Platforms like WordPress and Movable Type democratized the process of self-publishing. With these tools, everyone could be a publisher and it didn't require advanced technical expertise to do so. Now, the next revolution for publishing is to bring that same ease of creation to the process of building social networks. With Six Apart's recent release of Movable Type 4.2, that revolution has begun. The new release provides DIY tools for building your own social networking platform which includes member profiles, forums, friending capabilities, rating of content, and more. WordPress isn't too far behind, either - a new platform called BuddyPress, is being built on the WordPress core. Is this the future of blogging? Or is this the future of web publishing altogether?

Movable Type 4.2

With the latest release of Movable Type 4.2, publishers can easily add forums, community blogs, and group blogs to their site. Site members can establish customizable profiles with avatars and can follow their friends. Given the correct permissions, community members can submit content for publishing on the site for the admin to approve. Those submissions will then display next to the comments on the submitter's user profile. Site members can also vote on content they like, too, a feature MT is calling "Digg in a box."

In addition to the changes in MT, Six Apart has also introduced a new plugin called "Action Streams." This plugin is very much inspired by FriendFeed, as it lets you aggregate and share your content from around the social web. In other words, Movable Type has just introduced their own self-hosted lifestream. (We had a feeling this was coming).

An Action Stream

BuddyPress

So where is WordPress's social network? It's still under development. Unlike MT, social networking with not be a feature of WordPress - instead, the WordPress MU core is being used to build out a next-gen publishing platform called BuddyPress . Essentially, BuddyPress is a set of WordPress MU specific plugins, each adding a new feature. When complete, BuddyPress will offer extended user profiles, private messaging, groups, friends, status updates, albums, as well as something called "the wire," which sounds a lot like Twitter.

Goodbye Blogging, Hello Social Web?

With both of the big players extending their traditional blogging platforms to offer social networking features, you have to wonder if traditional blogging is on its way out. For many years, web pundits have been saying that social networking would gain in popularity to such an extent that it would become a feature, not a destination in and of itself. These latest designs from MT and WordPress seem to prove that point.

In fact, even on today's blogs, publishers have already been adding social networking features to their sites through the use of blog plugins that offer things like FriendFeed integration, for example. (Case in point: RWW has integrated with FriendFeed). Also, by adding Disqus as a site's blog commenting system, bloggers were including a social network of sorts, as well. Like with MT 4.2, Disqus users can establish profiles, follow users, and track their comments across sites from one page.

More Profiles To Maintain

The only problem with MT and WordPress going the social networking route is that they are adding yet two more social networks where you will have to establish a profile, find and add friends, etc. Where's Facebook Friend Connect? Where's Google Friend Connect? Where's your portable social graph in all this?

These new publishing platforms will power the social web of the future, but without tools to make all these disparate social graphs meld together, the people who are actually participating will become even more frustrated than they are today. The need for data portability is even stronger than ever, but we need there to be a clear winner in the game before our lives can improve.

Six Apart company profile provided by TradeVibes