More than half of the world—over 4.70 billion people worldwide use social media platforms.
While people use social media for multiple reasons, more than half use it to stay in touch with close friends and family. Thus, social networking tops the list of reasons why people use social media platforms.
Social networking allows people to stay connected with family, friends, and business colleagues through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter—to name a few.
These platforms allow you to maintain and develop personal and professional relationships and share ideas and information on a larger scale.
While these are some big global names, have you ever considered owning or hosting your own social media network—restricted to your close people?
This article will show how you can build your own self-hosted social media platform. But first, let’s see how they differ from traditional social media sites and their benefits.
What are Self-hosted Social Platforms and their Benefits?
Self-hosted social networking platforms let you host and create your own social network on a private server for personal and professional use—providing complete flexibility over its design, features, and people you add to your network.
Building and hosting your own social media network on a private server requires in-depth knowledge of Linux, PHP, and MySQL, and of course—coding skills. However, this is a long, expensive, and time-consuming process that isn’t worth it.
This is where self-hosted social networking software comes into play.
Social networking software is highly flexible and comes with pre-inbuilt tools to customize your platform per your specific needs.
But why would you need to self-host a social network platform in the first place?
Self-hosting a social network platform allows you to create a close-knit community and engage with specific people—friends, family, or professional colleagues—for private purposes.
Here are more benefits of self-hosted social networking software:
- Protects private and sensitive data from external users.
- It lets you create a small, focused community network, facilitating communication and collaboration and boosting business productivity.
- Lets you take complete ownership of your data and information without the risk of data leaks or copyright issues.
- Enables seamless management as you’re managing a smaller group of people.
- Enables customization and personalization as you basically own the platform.
So, if you find these benefits intriguing, let’s look at some of the best open-source self-hosted social networking community software you can use for your private use.
Mastodon is an open-source and self-hosted social network platform that lets you host your own private server with no ads or push profiles.
Like other social networks, you can follow anyone using the Mastodon server from your account and view their posts chronologically. However, it comes with the flexibility to efficiently manage your audience. Since it’s deployed on your private infrastructure, you can follow, and anyone else can follow you from the Mastodon server—giving complete control over the community you wish to build on the platform.
Besides, Mastodon offers unparalleled creativity—allowing you to easily post images, videos, custom emojis, animated avatars, polls, content warnings, and more.
- Available in 35 different languages
- Doesn’t come with any algorithm—giving you complete control over your timeline.
- Hides things behind spoiler warnings.
- Provides accessibility descriptions.
- Lets you delete posts or redraft for quick corrections.
Mastodon is free and is available on the web, iOS, and Android platforms.
Diaspora is an online distributed social network platform that works on the decentralization principle. It hosts your data on independent servers or “pods” instead of hosting all the user’s data on a single global server like other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
It allows you to choose a pod that best meets your needs. For instance, you can opt for a small pod for internal enterprise communication, a cross-country pod for global communication, or a pod-based near you.
While you get complete privacy with Diaspora, it lets you determine who can see what you share using the Aspects feature. Using this feature, you can easily organize your contacts based on their role in your life—friends, family, or colleagues, and adjust their visibility to your posts accordingly.
- Comes in 36 languages.
- Reshare, like, and comment on posts.
- Follow your interest using hashtags.
- Offers social media integrations with platforms like Tumblr, Twitter, and WordPress.
Thus, Diaspora is a privacy-focused free social network platform you can use on the web to create an intimate online community.
HumHub is an open-source, secure, and highly flexible social network with a user-friendly interface like Facebook. However, unlike Facebook, HumHub lets you build customized social networks, Spaces, a social enterprise application, or a social intranet.
Thus, HumHub is suitable for small groups and teams to huge businesses, where one can leverage seamless business collaboration and communication or organize a private sports club.
Like other social networks, you can write and post posts, like and comment on posts, and even share files and media. However, being a self-hosted platform, HumHub gives complete control over your social network and makes activity streaming, monitoring, and customizing your user profile a breeze.
- Flexibility to integrate third-party tools
- Fast access to relevant and important information
- Provides a huge directory to find users, groups, and other spaces
HumHub is available on the web, Android, and iOS platforms, so you can also use it on your mobile devices and communicate with your social network on the go.
The Public Community
The Public Community is a paid platform allowing you to host your social network and create a space for your audience.
This tool lets you engage with like-minded community members, ask questions, have real-time chats and discussions, and share polls, GIFs, and media through a vibrant space.
Unlike other self-hosted open-source social networking platforms, this platform lets you monetize your community by Google Ads and selling premium services and products. You can also create custom banners using HTML, which provides complete ownership over your data and community.
Thus, it’s a great tool for online content creators and brands to build thriving online communities and have commonly shared discussions.
- Lets you host a community on a server of your choice, such as GCP, AWS, Hetzner, and DigitalOcean.
- Helps you set up your community with 1:1 Zoom call with the right settings and extensions that works best for you.
- Uses Flarum, the best forum software, to create an engaging and easy-to-manage community.
- Provides seamless integration with tools like Google Analytics.
- Provides automatic daily backups.
- It provides an app that you can directly install from your browser.
- Gamification support.
The Public Community platform is available on the web, costs $300 for a one-time setup, and comes with no monthly service fees.
Elgg is a social networking engine that provides a PHP framework—allowing you to build private social environments for schools and colleges and even an internal private collaboration platform for enterprises for efficient collaboration.
It uses Apache, PHP, MySQL, and Linux environments and has a repository of over 1000+ open-source plugins and themes to create a customized social environment.
- Client-side API
- Enhanced built-in security systems, including strict XSS filters, anti-CSRF validation, and HMAC signatures.
- Well-documented core API for developers to start and learn with ease
- Composer for seamless Elgg installation and plugin maintenance
- Content access policies
- Robust web hosting services from companies like A2 Hosting, Arvixe, and ArckCloud.
- File storage
- Notifications service
You can use the free Elgg social network on Linux, MySQL, Apache, and PHP.
Oxwall is an open-source social marketplace platform that lets you create a tailor-made networking community per your specific requirements. It’s a mobile-friendly platform that allows you to create groups and forums and share blogs.
Besides, it also provides a newsfeed like Facebook to instantly see what’s happening and view your feed’s activity. Below are Oxwalls excellent features.
- A fast and convenient way of sharing images and photos with tags, comments, and rates with your community.
- Real-time chat feature
- Privacy control controls what content users can see and what they cannot.
- Provides a ready-made and already present contact page for your social network or website.
- Offers Cloudflare integration.
- Drag-and-drop interface to create rich content like an image slideshow.
- An on-site private communication feature in the form of a traditional mailbox or chat.
Oxwall’s Basic plan starts at $999 (one-time fee) and ranges to $10,000 depending on your specific needs and requirements.
Friedica is an excellent distributed social networking application with no central authority like other huge social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Instead, you can host your data, create a community on your own Friendica server, and connect with other users. At the same time, you can also fully integrate users from other platforms like StatusNet and Twitter.
Thus, Friendica offers maximum interoperability with platforms like Hubzilla, Pleroma, Funkwhale, OStatus, ActivityPub, and Mastodon. In addition, it also offers email support and allows you to add email contacts via IMAP4rev1/ESMTP.
You can either join the already-installed Friendica server or install your server on GitHub.
- Organize events and meetings of groups
- Highly extensible via third-party themes and plugins
Friendica is compatible with MySQL, PHP, and Apache.
Minds is an open-source and highly secure social network platform. It claims to provide you with “internet freedom”—ensuring maximum privacy and letting you control your social media.
This internet freedom means self-sovereignty, free speech, community governance, and the crypto economy. You can learn more about this in their whitepaper.
- Lets you post images, blogs, videos, and statuses.
- Makes it easier to discover relevant content through trending hashtags and feeds
- Directly message or video chat with friends or groups
- Lets you receive direct payments in Bitcoin, USD, and Ether from fans and followers
Minds, available on the web, iOS, and Android, has over 6M+ members and pays you to create content, refer friends, and drive more traffic to the platform.
PeerTube is an excellent open-source, decentralized, and free alternative to YouTube, which lets you install the tool on a private web server and share online videos by hosting your video hosting website.
With peer-to-peer broadcasting, PeerTube reduces the server bandwidth if your video goes viral.
- Helps create a small network of multiple interconnected video hosting providers.
- Lets you create an interconnected and autonomous platform for videos.
- Transparent and auditable
- Ad-free and doesn’t consist of any external advertisements.
- Provides support for ActivityPub
So, if you need to create a free social network similar to YouTube, PeerTube is your top choice.
Aether is an open-source platform that lets you create self-governing and peer-to-peer public communities.
Unlike other social networking platforms mentioned in this article, Aether is peer-to-peer and has no servers. However, it’s privacy-focused—making it difficult to determine a specific post’s source or IP address. Moreover, it lets you choose either fully private or fully public.
While users prefer to use pseudonyms, you can also use your company or real name per your specific needs.
- Highly transparent—making the actions of moderators visible to the users.
- Provides dark mode.
- Disable mods you don’t like or prefer to approve for your feed.
Aether is free and available on Linux, Mac, and Windows.
Big social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook host all the users and their data on a single server, display external advertisements and let you connect with a global audience.
On the other hand, self-hosted social networking platforms let you create and build your own small and internal social network for personal or professional needs and enable efficient communication and collaboration.
So, if you’re looking for a self-hosted platform, we hope this list helps you make a better-informed decision and choose a platform that best fits your requirements and budget.