Saturday, July 19, 2008
The Bling in "Ning"
I’ll admit to being really late to this social networking thing. This year I finally signed up for LinkedIn (only because a bunch of my business acquaintances kept asking me to join their networks), and created a presence (I can’t really call it a “page”) at FaceBook after my husband and some other friends joined there.
So it’s no surprise that I had never heard of the social networking service called Ning until my friend and classmate John introduced me to it. You might describe Ning as social networking page crossed with a wiki crossed with a blog, where people create customized websites to host on-line communities around just about any subject (in any language) to connect with like-minded people.
There’s GAX for gamers (2700+ members) and “Mamas Fallen Angels” for people who love “hair metal” music of the 80’s and 90’s (3700+ members). Hip-hop mogul 50 Cent has a Ning site with more than 100,000 members! Launched in February 2007 by Gina Bianchini and Marc Andreesssen, Ning was recently valued at half-a-billion dollars (yes, that’s a capital B!) as reported by TechCrunch, and the company predicts by 2010, it will host 4 million social networks.
In an article on FastCompany, Adam Penenberg describes Ning as something called a “viral expansion loop”:
"It's a type of engineering alchemy that, done right, almost guarantees a self-replicating, borglike growth: One user becomes two, then four, eight, to a million and beyond. It's not unlike taking a penny and doubling it daily for 30 days. By the end of a week, you'd have 64 cents; within two weeks, $81.92; by day 30, about $5.4 million. Viral loops have emerged as perhaps the most significant business accelerant to hit Silicon Valley since the search engine. They power many of the icons of Web 2.0, including Google, PayPal, YouTube, eBay, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Flickr. But don't confuse a viral loop with viral advertising or videos such as Saturday Night Live's "Lazy Sunday" or the Mentos-Diet Coke Bellagio fountain. Viral advertising can't be replicated; by definition, a viral loop must be."
That’s all way too technical for me. All I know is that Ning offers a lot of cool features, like total customization of the page (including the ability to use company logos) and the ability to insert widgets from other websites. It provides the opportunity to create individual member profiles and discussion groups within the Ning page, and helps users to display photos and slideshows, even allows them to integrate their FaceBook pages into the network.
CMS Wire asks if Ning is the next FaceBook or MySpace. I think that’s selling Ning short. I’m really looking forward to getting to know Ning better now that I’ve discovered it. I can think of lots of applications. I’ve just agreed to be co-chair of the committee that will plan and fundraise for my college class 25th reunion – why not create a Ning page for that?
Maybe we need a Ning social network for harried graduate students ;-)!