Ning: A Grown-Up MySpace, a New Web Platform

The main purpose of this blog is to look at emerging Web features as they move from the overheated giantism of, say, YouTube and Wikipedia, to more measured mainstream use. And so today I take up Ning.

The latest project of Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, Ning lets you set up your own social network outside the teen-graffiti-ed walls of MySpace or FaceBook.

A Ning network takes less than five minutes to set up. Choose a name, template and a set of widgetized features (text box, photos, video, blog, etc.) and you’re up and running. You are now proprietor of a social network. Just add people.

What strikes me about Ning is–its likeable social-networking-without-the-idiots premise notwithstanding–how much it resembles other plug-and-play platforms that let you build, with almost alarming ease, what is essentially a free Web site under a different name.

  • Wetpaint.com lets you create a Web community using the wiki metaphor.
  • WordPress, the service upon which this blog rides, provides a growing suite of tools that help you turn a basic blog into a widgetized visitors center. [Ditto Brother Google’s Blogger tool.]
  • Netvibes started as a feedreader, but increasingly is a personalized multimedia content platform you can share with others.  
  • Freewebs lets you build a free, utterly serviceable Web site with the same five-minute drill as the others on this list.

Remember how, just two or three years ago, we all proclaimed that blogs had pushed the cost of publishing on the Web to practically zero?

These emerging products are doing the same with rich-media Web experiences. What used to be the domain of html coders and fancy Web design houses is now in the hands of just about anybody with two index fingers and a $400 computer.

I know the primitive sites these tools create will never replace the nuanced, deep and well-developed sites that major enterprises need and want. But I know this: the marketplace often rewards easy-but-servicable over complex-but-better. And certainly most folks would prefer free to paid. I would not want to be trying to sell Dreamweaver  five years from now. 

Explore posts in the same categories: Ning, social networks, UGC, wetpaint, widgets

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