Launch Your Own Private Social Network With WordPress Powered “P2”

Automattic launched P2, a social networking service based on WordPress.

Anyone can create a P2 powered site and invite friends to post and discuss updates.

The service can be compared to Yammer (internal social networking service, owned by Microsoft), or similar tools.

The feature set of P2 is limited right now, and it does not have its own mobile apps, algorithmic newsfeeds, direct messaging, and so on. That will change because the service is still in beta.

I would say right now the service caters to people who

  • want to launch a private social network with people from across different organizations
  • with a group of people who do not want to use Facebook (Groups, or Facebook Workplace), Yammer, or other “enterprise-grade” services in that department
  • are looking for a free solution
  • look for a social network that allows posting lots of different types of content
  • work together remotely
  • manage WordPress communities

This is how it works.

After creating your own P2 site, you can add members by inviting them via email. If the people you invite have WordPress.com accounts with the same email address, they do not need to create a new account. Users added can have different roles (admin, author, …)

P2 is based on WordPress, but the classic WordPress dashboard is hidden. This means posting updates, adding, and liking comments, all that is done on the P2 site directly. Still, a WordPress user will spot the familiarly in some of the user interface components.

P2 – The default home view

It supports lots of different content types, and if you are familiar with the WordPress block-based editor, you will see the similarities. When creating posts in P2, you can use the same blocks of content and combine them in one status update. I personally think this is overwhelming for most users and should be reduced to the most common blocks useful for a social network.

A status update in P2 with a gallery block combined with a blockquote element.

Automattic, the company behind this effort, is also using P2 internally to run its fully-remote company with 1200 employees worldwide. They are doing this since 2009. This newly launched hosted P2 service is also based on an already available theme for a long time. The difference to this “old” theme is that it’s taken to a new level and that you do not have to set up your own WordPress site to get it working.

Other things to note:

  • Custom domains are not supported at the moment
  • You can @mention co-workers
  • You can create as many P2 sites as you like
  • P2 sites are mobile-ready
  • P2 is ad-free
  • You cant combine multiple P2 sites into one (create sub-sites)

Conclusion

My first verdict after using the service for a bit: P2 could turn into an interesting private-social network in the future for a broad set of use-cases. The beta shows that already. The newsfeed’s design needs to be polished, and the service’s performance could be improved (loading times, UI responsiveness).

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