If you are familiar with Stack Ideas products, such as the blogging component that you are reading from right now EasyBlog, you might have noticed that on their site they have been promoting a soon to be released social networking component called EasySocial. I first noticed this a few weeks back and I must admit I got a bit excited. Not one to usually get emotional over such things, the idea of a social networking component written by the excellent Stack Ideas team definitely has appeal.

I have a love / hate relationship with most extension vendors and products but my experience with Stack Ideas has been great, the support is excellent, the products are intuitive and of the best quality, and what's more they just work. No fuss, no hacking, no convoluted setup, they work with the minimum of fuss and continue to do so. So when I received an email that there would be a webcast on the upcoming EasySocial, I signed up right away. 

Watching the webcast last night I was blown away by the quality of component. There has been a years worth of development so far and there are still features that are being held back for the next release (Boonex please take note). The component includes many ideas and suggestions from the Stack Ideas user base and whilst it was said that the component was not designed to specifically compete against JomSocial, it certainly raises the bar. 

In many respects it is similar in functionality to JomSocial, it follows the standard format for social networking components - that of a facebookesque type of site with an activity wall, profile pages, messaging capabilities, etc. Where it differs is how these components have been executed, it's the fine details that really set it apart. There is a liberal use of AJAX for all functions resulting in what appears to be a very nice user experience, the interface also appears to be very intuitive, although this is obviously hard to really get a feel for from just watching on a webcast.

The setup for registration and the integration of all of the Stack Ideas components within the EasySocial framework has been well thought out. The registration and integration of third party components has also been well considered with API functions to allow developers to directly include fields for their components within the registration form. This in itself is a major breakthrough and is one thing that is usually a massive pain to execute when building a site.

My contribution to the evening was quizzing Stack Ideas about JomSocial migration, there is a migration function included, which also migrates the activity stream but currently does not include groups or events. This is simply because groups and events are not currently in the product. Groups and events are due to be release with the next release at which point they will no doubt be included within the migrator. Interestingly groups are being referred to as 'pages' which seems to me that StackIdeas are taking their queues from Facebook more than JomSocial, this is also echoed by the integration of opengraph tags.

Overall I was very impressed with EasySocial and cannot wait to get my hands on a copy. Release is not currently set but is pencilled to be within the next week or two. Pricing was also discussed but no commitment was made. With the exclusion of the groups and events components I would not be ready to roll this out for all of my sites but would definitely be happy to give it a go on those sites that that do not use this functionality. Looks like JomSocial need to up their game.

If you want to view the webcast head over to http://www.cloudaccess.net/recorded-webinars.html and to join in the discussions visit the Stack Ideas forums at http://stackideas.com/forums/index/easysocial