Ning (website)

Ning, Inc.
Type Private
Founded Palo Alto, California (2004)[1]
Headquarters Palo Alto, California, U.S.
Area served Worldwide
Key people
Revenue US$30.0 million (2011 est.)[2]
Employees 100+ (2011)[1]
Slogan The World's Largest Platform for Creating Social Websites
Website ning.com
Type of site Social networking service, Community building platform
Available in Multilingual
Launched October, 2005[3]
Current status Active

Ning is an online platform for people and organizations to create custom social networks,[4][5][6] launched in October 2005.[3] Ning offers customers the ability to create a community website with a customized appearance and feel, feature sets such as photos, videos, forums and blogs, and the service layers in support for “Like”, integration with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo!.[7][8] Ning, Inc., the operating company, has its headquarters in Palo Alto, California.[9]

The service allows customers to charge for membership directly within their Ning Network.[10] Customers can also monetize by using services provided through partnerships established by Ning, and adding display advertisements,[11] such as Google AdSense, to their Ning Network.

There are over 90,000 (as of June 2011) social websites, known as Ning Networks, running on the Ning Platform.[12][13] Ning offers 3 plans to its customers: Mini, Plus and Pro.[14] The plans are offered with varying feature offerings and range in price so that customers can choose a plan that best fits the goal for their community.[15] Once a plan is chosen, a customer can change it to another plan at any time.[16] As of June 2011, Ning has 65 million monthly unique visitors globally on its platform.[17]

Ning was co-founded by Marc Andreessen and Gina Bianchini. Ning is Andreessen's third company (after Netscape and Opsware).

On September 21, 2011, the company announced its merger with Glam Media.



[edit] History

The word "Ning" is Chinese for "peace" (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: níng), as explained by Gina Bianchini on the company blog.[18] Ning started development in October 2004 and launched its platform publicly in October 2005.[19] Ning was initially funded internally by Bianchini, Andreessen and angel investors. In July 2007, Ning raised US$44 million in venture capital, led by Legg Mason.[20] In March 2008, the company also announced it had raised an additional US$60 million in capital, led by an undisclosed set of investors.[21] In its most recent round of funding in July 2009, the company raised US$15 million in capital, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners.[22]

On April 15, 2010, CEO Jason Rosenthal announced changes at Ning. The free service would be suspended and of the current 167 employees, only 98 would remain. Current users of the free service had the option to either upgrade to a paid account or transition their content from Ning.[23]

Ning is currently located in downtown Palo Alto, California and its headquarters are in Facebook's old office space.[24]

[edit] Features

Ning appeals to people who want to create their own communities and social networks around specific interests with their own visual design, choice of features and member data.[25] The central feature of Ning is that anyone can create their own social network for a particular topic or need, catering to specific membership bases or community needs. People joining a Ning Network have their own profile pages within the community.

A Ning community can integrate with online services like Facebook, Twitter and Google. For instance, people can join a Ning Network using their Facebook or Twitter account, and share content from a Ning Network directly to their Twitter or Facebook accounts.[26] Members can embed content directly from these services to a Ning Network, as well as other services and media content, like Youtube and Vimeo videos, or music players from MySpace or SoundCloud.[27]

At its launch, Ning was a free-form platform for the development and hosting of open-source "social applications."[19] The source code for Ning applications was available to users,[28] and the service made it easy for anyone to fork a Ning application, modify its PHP code and run it as their own. Applications included photo albums, blogging software, and many for sharing business reviews.[29] In late September 2006, Ning narrowed its focus to offering a group website, a photos website, and a videos website for people to copy and use for any purpose. These three templates were later superseded by a single customizable application aimed at enabling anyone to easily create their own social network. However, Ning does allow developers to have some source level control of their social networks, enabling them to change features and underlying logic.

Feature modification was temporarily disabled on October 21, 2008.[30] The company will replace full source control with the ability to bring in new features or change the logic of existing features via OpenSocial and a set of new APIs relaunched in early 2009.[31]

Ning formerly had both free and paid options; it switched to three levels of paid service in April 2010.[32] Each pay level allows for different degrees of features, viral tools, customization, and customer support.

The social networks running on Ning's service are programmed with PHP and the platform itself is built in Java.[33]

In November 2008, Ning announced a partnership with Scripts4Ning, integrating the developer's products directly into Ning and offering them for free.[34]

Ning network administrators can select from options that govern various levels of viewability, privacy and membership.

Ning added an iPhone interface in March 2009,[35] then made networks more compatible with mobile phones in August 2009.[36] In October 2010, Ning launched a iOS application (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) for network administrators to use to manage their social networks.[37]

The Ning Design Studio.[38]

In February 2011, Ning introduced a new way for customers to customize and change the appearance of their Ning Networks by launching the Ning Design Studio.[39][40] The feature allows customers to choose from pre-made templates, varying in color, font, background and foreground images, and layout design. Customers can fine-tune and make changes to the templates, or use CSS to make custom visual changes on their community. The Design Studio also made it possible for customers to change the column layout and widths, giving new options beyond the default 3-column layout on Ning Networks before the Design Studio.

[edit] Community

Ning has 90,000 customers with social websites on the Ning Platform.[41] A range of different types of communities, organizations, and businesses use Ning as their website. Some examples include sports teams Manchester United or bands Linkin Park (linkinpark.com/main)[42] and Weezer (weezer.com),[43] The Twilight Saga (thetwilightsaga.com),[44] Tony Hawk's Shred or Die (shredordie.com),[45] the Diabetes Hands Foundation's TuDiabetes (tudiabetes.org),[46] the Brooklyn Art Project (brooklynartproject.com)[47] and T20.com - Home of Global Cricket (t20.com).[48]

Homepage of http://weezer.com
Homepage of http://weezer.com

[edit] Controversies

Screenshot of the Ning's email on removing free networks
Ning's email on removing free networks

[edit] Banning of third-party provider

In August 2008, Ning removed Widget Laboratory (the largest third party provider of plugin enhancements to Ning at the time) from Ning, preventing use of any of their tools across Ning networks. This dispute was hotly debated in response to an article in TechCrunch.[49]

[edit] Removal of networks with pornography

In December 2008, Ning announced that it would no longer host networks that featured pornography and similar content.[50] Network owners were given just over a month to move their pornographic content to another provider. The reasons cited for removing pornographic networks from the platform were that they did not cover the costs of providing them and that they created a disproportionate amount of DMCA takedown notices for copyright infringing material.

[edit] Removal of search function

In November 2009, the search feature of Ning was removed; this change significantly limited the ability to find existing Ning networks.[51] The search function was restored on March 29, 2010.[52][53]

[edit] Removal of free networks

Many web services were proclaiming that Ning was closing down all free networks, and several were actively pursuing these creators.[54] When Creators looked for confirmation on the Creators Network, there was little to no information, canned responses to their questions, and promises of more information in two weeks. Several Ning Employees were also gone with this "notice", although it's unclear whether that is due to layoffs or choice.[citation needed] Creators never received a formal notice, although Mr. Rosenthal did eventually post a re-statement of the original post more than 24 hours after the fact.[55]

On May 4, 2010, Ning Network sent an official email to all members:

We want to provide a new level of innovation to Network Creators — and build all the valuable features Network Creators have asked us to. To get there, we need to focus 100% on paid Ning Networks. This phasing out of free services won’t happen until July, so you’ll have plenty of time to weigh your options. We’ll do our best to provide you with a migration path if you don’t wish to continue with Ning, but we’d love to have you come along for all of the exciting future developments.[citation needed]

Email notifications to ning network customers proclaimed that free .ning networks would expire totally at midnight UTC−08:00 on Friday August 20, unless the customer decided to choose a paid plan.

Author:Bling King
Published:Sep 24th 2011
Modified:Jan 10th 2012
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