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10 Years ago if you had an idea for a new business, especially online, you had to go out  into the dirt and plant the seeds yourself. Now, however, there are a thousand programs that you can buy, re-purpose, develop and change to create almost anything you might care to build. Facebook was crafted from PHP and Javascript, now there are open source programs you can use to create your own social network that won’t cost you anything. Here are just some of the inernet properties you can without spending thousands on development.

Your Own Facebook/MySpace

Creating a social network around your brand is probably the direction most businesses will try to take over the next 5 years. Whether that is on Facebook or on their own website, it is the best way to connect their brands with the users.

WordPress mu has now been folded into just straight WordPress. However the features are still the same. Using this free flexible blogging platform you can create a network of blogs, homepages etc with very little technical expertise. You could build your own network of cat lovers with everyone having their own subdomain like WordPress is an open source program that is probably the largest blogging  platform in use today. Out of the box it comes with all the things you would need for a website, including SEO facilities, templates and some eCommerce features etc.

Ning isn’t free, but it is a pretty good, low cost, social networking platform. Groups like The Plain White Ts use it to connect with their fans. Out of the box you can choose from one of 50 distinct and unique themes. Ning allows you to define your own network profile questions. Like Facebook, every Ning Network comes with a rich invitation engine, with full web address book and .csv file importing to enable you and members to invite new members.

Joomla and Com Builder are probably a little more advanced than the previous two, and really only for those that have some development knowledge and skill. However they are free, and very powerful. In order to keep up with other CMS systems, Joomla is slowly shedding some of the problems it has faced in the past, so issues over novices using the program have started to recede.

Your Own eBay

There are thousands of things you could use auction scripts for. You could auction off your time, your user’s time. You could auction off your soccer players for the off season.

There are a plethora of open source auction scripts out there. However the one with the most promise is probably WeBid. It comes standard with all the things you would need to get started, templates, pricing structures and an easy to use admin section.

Your own Digg.

The basic premise of a Digg clone would be to allow users to vote on links posted. This could be an in-house voting system on the next project you work on. It could be a voting system at school for the next class president. Either way there are a few options for open, online voting and networking.

Reddit code is open source, but not really for the faint of heart. It does have a great community of developers working around it, but you need more than a basic idea of what you are doing.

Your Own Mashable

Mashable has some incredible viewing figures, with something lik 30 million plus pageviews. In part this is because it has a large network of bloggers and writers working to create new content all the time.

If you wanted to create something like that, again you would turn to WordPress. It already has all the different author levels built in, with plugins that can help with quality control, spam protection etc. There are already a thousand “article” sites that take advantage of this, but you could use it for something more worthwhile. You could get your developers to write about their experiences working on the latest project. You could get your friends to write about their experiences around town. WordPress comes with a range of free plugins that can help you turn your website into a hub, with aggregated feeds from other websites etc.

Online Forums

Again, open online communication is going to be key for brands over the next 10 years. Scripts like SMF offer you the chance to have an online forum for your business. You could use it to build a forum on the latest in car building trends. The possibilities are actually endless.

Your own Google

Creating your own search engine is, unsurprisingly, not nearly as easy as the other options listed. Most open source  search platforms require a server to which you have complete unrestricted access, and a good knowledge of the language they are built in. The other thing is that if you want a search engine that covers a lot of ground, you need massive processing power and storage space, which is usually more than you would get leasing a server on its own.

You could use Google’s custom search but this is restricted to a search of only 3000 websites, which is still big enough for most people, but not big enough to create a complete search engine. Also, of course, you are restricted to Google’s own engine.

Your own Twitter

There are a few reasons why you would want to build your own Twitter clone. Maybe you have an event where you want to keep the microblogging on your domain, within your own website. Maybe you want secure internal microblogging at your next function.

Probably the most complete is, with a good range of themes and plugins for you to choose from.

Your own Craigslist/Gumtree

Having a classifieds site is not a bad way of making money. It is also a good way for you to sell things specific to your industry. Being an industry leader is important, and owning a way for users and suppliers to communicate is a big part of that leadership.

Some cPanel/Fantastico systems come with a free classifieds program called Noahs Classifieds. They claim that NOAH is the fastest growing Classifieds Platform on the Web. It comes with sub.categories, custom fields and e-commerce to charge to post. OSClass is another fairly complete classifieds program, with the added bonus that it is open source.

Your own

If you are a real estate agent, the reasons for having your own website with listings is clear. WordPress has templates that allow you to blog and upload your listings. However there are some programs that are more geared towards multi-user, feed aggregation.

Again, cPanel comes with Open Realty, which has, integrated blogging and lead capture. Combine this with commercial add-ons such as IDX data importer, RETS data importer, and advanced Google map integration and you have all tools needed to have a top real estate website in your market.

Your own Wikipedia

Building a wiki around your brand/business is another trend that is moving quickly. Universities use the technology to share information across departments, business can use it to allow all stakeholders to contribute in a project. There a hundreds of different open source wiki platforms to choose from, including the popular one that runs Wikipedia itself.

Choosing the right wiki platform for you comes down to what you want, and how capable you are of building the templates yourself.

If you have any great open source programs you know about, let us know in the comments below!


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