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Archive for September 24th, 2007

Ning has 100,000 Social Networks: What Does It Mean???

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 24, 2007

Ning now has 100,000 Social Networks.  If you haven’t heard of it, Ning is a service that let’s you rapidly create an entire Social Network.  All you need to add is content and friends.  So that means that people have created over 100,000 individual Social Networks on Ning since the company was founded in 2004.  It’s taken them a little while to find a product/market fit, but they really seem to have hit their stride.  This is a relatively recent development as 70K of the 100K networks have been created in the last 7 months and the trend is your typical exponential growth curve.  One of the developments that contributed to massive late stage growth was a new release that eliminated the last vestiges of needing to do any programming to create a new Social Network.

Andreesen says they think of networks as falling into 3 categories:  big, long tail (small), and throwaway.  Moreover, he says it would be a mistake to assume all the action is in the top 200 or so networks.  The top 200 get less than half the traffic.  This is one of those times where understanding averages doesn’t tell us much, even with Marc giving slightly more data.  Do the top 200 get less than half the traffic because nearly all of the networks are relatively small, for example?  Marc Canter (a competitor) wonders about this sort of thing.  Yet it can’t be that all the networks are small because pmarca says there are some with tens of thousands of users.  There’s a little more color on this in the ning blog.

My first reaction on reading this was to wonder what the heck people could be doing with 100,000 Social Networks?  I read elsewhere that folks who are otherwise huge cheerleaders for Social Networking are now complaining of Social Network Fatigue–the effort required to participate in a new social network is just too hard.  Marc Andreesen’s post about passing 100K networks makes some interesting points:

  • Sometimes its good to have a disposable Social Network.  It’s used for one purpose, such as fund raising for a particular cause or experimentation, and then it’s discarded.  That makes a whole lot of sense to me.
  • He says Ning has a double viral loop that consists of both inviting folks into Ning and then into a particular Social Network on Ning.
  • He says the explosive growth of Ning has also coincided with Facebook’s growth.  He attributes the correspondence to heightened overall interest in Social Networking.

To the list of observations I gleaned from Marc, I would add that a traditional “Big” Social Network, like a Facebook, let’s you direct content to your Social Network and receive content from your friend’s Social Network.  You are the hub there.  Creating a special purpose Social Network eliminates that hub function.  It enables Social Networking group-to-group when one person doesn’t make a good hub.  A great example is the Navy Wives network on Ning.  When I saw this network it immediately made sense.  What a great idea for Navy Wives to be able to get together in a social network.  They have a lot of things in common, they’re scattered all over the world, and there is no logical hub for them to congregate around.  According to the Ning site, they have 242 members and growing.  Given the size of our Navy, there’s lost of upward growth possible.

Mind you, not everyone wants group-to-group networking, but you can see where it makes a lot of sense if you have a group, club, church, organization, product, or other entity that wants its own branded Social Network as a presence on the web.  Here were some other interesting Ning Networks I came across:

  • Diddlyi Dance:  A Network for Irish folk dancers.
  • Ning Network Creators:  A Network for people who make Networks in Ning.  Kind of interesting to compare and contrast what goes on here with what’s on the Ning Blog.  Gives you an idea when to use a Network versus a blog.
  • Wakefirst:  A cool network for wakeboard enthusiasts.  These folks have pulled out a lot of stops to make a cool network that shows what you can do with Ning.
  • Craftbeer:  For home and microbrewers.  aka Cure for what ales you.
  • DIY Drones:  Build a remotely piloted vehicle.

Predictably, Ning has also rolled out the capability for Ning users to create Facebook apps to go along with their Ning Networks.  That’s a smart move because it lets Ning suction off traffic from Facebook over to the world of Ning.  In fact, it’s one of the 7 Guerrilla Platform Tactics I recently wrote about. 

Can Ning make money?  Time will tell.  I must say that to the extent people form Networks for a particular purpose, it does provide a targeted audience for advertisers that might prove valuable.  Failing that, Ning offers Premium Services at an extra charge, so they’re a SaaS Social Networking Platform.

Overall, I think Ning is pretty cool.  If I can think of a worthwile Network to create, I imagine I’ll try it out. 

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Posted in platforms, saas, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments »

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