No More Free Ning Networks

By  |  Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Ning, the service that lets anybody create a social network on any topic, is undergoing some big changes. The company, which hosts 2.3 million social networks, says that it will shut down its free version and require network creators to either switch to a paid plan or leave Ning. It’s also laying off forty percent of its staff.

Back in 2007, Ning cofounder and chairman Marc Andreessen visited PCWorld (where I worked at the time) and explained how Ning would be able to cover the costs of free networks through advertising. I liked the idea, and hey, he’s Marc Andreeseen, so I bought the idea. Here’s cofounder Gina Bianchini making the same case in a 2008 Cnet video. But it looks like the strategy didn’t pan out.

When we chatted with Andreesseen, he was also passionate about the fact that Ning let network owners tinker with their network’s source code–but Ning eventually shut off that feature in favor of letting users install apps on their networks.

It’s yet the latest evidence that it’s dangerous to assume that free services will be around forever, at least as free services. I wonder how many Ning networks will convert to paid services, how many will move elsewhere, and how many will just go away?

Technologizer has a Ning network–but not one that’s very active or inspiring. That’s at least partially our fault, for not promoting it more aggressively. Mostly, though, we discovered that the social side of Technologizer was going on in article comments as well as on Twitter and Facebook. Even though we’re already paying Ning customers, we may quietly close down our presence  there at some point–let us know if you think that’s a lousy idea. But I’m still a fan of the idea, as expressed both at Ning and its competitor SocialGo (which already focused on paid services).

 
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12 Comments For This Post

  1. meph Says:

    Social networks can try grou.ps – http://grou.ps

  2. meph Says:

    You should also try grou.ps

  3. NanoGeek Says:

    BuddyPress might be a good option as well.
    http://buddypress.org/blog/community/helpful-resources-for-ning-users/

  4. Noam Says:

    When you host your social network on someone elses’ server, you’ll always be dependent on them. Operating a self-hosted solution like SocialEngine provides a more viable long term solution so you can maintain control of users, content and data.

  5. James Says:

    The best place for anyone exploring using a ning-style product has always been SocialGO, simply because the network creator owns the membership and can export all the data and member base at the click of a button.

    Much better transparency over at SocialGO as they are a public company listed on the London Stock Exchange

    Plus, the tools were designed for professional from the start. I’m on their $25 plan and to be honest, it;s been plain sailing all the way (he says, sounding like an ad, but really it is that good!)

  6. David Crotty Says:

    Your CNET link is broken….

  7. Jennifer Says:

    i heard about ning shutting down free accounts.. and saw on webs.com that they offer basically the same thing as ning, and even more cool options.. i have a webs.com account, and you can build a completely free social network website in just a few minutes..

    it’s definitely worth checking out:
    http://www.webs.com

  8. Marg Says:

    It’s not a big surprise. Free is really never free. We belive that rsitez.com is best positioned to get Ning customers. Great features and good pricing for their plans.

  9. Zack Says:

    Crazy that all these folks are left with the option to pay or leave. I noticed there are some free options out there. Zerista is one that is a free and lets you take your group to your mobile phone.

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