dubbed the “Facebook for rich people,” is a new private social network available to those who are willing to shell out $9,000 to join and $3,000/year to continue membership. The site advertises itself as “The online country club for people with more money than time,” and has been featured on CNN and other major news outlets across the globe.

The controversial social network was created by James Touchi-Peters, a former conductor of the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra. “This whole thing started because when I was traveling in my work, I wanted to get in on a social event where basically I could meet people like myself,” Touchi-Peters told Vice in a recent interview. The membership fee is meant to vet the members as they join in order to maintain the exclusivity of the network.

One glance at the site and it’s obvious that it was built with WordPress, BuddyPress, and bbPress, using a $63 Themeforest theme. The theme packages with it a drag-and-drop page builder as well as extra functionality to extend BuddyPress, add integration with Paid Memberships Pro, and display sliders via Slider Revolution.

“It’s your standard, typical social network, except the one change we made is that instead of using the friend method that people are used to usually reciprocally confirming relationships, we’re using the follower method,” Touchi-Peters said. This functionality is readily available via the BuddyPress Follow plugin.

The intriguing aspect of the story is how long this site took to build. Touchi-Peter’s answer to Vice implies that the network required two years of development. “From when we decided to move forward, we’ve been working on it technically for two years. It’s been a four-year process.” Touring Netropolitan’s informational pages shows a screenshot of the founder’s BuddyPress profile page, which seems identical to the theme’s demo, with the exception of the logo.

netropolitan

Many media outlets seem to be incredulous that he would choose to build the social network on WordPress, betraying a popular notion that the software is somehow insecure because it’s free. What many onlookers do not understand is that WordPress itself is not inherently insecure. Rather, low quality themes and plugins can include vulnerabilities that provide entry points for exploitation, which is more likely when site owners fail to update old software.

The concern in this particular case with Netropolitan is that the site keep pace with updates, as it’s currently behind on core updates and its theme packages the Slider Revolution plugin that recently made headlines when the developer failed to publicly disclose the severity of a recently patched critical vulnerability. Like any tool, software takes a little bit of effort and education for people to use it and maintain it in a responsible way. If WordPress didn’t hold the power to build so many things, it wouldn’t be the constant target of hackers and spammers. This is the trade off.

Nearly every WordPress development agency has been approached multiple times to build similar sites – the “Ebay for Elites,” or “Match.com for Millionaires,” all promising exclusivity at a premium. It’s humorous but also a testament to how flexible people believe the WordPress platform is for building nearly any kind of website. Netropolitan may not be the finest implementation of WordPress/BuddyPress that the world has ever seen, but it is evidence that open source software makes it possible for people to run with their entrepreneurial ideas and take them all the way to the world stage.

26 Comments


  1. It’s hard to click the update button when you’re busy making the douchiest site on the web

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  2. He couldn’t afford a .com domain name?

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    1. Apparently couldn’t afford decent hosting or bandwidth either–the site is down right now.

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      1. It’s still down! I was just going to check out the UX but instead I got to see their exquisite “Error 502 Bad Gateway” page. That one must have take years to implement.

        I must say, it would be terrible if you were one of those folks trying to get on the website this last week. 9 stacks, out the window. I’m sure there are worse places to put your money.

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  3. Saw this on VICE and nearly died laughing. It reminds me of way too many clients I’ve had – big grand visions of the Next Big Thing with a budget the size of a shoebox. I could build this site in a week for less than half the price of a single $9000 membership and that’s assuming it has some level of custom coding outside of plugins and theme configuration.

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  4. As soon as I saw this on Engadget, I went to the site and looked at the tour page and instantly recognized BuddyPress. Then I came here to send you guys an email about and lo and behold you already beat me to it!

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  5. Please understand that Netropolitan is NOT a concierge service. Our Member Service Associates will not book you a charter jet, or find you tickets to a sold-out Broadway show. They exist solely to help members technically navigate and find their way around the social club.
    Now, if you can find a member to help you book a charter jet or tickets to a Broadway show, well… that’s exactly the reason our club exists. Welcome to Netropolitan!

    netropolitan.info/about

    Frankly, I think the idea is brilliant and I’m very grateful a place like this finally does exist. I mean, would you want to be approached on Twitter, FB or G+ to book a private jet for someone you don’t even know? I honestly wouldn’t know what to do, so yay Netropolitan! :)

    (Edit @mod: It looks like <cite> inside a <blockquote> isn’t supported. Are we going elite as well a little? ;))

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  6. Gotta give the guy props for actually creating and launching. It’s a unique business model that has garnered some attention for the WordPress community.

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  7. At least they chose BP, but they are going to see issues. Am I allowed to say Gay it Up on here?

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    1. It’s been up and down all morning.

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      1. I was actually curious, but it really looks like an amateurish joke. Someone should nofollow the link in the article.

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  8. Seems like they’re good at marketing, certainly, because I’ve seen it mentioned in a few places. But the actual site is a joke. It looks thrown together, which it was. It’s been intermittently available, which means they didn’t scale up the server power in anticipation of the traffic that their marketing would bring. And it doesn’t seem to fulfill a need — with rich-only dating sites, for example, there’s a clear purpose. I can’t imagine who would bother joining. My guess is, the site will quietly disappear within two months.

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    1. but heck… if he can get one or two people to join his ROI will be incredible. lmao.

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    2. There is an existing and seemingly successful site that caters to this exact niche that has been operating for 2+ years called asmallworld – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASmallWorld

      In marketing it isn’t just enough to get attention, you need to get the right kind of attention. Articles writing about netropolitan which are read by plebs won’t really help them at all. Neither will the fact that the site is down and was cobbled together in a few hours with no optimization or any real professional attention.

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  9. Powered by KLEO theme to be exact :)

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  10. $9000 per user per year and they can’t keep the site running?

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  11. We WANT people to test out whacky ideas like this, it is all a wonderful experiment and we should be glad that WordPress allows these idiots/geniuses* to give it a shot for only the price of a cheap theme and $5 hosting – nobody loses their house!

    *Idiots if it doesn’t work, geniuses if it does :)

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    1. I thought the conclusion paragraph by Sarah sums it up rather well. That open source software enables people with wacky ideas to try them out on the world stage. Let the chips fall where they may but you don’t need a million bucks to try them out.

      P.S. Haven’t seen a comment from you in a long time, how have you been?

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  12. I for one am not surprised that it took him two years to get to this point and I suspect that WordPress and it’s implementation had nothing to do with the length of time to market. Until a couple of months ago I was working for a Marketing Agency where we would do this type of site quite regularly for large corporates such as JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) and Mercedes. These could take a long time time from inception to delivery.

    The bulk of our time and therefore money was spent on working the idea through with the client, developing assets such as the general look and feel and specific images and content.

    Ultimately it would have to be turned into a site and quite frankly the client normally couldn’t care less if it was WordPress, Sitecore, Expression Engine, Drupal or whatever just as long as it delivered. That once the idea is out there as a developed site could be delivered by installing a single theme is irrelevant to the client.

    On the other hand that is has been delivered using WordPress is most certainly relevant to us and for me confirms the place that WordPress has as a platform for developing cost effective solutions.

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