IT SHOULD COME as no great surprise that you can use WordPress to power a full-fledged social networking community. There are several ways to do this, more or less advanced. But one solution stands on its own, and that's the BuddyPress plugin. This one's backed by the WordPress core developers and is a truly promising tool for extending your site with member functionality. With a few simple steps, you can have your users exchange direct messages, start discussion groups, and interact with the site in a whole new way.
This chapter shows how you can add some community features to just about any WordPress Web site, using BuddyPress.
So what is BuddyPress? Well, first of all, it is a plugin, which means that it resides in the WordPress plugins folder. You can install it from the WordPress plugin directory, either from http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins or from within your admin panel.
BuddyPress has its own Web site too, at http://buddypress.org, where you can register (see Figure 10-1), and talk to your fellow BuddyPressers about how this and that works. There's even a dedicated BuddyPress plugins directory, so that you can find plugins created solely for use with BuddyPress.
That's right, there's a complete ecosystem around this one plugin, almost as if it was a stand-alone system. But it is not; you need WordPress to run BuddyPress.