Do you remember Ning? Back in 2005, Ning launched an unusual social networking tool that combined the conversation of a forum with the content of a website. Thousands of people signed up to create communities dedicated to their favorite TV show or movie, hobby or cause. You could also build a private Ning space for members of your local little league team, club or company.
Back in the day, I belonged to several Ning groups, so I was extremely disappointed when the free service converted to a paid service. That was the beginning of the end. Because they were doing it for fun, not profit, thousands of community owners shut down their sites and reopened in places such as LiveJournal and Facebook.
Now, Ning is back with a new design and a new raison d’être, “Your brand. Your members. Your control.”
There’s still plenty of fun to be had in social networking, but these days people who want online communities are less interested in creating their own “Facebook in a box” and more interested in how published content can be successfully intertwined with community-generated content.
There, they said it out loud, Ning is coming for you Facebook. But do they stand a chance? I think so.
Ning 3.0 is all about customization. They’ve taken out the widget bloat that dragged them down in the past in favor of clear and clean, responsive design.
Here’s one of their new headers:
If you remember what Ning used to look like, you won’t believe the change.
What they kept was their commitment to a well-rounded online community experience. Each Ning site still has the options for a forum, blogs, photos and member profiles. On top of that, they’ve included more privacy options. Now you can open parts of your community to the public but keep other parts private.
The overall theme of Ning 3.0 is flexibility and that’s something they weren’t known for in the past. But all this power costs money. Instead of charging for the amount of storage a community uses, Ning is now charging based on the number of members. That’s smart. No sense penalizing your power users.
Under 1,000 members with two moderators costs $25 a month. Over 10,00 but under 100,000 – it’s $49.00 a month. That’s going to be it for the majority of users. Sure you could run a Facebook group for free, but honestly, there’s no comparison. Ning looks great. The new design is inviting and functional and they do all the backend work for you.
If you’re just looking to blog, get a cheap hosting plan and WordPress. If you want to build a community – give Ning a try. I say 3.0 time’s the charm. Visit Ning.com for a free trial.