Ning, a social networking platform, has relaunched today with new features. Ning was founded by Marc Andreessen and Gina Bianchini. Marc was the founder of Netscape and LoudCloud so Ning warrants special attention. Mike Arrington at TechCrunch has come around to liking Ning after first panning it as a dead application. Robert Scoble has a video interview with Marc and Gina. Om Malik says "
Ning 2.0 is also a challenge to current crop of blogging tools that are still not waking to the new reality, and continue to live like content management systems. The big challenge for Ning will be to get mass adoption, for upon that “adoption” hinges its business model.
The company plans to charge $19.95 a month if you want to run your own ads (or no ads at all). Your own domain will cost $4.95 a month, and a package of 5 GB storage/100 GB of bandwidth is going to cost $9.95 a month. At these prices, Ning will need thousands of social networks before it can join an elite network of start-ups of recent vintage that are profitable.
Haven't we seen this before? After reading some of the reviews and visiting the Ning site I stopped to think for a minute. Hmmm...haven't we seen this before? Yahoo Groups and Live Spaces, formerly MSN Spaces, have been around for a long time. Then I made a list of the Ning features and compared them to Yahoo and Live Spaces. They are virtually the same. Here is my incomplete list;
- Discussion forums
- Member pages
- Privacy settings
- Management dashboard
Ning, like Yahoo Groups and Live Spaces is free. Ning will make its money by selling advertising, up-selling additional features like extra bandwidth, and using your own domain name.
The promise of Ning is customization. Ning is building out a platform that will support a variety of social applications that can be customized with your own code and scripts. The current version has feature parity with most of the big payers. I expect Ning will raise the bar with more sample applications and more customization options in the future.
There are lots of choices. Blogging platforms like TypePad, Blogtronix, and Community Server, are great platforms today, but will need to continue innovating to remain viable competitors. Yahoo Groups and Live Spaces have millions of users today, but will likewise need to stay current. Jeremiah Owyang has compiled a list of over 40 social networking application platforms, including the six listed above.