WordPress’s BuddyPress is the web’s social network in a box

Blogging platform company Automattic already has millions of people using WordPress, its simple and effective blogging software (we’ve been pretty happy using it so far).

Now it has opened up BuddyPress, its long-awaited social network for blogs. It’s an easy way to add social networking features like profiles, a Facebook-like Wall and more to users profiles on to WordPress blog networks.

This way, bloggers can make a blog more social, bringing them and their readers closer together. To help that happen there are all sorts of third-party plugins, similar to many that already exist for WordPress blogs — sorta like Facebook apps, but for the web. For example, there’s one for Twitter, so you can see people’s latest tweets next to their profiles. This could be a faster way to get information from people who are care about the same things as you on the blogs you’re all reading together.

WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg told TechCrunch that BuddyPress is like a sort of “Facebook in a box” a few weeks ago, and the new plugin sort of is, considering its features. To further that analogy, there’s another plugin that lets you invite friends from Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo and more. And Facebook Connect integration is already available so you can sign in using your Facebook identity.

This blend of social networks matched with existing community means any existing WordPress-using blog could easily slurp in any social network from the web. People who follow Twitter-using bloggers (here’s VentureBeat‘s account) could join using their Facebook identities, and their other identities, and make it easier for other readers to find them. Same with people who use Facebook who are the same fans of particular blogs (here’s VentureBeat‘s page).

All of this is still pretty new, though. Right now, you can only get BuddyPress on WordPressMU, Automattic’s software and hosted web service for publishing multiple blogs. But where are things headed? According to the company’s blog post:

I don’t think BuddyPress will be something you use instead of your existing social networks, I mean all your friends are already on Myspace, but if you wanted to start something new maybe with more control, friendlier terms of service, or just something customized and tweaked to fit exactly into your existing site, then BuddyPress is a great framework to use. Maybe even someday you’ll be able to connect your BuddyPresses to each other and to the existing monolithic social networks.

Given that some services like Facebook and MySpace and in some senses Twitter want to be everywhere, this may be a sort of Trojan horse. Right now, all of these sites are quite different. One day, they may all offer many more of the same things.