Ning is making it easier for users to create their own, more elaborate social networking sites. Version 2 of the 3-year-old social networking development platform lets users create websites that have videos, photos, blogs, and discussion forums, among other features--all the functions you'd expect on MySpace or Facebook, but with more control.
"Freedom and creativity are what people want," CEO Gina Bianchini says. There's a lesson to be learned from the impact of the web on walled-garden Internet services such as AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy, she says. "They had a fixed view of what people could do with them," Bianchini says. "The web came along and as a platform gave people the freedom and the ability to create their own websites."
As it happens, Ning's CTO, Marc Andreessen, was the CTO of AOL and CTO and co-founder of Netscape.
Ning is free. As a user, you have complete control over the modules on your site, your site's appearance, and who has access. Ning runs ads on the sites, or users can pay $19.95 a month and run Google AdSense or another third-party advertising server, Bianchini says.
Ning is used by individuals as well as big companies like CBS, which is using it to power a social network for the show CSI. "CBS actually came in and used the same service that Minnesota schoolteachers and subversive artists in North Carolina are using," Bianchini says.
Ning's computing resources can be accessed through APIs. Developers who want, for example, to use Ning's friend list on another site can craft code to use the Ning data.
"We imagine a world where there are millions of social networks for every conceivable niche and need and interest and hobby and location and group," Bianchini says. "That's where things should go." With more than 30,000 social networks on its platform, Ning's helping get them there.
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