Oxwall Reviews

A good open-source choice

about Oxwall · ·

Oxwall is a pretty good community software for those looking for a free or open-source alternative to the many commercial options that are available. It's run by a foundation, which seems to mainly fund itself through offering paid support services and ready-made versions including hosting. You can always get the full open-source version for your own hosting at the Oxwall website, while Wall.fm offers pre-configured hosted Oxwall sites (similar to WordPress.org and WordPress.com)

The basic version comes with several visual themes and a large number of plug-ins for the most important functionality. You've got basic user management with profile pages, newsfeeds, friendships and direct messaging, as well as the most important community and sharing features such as forums, photos, links, and videos (only embed codes from other sites). Oxwall also has a healthy ecosystem of free and paid add-on themes and plug-ins from third-party developers, and of course you can also develop your own. Commenting and liking content are implemented across a site and connected to the different plug-ins.

As a site owner, you'll find that the configuration is rather minimalistic, but you can set-up the most important functionality through a graphical admin interface. This includes important settings like choosing which questions you want users to be able to, or forced to, answer when registering, different user classes and their permissions, which modules to activate and where to place them in which menu.

Some of the plug-ins are, to my taste, a bit too simple and AJAX-driven, leading to bad usability (as AJAX always does, everywhere). For example, the chronological, dynamically-reloading photos and albums pages are fine for a bit of random sharing, but extremely tedious when sites get bigger and have more users, and when not everybody tags everything neatly. Meaning, it's bad for almost all cases but the simplest of sites. However, that's kind of the trend these days, and the usability of many a multi-billion dollar company's social networking site is just as bad, so I won't be too harsh about it. Besides, you can always write or look for a better plug-in yourself.

However, for a quickly set-up and configured, functional, and pretty stable community and social networking site, I haven't found anything better than Oxwall. It's worth trying out, and because everything is standard PHP and MySQL, you'll have no problem migrating your data in case you ever have to. In fact, this is one of my main reasons for liking Oxwall: how upfront and open they are even on their paid-services sites about why keeping things open-source and accessible is so important. Your data is valuable, and it should belong to you. I'm much more comfortable using software from a group of developers who understand and honour those principles.