on the ning exodus

Ning’s new boss announced that free Ning communities are gone. Not a big deal. It’s a company, and they’re free to do what they want. I’m guessing they’ll just piss off their users, and the few people that pony up cash to stay will not be enough to keep the company afloat. Add Ning to the deadpool. That’s the risk of using a third-party-hosted service. It can disappear or change, and there’s not a thing you can do about it.

I’m finding it extremely difficult to care about the Ning announcement. If you use hosted (especially free) solutions, that’s just part of the game. Things change, move, wither and die.

There are lots of apps out there that could easily replicate Ning’s functionality – even for free – but they still don’t solve the core problem that Ning address, that made it so attractive to its users in the first place.

You don’t need a server, or any technical skills at all, to start and manage a Ning community. You only need to be able to fill in a form on a web page and click “Create ยป” That’s all. (well, and a credit card now…)

WordPress/BuddyPress and Drupal and any of a long list of others can provide the functionality of Ning. But, in order to protect yourself from another potential service change/interruption, you really need to provide a server. At some point, you need a Dreamhost account or something similar. You need to copy files to the server. You need to configure a database and tweak things. This is where the people that use Ning in the first place are lost. They can’t/won’t do this. We can argue until we’re blue in the face, saying it’s easy, saying it’s cheap, saying it’s necessary, but the vast majority of people simply don’t want to manage the technical layers beneath what they see in the web browser. Ning is betting the company that these people will reach for their credit cards to prevent having to deal with technical stuff.

Sure, there will be other hosted services that will attract some of the people fleeing Ning. But none of them can offer any form of guarantee that they’ll stay running, or that they won’t change in ways that their users won’t like.

5 thoughts on “on the ning exodus

  1. All good points. Though there is room for a middle space. Look at wordpress.com: it is a commercial business that could screw its users at any minute, but at least it’s built on WordPress, with its robust export/import features. From what I can tell Ning offers nothing beyond user export, which means that short of copy and paste current Ning users are up against a wall.

  2. As a member of a few Ning networks I have to say I’ll miss the app. I agree that the few who are willing to stay and break out their credit card will not likely be enough to keep it afloat. Other options which might serve similar needs include Google groups and Facebook pages / groups, but rebuilding the pages and recreating the content is a bit of pain. I guess if you’re gonna go with the free solutions you gotta be willing to accept the occasional setback.

  3. A free alternative to Ning is mixxt.com. The functionalities are very similar to what Ning offers but with some additions.

    mixxt’s most prominent advantages are strong Community Management features, powerful sub-groups, full collaboration features, and advanced customization.

    The philosophy is different from Ning’s: it’s based on White Labeled solutions for large institutions and enterprises, as well as Freemium services.

    As for now, primarily education, work-related and event networks use mixxt communities.

    Ning users wanting to import their Ning network to mixxt find a useful tool in mixxt’s Ning importer (http://bit.ly/ningalt).

    If you want to give your own mixxt network a try, check out this site (http://mixxt.com)!

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