This article was originally published back in 2013 and has been one of our most popular posts every. I have updated it for 2017 to bring you the best BuddyPress chat plugins today.
I've been researching the best BuddyPress live chat plugins for WordPress and BuddyPress. These are in great demand as BuddyPress allows web designers to transform a WordPress website into a full social networking site, but sadly doesn't have built-in live chat or instant messaging features. Now people are used to chatting live on Facebook, they expect to see this feature on the BuddyPress websites they use.
There are various live chat plugins available that claim to work with BuddyPress, as well as WordPress sites more generally. However, there are surprisingly few that work properly and are tested with the latest versions of WordPress and BuddyPress. Here are my findings - I hope they save you a bit of time in finding a live chat plugin for your own WordPress or BuddyPress website.
CometChat - *Joint best premium option*
Summary: Go with the experts.
- Premium chat service that integrates with WordPress & BuddyPress.
- Full support.
CometChat is a leading service providing online chat software for various platforms. It fully integrates with BuddyPress and all its features such as user groups, WordPress user login and friendship connections.
The reason I recommend CometChat is that to be honest, all the WordPress-specific chat providers are pretty naff. They're clunky to use and look outdated and unprofessional. Compared to the WordPress chat plugins, CometChat looks fantastic and provides the level of chat functionality your users are used to from other leading sites such as Facebook.
Live chat is complex and you need a dedicated company such as CometChat to do it justice. By using CometChat, you get the benefit of all their advanced features including private chat, chatrooms, games and real-time translation - as well as the overall quality and professionalism.
iFlyChat - *Best free option*
Summary: Easily the best free WordPress & BuddyPress chat plugin.
- Free WordPress chat plugin that works with BuddyPress
- Rated 4.5/5
- Active installs: 5,000+
- Well supported with regular updates
iFlyChat is a popular and well supported free WordPress chat plugin that integrates with BuddyPress. Users can chat with one other privately, in groups or in chat rooms. You can either have a chat window in the corner and/or chat embedded within a full web page.
The plugin fully integrates with BuddyPress, for example with friendship lists.
iFlyChat has far more features than any other WordPress chat plugin I have seen, and is hugely popular. Definitely worth a try.
WordPress, BuddyPress Users Chat plugin
Summary: Worth a look.
- Low-cost premium WordPress chat plugin
- Rated 4.49/5
- Sales: 564
- Last updated about a year ago, which could be a warning sign
WordPress, BuddyPress Users Chat Plugin is just over a year old and adds a chat facility to BuddyPress or any WordPress site.
It has all the features you're likely to need including simultaneous multi-user chat, browser notifications and sound alerts, emoticons, search and integration with BuddyPress elements such as Friends to see who's online.
While the styling isn't as good as Facebook's chat, it's more modern than a lot of WordPress chat plugins I have seen.
WPMU Chat WordPress plugin
Summary: The premium version is worth considering, but beware the outdated design and expensive monthly pricing!
- Free WordPress plugin with premium version available
- Rated 4/5
- Active installs: 3,000+
- Updated regularly, with premium support on the paid version
Unlike the other live chat WordPress plugins suitable for BuddyPress sites, Chat has simple options for embedding chat into a page or post as well as the bottom right hand corner of your entire website. Strangely, no demo seems to be available but there are plenty of screenshots on the website for the premium version.
Another problem with this free WordPress plugin was that it doesn't let you restrict who can chat to different user groups - essential for most BuddyPress websites. You have to upgrade to the premium version for this.
I have used the premium version of this WordPress plugin on a BuddyPress site and have found it to be the best option if you're prepared to pay. It is reasonably well written but there are some bugs. The worst things about this plugin are:
- The old-fashioned 1990's-style design. Yes, you can change the colours etc. in the premium version but it still looks outdated whatever you do. I have asked them to consider redesigning it and they accepted that this is a problem and said they may consider this at some point.
- The fact that you have to pay monthly in order to receive plugin updates and support. You can just pay for one month, set everything up and continue using it. However it's a bad idea to let things out of date and I don't like WPMU's pricing model of charging such a high monthly amount.
BuddyPress Instant Chat
Summary: Worth a try if you want a simple on-page chat.
- Free WordPress/BuddyPress chat plugin
- Rated 4/5
- Active installs: 300+
- Good support, last updated 10 months ago
BuddyPress Instant Chat is a live chat plugin that lets you embed a chat box anywhere on your site. It doesn't have a popup in the corner, so people actually have to be on the chat page in order to chat.
You might need to do some extra CSS styling to make it look good with your theme, as it's such a simple plugin.
BoWoB chat WordPress plugin
Summary: My favourite when I first wrote this post back in 2013, but no longer supported. Use with caution.
- Free WordPress plugin with premium version available
- Rated 3/5
- Active installs: 200+
- No longer supported or updated
BoWoB chat can be used on most WordPress websites, including BuddyPress sites. The free version allows 10 users to chat online at a time.
The plugin is integrated with the WordPress user registration so that the chat will display each person's username. The paid version also displays other information such as their photo and friends.
Although you can install the plugin from the WordPress plugin respository, you have to register for the free plan on the BoWoB website in order to set up the plugin and copy some information into the settings page.
Although there aren't many settings that you can update from your website's WordPress admin area, you can customise the chat feature by logging into your account on the BoWoB website. In theory this allows you to customise various details such as the language and whether people have to be logged in to see the chat window. In practice, this area is slightly frustrating because when you change certain settings and click Save, you see an error saying that this is only available for the paid version - like many WordPress plugins, you only see this information AFTER you've spent time choosing your settings! For example, you can't change the design or colour scheme on the free plugin.
Like many live chat plugins, BoWoB is hosted on the BoWoB site. This means that if their site stops working then so will your live chat feature. If you're not worried about loss of data then this can be viewed as a positive because it means that it won't slow down your website or use up your own hosting resource.
BoWoB Chat looks very similar to the Facebook instant messaging feature, which is great as people are already used to its look and feel.