I'm planning on creating a social networking + MP3 lecture downloading / browsing / commenting / discovery website using Ruby on Rails. Partially for fun and also as a means to learn some Ruby on Rails. I'm looking for a social networking framework that I can use as a basis for my site. I don't want to re-invent the wheel.

Searching the web I found three such frameworks. Which of these three would you recommend using and why?

+3  A: 

I've not worked with these but am aware of this comparison:

"Unlike Insoshi and Lovd By Less, which are full social networking Rails applications, Community Engine is a plugin that can add social networking features to existing Rails applications"


Thanks for the link. True that Community Engine is a plug-in and might therefore be better suited to adding into an existing application, but I'm starting from scratch. So, I could theoretically use any of the three options.
+12  A: 

It depends what your priorities are.

If you really want to learn RoR, do it all from scratch. Seriously. Roll your own. It's the best way to learn, far better than hacking through someone else's code. If you do that, sometimes you'll be learning Rails, but sometimes you'll just be learning that specific social network framework. And you won't know which is which...

The type of site you're suggesting sounds perfect for a Rails project. If you get stuck, then go browse the repositories of these frameworks. Who cares if you're reinventing the wheel? It's your site, your vision, your rules.

If you just want a site up and running, then I would pick Insoshi or LovdbyLess simply because they're out of the box apps so you'll have to do less to do get running. I suggest trying to install them both, and introducing yourself in the Google Groups. That'll give you a good indication of wether you're going to get along.

Dave Nolan
A: was built on

+6  A: 

Update: Insoshi's license has changed to the MIT license, which means you're basically free to do with it as you please. But still, review the license for any code you are considering before you get too invested in it.

Something to keep in mind when deciding is the license for the code. Insoshi is licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License, This means that you have to distribute the source code to your Insoshi-based web application to anyone who uses that web application. You might not want to do that, in which case you'll need to pay Insoshi a license fee (they dual license, like MySQL).

LovdByLess is distributed under an MIT license, This means you can use the source code however you want to.


What about RailsSpace?

Insoshi is what Railspace evolved into.

act_as_network might be another option ...


One other positive to Community Engine is that it is using Engines which is an advanced type of plugin that is becoming a part of rails in 2.3. So what you learn from using Community Engine (and therefore Engines) will be useful going forward.

+1  A: 

Regarding RailsSpace, that's a very nicely built Rails 1.2 application, and I think it was updated for compatibility with Rails 2.x. There's even a terrific book that was written about the RailsSpace application (or rather, RailsSpace and the book were written together).

But, RailsSpace became Insoshi, when the authors were so inspired by the amount of interest in a social networking site built in Rails. So while RailsSpace might be an interesting learning exercise, it's dead in terms of development. All of the authors' efforts (for more than a year now, I think) have been going into Insoshi instead, so that's where you should be looking.


i'm currently testing both lovdbyless and insoshi. i was able to install and get insoshi up and running fairly quickly whereas lovdbyless is giving me a harder time. if you're in novice mode, i suggest getting the book from Head First. it is probably one of the better books out there for beginners. atleast in my opinion because i went through a few that was just way too confusing.

+2  A: 

Another option for anyone who wants to create a social site without having to build it from scratch is the EngineY framework. EngineY is a social networking framework written in Ruby and Rails. It provides alot of popular social networking features such as activity streams, groups, photos, message boards, status updates, events, blogs, wall posts, integrated twitter feeds, and more. EngineY is also under active development with new features being added all the time. You can read more about EngineY and download it from:

Timothy Fisher
+1  A: 

Just a quick update, EngineY now supports Rails 2.3.5 and just released this weekend is support for themes. This goes along with existing features including groups, blogs, photos, REST API, status updates, Facebook Connect, forums, private messages, user profiles, activity feeds, wall posts, and more... Check it out at or on GitHub at

Timothy Fisher