Future of Dolphin and Niche Social Networks

Andrew Boon posted 25th of August 2011 in Boonex News. 35 comments.

If you're considering building a niche social network, chances are that some degree of doubt has already crept into your mind. With the Facebook super-monopoly, other strong competitors and numerous new social networks launching every single day, it is only natural to question the rationality of such a move. 


In many ways, this fear is well justified. It's easy to create a Facebook page and get your friends on board. Surfers en masse have morphed into spoiled brats who refuse to fill in a 3-field join form (because it's so damned tedious and time consuming) but will happily twit all day long about what they eat, will “insta-upload” sienna-styled shots of their Starbucks latte and will "like" every drunk party photo they're tagged in. Such is the world….Now!



My interest is in the future...

…because I am going to spend the rest of my life there (quote). Don't know who said that, but this applies nicely to this topic. Whatever you do online now must be done with an eye toward the future. The pace of the Internet world makes "now" nearly redundant, and as much as you may loath making predictions, if you're going to be a web-entrepreneur, shop around for a Nostradamus hat. You will have to learn to foretell the future (which, unfortunately, also means that you will need to learn to accept failure and move on). 


Now, to the fun part…predictions! Let's borrow from investment professionals - they live and breathe predictions, and most of the time you'll hear them grappling with two main things - trends and fundamentals. The Internet is no different. It's all driven by trends and is supported by fundamentals. The most important concept here is that trends affect the market temporarily, while fundamentals create a long-term movement. Trends are extremely hard to predict, while fundamentals are always clear, as long as you have a keen eye and can make sane judgments. 


Trends are easy to spot, for they are in today's headlines - Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+, Groupon, etc, etc. The very reason for this post, however, is to try to assess the fundamentals of the online social networking world and to try to predict what's looming in the years ahead.



Artificial and Temporary

… are the words that come to mind when thinking about today's state of affairs. Social networks are remodeling our real-life social interaction patterns, and it works. People seem to like the convenience of using the Internet to socialize, and even more so when it helps to connect with otherwise unreachable peers. We've seen this happening with telephones and it's great. I've only started, but a little mismatch has already edged in, you see. Look at how we use phones as opposed to how we use social networks. We can call each other even if we're on different telecoms. We've seen this happening with mail, and what a treat to our lives and the lives of the trees email has become! But hey....again, I can email @hotmail people just fine from my @gmail account. More importantly, I can setup an @boonex account and still be treated as an equal. 


Not the case with social networks. I have to have a Facebook profile to share pics with my school buddies. Well, not with all of them… just with those that have a Facebook profile too. That sucks.


What Facebook (and any other large social network) is trying to create is a virtual world that would confine our online social interactions within itself, but the thing is that we already have such a world - it's the Internet. We have one "real world" (we won’t digress to alternative opinions about this for now) and one "virtual world.” In our real world, we don't have other sub-worlds, we only have PLACES. Not the case with our virtual world, unfortunately. 



Organic by design

The Internet is the single most important phenomenon of the 21st century, and the key to its effectiveness is in decentralization. It's a network of "sites", where sites are locations that store information. It is only now that we somehow started to think that sites may also be "networks" that store people. My biggest hope, belief and wager is that we would naturally evolve to understand that people must not be “stored” at different sites. People may only visit them, just as they visit places in the real world. People should be able to visit places with their friends, or meet their/new friends at places. People should be able to grab their friends and move on to other places together… for we're young and free.


It's not too far in the future that the organic design of the Internet will prevail and turn generic, large social networks into… well, something else. For that to happen we need to see one thing fixed…



Identity is the fact of being WHO the person is. A profile on any website is not and must not be perceived as an identity, because it's not the person, it's only a virtual document, an "identification document", a passport, a driver’s license if you will. One may have many passports, but one may only have one identity.


Our friends and colleagues are real people. My passport can't hang out with the passports of my buddies. My driver’s license is not me, and I should not lose my friends if someone decides to punch it. Why the heck it is different online? My social connections must be tied to me, not to my SNS profile; they are MY friends, not facebook.com/boonandrew's friends. 


The change is happening. Lots of bright minds are working day and night to make it happen and it will one day naturally blend in to our online lives. When that day comes, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ will be gone for good.



Planet of the Dolphins

Once high ships with their vast fishing nets are gone, Dolphin shall roam freely, playing and singing. Places will become relevant again. People will want to go to small, nice sites that have unique content, that feel cozy and personal, that treat people as people, not profiles. The online bureaucracy that helped large networks thrive will be forgotten, and every professional, enthusiast and fan would be able to create a place that would be relevant, engaging and popular among their friends, and (with some advertising) strangers. The Internet shall be free again. 


And, surely, if you believe in this, the best time to start is now, because you want to secure advantageous positions when the party starts again.


You may wonder, however, why Dolphin and not, say, Drupal, Joomla or Buddypress? Well, although I am indeed very biased, I still think that we have a better idea of what should serve the next wave of niche social networks the best way. Dolphin 7 and much more so Dolphin 8 are (being) designed specifically for the purpose of driving niche social networks and they offer a great balance of rich functionality and ease of use. With Dolphin 8, we plan to introduce a slew of improvements and services that will remain unmatched for years ahead, when it comes to building a niche community site. More importantly, the way we're building Dolphin 8 now is decidedly different from anything you've seen today. What we do is closely echoing the famous SJ's quote - "technology alone is not enough—it is technology married with liberal arts - married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.” We started to realize that this game is not so much about features and speed, it's about making your site members smile and want to come back often. This new perspective produces wonderful results, which we’re anxious to start sharing with you very soon.

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Well, Claps to the statement that future Dolphin will be having a different approach[away from facebook, away from G+]
still, i feel this is 50% interesting. the other 50% contains a fragile bottle of scare to the admins[luckily not for boonex]
i hope not all the Dolphin owner's intentions is to "COMPETE" facebook the need is "SUSTAIN"
its million times hard to sustain our site and we do not have time to think about competing.
well, looking into other sns there are a good% see more of "VIRALITY" built into the core. which is lacking in Dolphin.
in that case, Boonex should wear our shoes, visit tagged.com, Ning.com, bharatstudent.com the core features works 24/7 on-behalf of the webmasters.

sample task:
join tagged.com
and do not do any activity.
just count and register how many email you get and the perspective behind that.

exploring many sns, i believe Dolphin should not have "blogs" "forums" as core modules
instead concentrate on how to engage members without those and please please inject some dose of Virality.
Alan Stewart
I feel that your need to have a "on-behalf of the webmasters" point of view is clearly missing Andrew's point.

tagged.com is clearly nothing more than a facebook want-a-be that offers even less
ning.com is more to Andrew's point
bharastudent.com is impressive attempt to deal with Indian cultural and language issues

Admin structure is implicit in Andrew's direction for Dolphin. The humanism that is at the soul of the internet is the key. I for one will gladly support any effort see more that uses the foundation of freedom on which the internet was built to allows for greater creativity and expression.

Lastly, starting on this journey by not having "blogs" and "forums" is a step away from humanism and freedom.

there is a saying in boonex "All webmaster have their unique requirements and when the feature of Dolphin doesn't work as they like it the way they want that is reported as "bugs""

by that, the above post is "MY VIEW" rather than "on-behalf of the webmasters"

Tagged.com, ning.com and bharatstudent.com are referred to showcase their way of "Virality"
which is not available in the "Core of Dolphin"

Lastly, by not having see more "blogs" and "forums" was not a request for removal.
the point here is, if Dolphin can achieve more engagements between members even with "blogs" and "forums" disabled that will improve the nature of socialization on the cms.
Alan Stewart
I appreciate your comment more, when taken as your VIEW.

I do not feel grounded in Dolphin enough to speak to your "Virality" issue nor do I really understand the point. If you have time, your explanation of Virality and elements that reflect it would be interesting.

When it comes to Blogs and Forums it sounds like our goals are in line.
I can't agree more - create a society of your own and engage your site members around that little special thing, that little niche, that happens to be you and your circle(s). I already see the decay of the biggest on the planet:-)
Casal Pimenta
Excuse my English but I use google translator.

I've been here a short time betting on dolphin.
My site is really a very unique niche that has strong competitors of success here in Brazil.
I find it hard to compete with large chains with the spoken here.
Users complain about the lack of interactivity and sense of static dolphin.
I'm still betting ...

But I worry about each update and dolphin 8.
This is done here for anyone who understands programming.
I am an ordinary person with see more little understanding of this subject.
I think many people in my condition fail to buy the Dolphin lincense for this reason.

Each module installed is a risk to all network functionality.
With the 7.0.7 update had a problem with my language translation pack, the same with the white moon customization and because of this forum with the orca.
I asked for help but this is difficult.
The answers take time and need to be translated by those who understand the subject, as I lay penando are.
And my site follows problems with compiling linguaguem.

Will continue in effect for the future is worth investing in new modules in prime dolphin or 8?
All that is spoken here is very beautiful, and true philosophy, but how will the future of a single licensed dolphin they pursue their dreams?
These are the questions.
Yes, it is a sad world of your own here.
Orca Forum in D7.7 also do not work for Japanese, guess not for Portuguese or Spanish.

-> Sorry, they won´t listen you.
Try to uninstall it and go back to D7.6, it may fix it. Or try from zero, D7.7 install > no template > language install > Orca Forum Manage > compile it. Take care using Manage Language > Manage Key...
The future is consequence of actual acts. Here, in present days of Boonex´s Unity we don´t see more have a professional documentation of all features, few tutorials, Support takes days, very very bad seller do not support customers and still here smiling with products that are not certificated, not working and can damage your site. and few templates options.
Thanks God we have Modzzz (that uses to ignore me, but I am ok lol), UE30 and Deanos... those guys rocks, but Boonex is not certificating them... why? why? why?

The 2 Things that is completed crazy with Dolphin.
Avatar is mandatory, yes it is. No simple profile photo!
Orca Forum is mandatory if you want Event, Group or Store! Integrated! (hide menu lol)
Boonex should devise a solution for these now, for D7x.
This "Future D8" can not wait now, and we can not living in hopeland. We need to make things right now... right? let´s go Dolphiers....

Looking at the Future, but don´t forget the Present.

PS. Andrew! Boonex is still the best!
i suppose you all will be too glad if there was "bug reporting system" connected to boonex which will report the compilation and other trivial bugs to the boonex so that it will be fixed on next patch.
Well said. While it's easy to cash in on someone's idea, it's hard to step away and break away from the mold of social media sites. I firmly believe that people are not looking for somewhere to go like Facebook, which is not moderated properly, allows applications to run which freely allow hate speech and in which members when having their accounts flagged and removed, simply sign up with a new account. In my own opinion I think Facebook was a good idea but just like many good ideas the mighty see more dollar has a way of changing what your original idea was. I think that people are looking for a safe haven in social online communities. Those who are unwell or too shy to leave their homes, feel more relaxed in a well run community. Personally I feel more comfortable and respected on other social sites but Facebook. I think people are looking for something and somewhere to call home online and that to me is definitely not Facebook.

Thanks for all your hard work to provide new sites with affordable software and for providing a great forum filled a lo of cool people willing to help others like me when I'm stuck. I think the words Thank You are often forgotten and replaced by empty air and the feeling we do not have to say Thank You because the other party should know that. So again Thank You for not only your great work but the work of those involved in building the software and thanks to those here who help newbies just like me.

its all relative. the next huge consideration should be focused on AI, and its coming, and coming fast, social media, and social networking are here and will endure the trials of time. though we have seen myspace fade to the background, so shall facebook, and twitter. linked is a little more potent in that the larger part of the information there is usable. unlike facebook and twitter, where you have to read the daily drama of a user. i dont see where niche environments are even see more comparable to facebook or the likes. if you are not trying to create a clone of facebook, and are running your own gig, then that is the power of the niche.

this would be likened to a comparative of a department store vs a specialty shop. i have seen sites do extremely well with social media, be it on dolphin or some other available platform. why does it do well, they have no focus on facebook, drop facebook from your daily activity, and focus on building the niche that you started with.

facebook is but one site, i dont like facebook, personally, and they are data thieves, and violate U.S. citizens rights, and violate trust acts.

at any rate, glad you found time to write this article.

now can you spend a few moments on the payment module of Dolphin 7.0.7, there are reports, though i have not personally tested it, but there are reports of it not functioning correctly yet.
well am really waiting for this dream
Facebook? Never heard of it. :) I see the future being communities of Dolphin - sites that interact with other sites as people interact with other people. Andrew?
planet of the dolphins :) i hope
Love seeing this kind of thought going on with the planners of the software that I've committed our site to! I think that whatever software or functionality or bells & whistles that users love to use - the thing they demand the most is that whatever site they are on works as it promises to work. That the software works. That the functionality is functional. That the bells & whistles, whatever they may be, ring and flute as expected.
interesting rhetoric! one would also hope, perhaps forlornly, that we will be presented with a bug free edition of this software before actually trying to move forward with yet another collective mish mash of unsuitable but free technologies!
Andrew the one thing that you never do is to do something properly! it is left to us to try and rectify the endemic laziness to address and fix issues that is like a cancer in Boonex. This is only happening for one reason and one reason only that Andrew Boon see more allows it to happen! Does he not realise how many customers he loses because he continually delivers sub standard goods!
Firstly i am new here and to boonex too. I launch my site on sept. 1st

From a newbe point of view, i think many new and old social network / community sites miss the real point of there existense. Firstly all the major players, in my view anyway, are American and operated under the american criteria. They all offer the same. Its not the script that is at fault for boonex sites, its the webmasters application. I doubt very much many, if any, have actually carried out a survey of what punters are see more looking for. Like the americans they simply launch there site and expect the punters to follow. Difference is americans have the money to promote, most of do not.

I am not disagreeing with Andrews article because he is, like most, assuming that punters use the big boys because they are who they are. What many do not understand is their is a huge available market out there wanting and waiting for what appeals to them. Not niche sites (although many require them) but general sites that apply to all age groups in various ways.

I dont want to give too much away at this stage, but my introduction finishes with, "we are here for you, not to enhance the public profile of the rich and famous"

Boonex a great script and unity excellent. Keep it up.
I can't wait to hear what you think about Dolphin scripting after you've had several hundred people using it. I also can't wait to hear what you think about social networks and community sites after you've actually run one.

Enjoy your learning curve! (and don't panic mid-swing, it does get better!)
It appears much is being said about boonex scripting. Frankly, at this stage i cannot see why, but future events may change my mind. The only issue we had on install was the video upload. A server problem which was resolved. Granted it was necerssary to make a few tweeks here and there during building the site and customization, but overall i personally dont have any issues. If we have done our job correctly, then it shouldnt matter if several hundred or several hundred thousands (We can all live see more in hope) use the site. I expect the result to be the same. If there are issues then we are as much to blame as anybody because we didnt do our homework correctly in the first place.

As for running a social network / community site. I am a total beginer and novice. However i am a member of a few and learned much from them. As i said, there appears to be a huge hole in the market that no-one appears to have seen or is incapable of filling. We shall see.

Regards boonex. I read Andrew and his team is busy launching yet another version. Why D7 seems a reasonably stable version. Surely it is worth perfecting that rather than popping off to another planet hoping to find the little green men. My site will keep D7 and over time we will develope it into what we want. Just like the original minis and beetles. Well maintained and kept, spruced up a tad here and there and now there priceless. Maybe a lesson boonex may like to learn from
I'll like to see boonex developers talking one day about SEO for Dolphin
any new for dolphin8 ? screenhot ? demo site ? style ?
Very well written. I agree open is great, however with that comes the spammers. Databases are here to stay and in some cases, they can be very helpful. Global databases of everyone and everything is a little scary and Orwellian, I know, but unfortunately, we are becoming electronic entities beyond our mortal flesh, in some way this can be seen as a twisted version of immortality (Since you were getting all philosophical :) .)

It would be nice to see the facebooks of the world disappear, however see more they too started somewhere and is it not the dream of every cyber entrepreneur to become "bigger that Facebook?" I know that is my hope.

I saying that, my brother, I believe you have a great grasp on what the growing cyber society wants (To quote idiocy "It's got what plants want") and as long as the world does not become run by mindless drones who follow the trends, all is good.

So there is my little stab at electronic immortality

Heinz (The Blog Whore)
Being that my niche community had endured the dismal component of Dolphin called Videos from version 7.0 to 8, I guess I can expect the VIDEO component to be fixed by version by version 10?? If that's what you call beating the pants off of Facebook then good luck. Facebook sucks on videos and my niche community as u stated so eloquently are MY FRIENDS and they want to see MY VIDEOS.

Dolphin doesn't even come close to Ning in user-friendliness and useability and yet you believe your script is see more the game changer the wave of the future? Think again. The stats on my videos on YouTube indicate that not only is there a strong thirst for my genre of video but they are watching them at a phenomenal rate via their mobile devices (even more than on their computers).. Dolpin is NOT keeping pace with that phenomena and plenty of other scripts do it better. Ning being one of them, I just hate it's not open source and no matter how large your community becomes you will always be a subdomain of Ning. That sucks big time and is the only thing I actually do appreciate about Dolphin, in that, you did have the forethought in allowing people to build their communities on their own domains and on their own terms.

YouTube, Metacafe and other video sites ARE NOT social networks and they are losing out on people's desire to be a part of something that is "engaging and popular among their friends, and (with some advertising) strangers." Hellllllo, that's what my fans want and they want it to INCLUDE videos. There was no doubt in my mind the power of social networks as everybody does not have the same tastes or interests and some of in niches have been locked out of the mainstream because of our individualism. I'm proving everyday that people WANT what I have to offer and want it bad! They are tired of invisible powers that be determining for them what's hot or not . My social network dreams included building on my niche fan base and bringing back the intimacy with friends that is NOT available on the most popular video and/or dating sites. IMAO many of them have user interfaces that are clumsy, disorganized and not all that easy to use Yeah, I said it and I didn't stutter. It was my hope that Dolphin would be the Ning killer in that Dolphin did have the forethought to believe that we should be free to build our communities around our personal niches and have control of that, instead of being perpetual subdomains of a greater power that be like Ning does.

I longed for the freedom to build the community I wanted without the bogus and hypocritical guidelines present in a lot of websites The meglamniacal monopolizing strangle-hold YouTube has on videos is one, I for one want to break and yet at every turn I get a constant reminded that YouTube has been given a card blanche of unique power not bestowed on other website I am aware of to date. That makes for bad blood in the long term as YouTube is NOT the best and ONLY video site. Why can't other videos be posted as easily as YouTube? Every script I have tried automatically is geared toward readily accepting YouTube videos when IMAO that privilege should be available to ALL and not just YouTube. Blip.tv has an awesome video site but again IS NOT a social network otherwise I would choose them any day over YouTube, but YouTube gets unmatched nod everytime, even with Dolphin. All the mods I purchased was geared toward YouTube videos, well what if you don't want to make "YouTube": videos?

Even my video editing programs I use to create my videos I keep getting smacked in the face with the reality of not really having freedom of "choice". I feel the same about Facebook as why are they automatically the first choice to use for logging in? Why isn't there any forward thinking on being able to log in with any account u desire? Facebook and Twitter along with Dolphin are dismal in the video area and obviously are overlooking that powerful medium. Not everybody types, text or blogs. My fan base are proving everyday we enjoy the passive entertainment of videos. I don't know what the future holds for social networks but neglecting the Video component IMAO is a BIG MISTAKE and foolish.
Good statement Andrew. Do you know about nymwars? http://goo.gl/jJsSd Google, who I have always admired has suddenly turned into a monster. You (or me) could have predicted all this - remember what happened when you tried to get rid of pseudonyms here.
Hi Andrew,
The article is really well-written and highly inspiring. Here are few things we would like to see in Dolphin 8 as a mod and web developer -

- Try to create a solid framework, so that it's really easy to add or create extensions and mods for Dolphin. In Dolphin 7 everything is very rigid.
- A strong SEO engine like wordpress CMS and Vbulletin forums.
- More stronger protection against spamming
- More RSS feeds and tightly integrated sharing features to help with marketing
- Tightly see more integrated points/revenue system

Well done, well said, and I couldn't agree more. Our site (WikiHorseWorld.com), which proudly uses Dolphin, is the embodiment of our shared belief that one day soon, niche social networks, such as those about horses, will become much more predominant than the behemoth social networks we see today. The key to this vision will be to agree upon and adopt a single set of protocols, standards, and legal issues that will allow one's single identity to be easily recognized and shared amongst all these see more niche social networks. Open social leaves a lot to be desired, and while I hate to endorse a pseudo-monopoly like Google, it's probably the closest thing we currently have to a true social networking standard.
So what does the future of Dolphin means in this article?
I think the most important think to do is to revamp the admin area and to make it similar to Magento. I mena top menu with drop down sub menu. This make everything easy to mange. If you look to phpfox, the admin interface is much similar to magento backend.
Very good...I agree..and I like this statement "People will want to go to small, nice sites that have unique content, that feel cozy and personal"
I agree Ive now done both. My new website will be releised in a couple of weeks. Ill let you no if its the way or not.
Below is the legacy version of the Boonex site, maintained for Dolphin.Pro 7.x support.
The new Dolphin solution is powered by UNA Community Management System.