Curverider, the company behind the open-source social network Elgg, is launching a hosted enterprise social networking solution called Elgg.com. The product, in private beta until September, will compete directly with other social enterprise vendors such as Socialtext, Yammer, and Salesforce.com's Chatter.

Curverider plans to distinguish Elgg.com in this quickly crowding market in a few ways - notably by using data portability to help customers avoid vendor lock-in - a major reason some enterprises have avoided SaaS solutions.

Curverider is making data ownership and a control a priority. All Elgg.com data will be exportable, so businesses using Elgg.com could eventually migrate all their hosted data to their own Elgg servers or to a future product that might support importing from Elgg. Since the core Elgg software is open-source, enterprises could develop their own Elgg-based solutions, or potentially find other vendors using the software, even if Curverider were to shut the service down completely.

Curverider is also hoping to compete on functionality and features. The company has been developing the the core Elgg software and creating custom implementations for six years and have built a robust, mature platform. The company is also planning on integrating its products with other enterprise software in future. However, features in this class of software are becoming quickly commoditized. Curverider will do well to emphasize their support and expertise over features.

Elgg.com will offer a unique "per network" pricing model instead of per user or freemium pricing models.

Elgg.com faces an uphill battle: the service will compete not only with established hosted services like Yammer and Chatter, but with self-hosted products like the well entrenched Microsoft Sharepoint. But Elgg.com's openness and affordability, along with Elgg's maturity and Curverider's experience, could position the product for success.

We interviewed Elgg's David Tosh in 2008.