June 15, 2009
A unique market has appeared in the internet industry. This market is also part of the growing social networking market, but this company actually allows you to create your own social network and even make it either a public or private social network. Introducing Ning, the online social network creator. In order to create an online social network on Ning, you have to sign up for the service and it is free. Ning generates it revenues on advertising, using Google ads that are incorporated into all the networks.
From the surface, Ning programable platform looks good, however, their signing in process can be challenging. To sign in, you must type in your name, email address, a password, and you must choose your country of residence and your local postal code; zip code if you are in the United States. This process is rather simple, but when you go to create your social network, this might be a bit of a problem. Your API can only contain letters, no symbols, and some people may already have the API address you want and you might have to modify it. You might have to try a few times before your API is successfully registered. As you build your profile, Ning allows you to upload your own photo and add other personal information that you would like to add to your social network.
Once you are ready to create your own social network, as mentioned before, you can make your network either public and open to everyone or private and open to a few select friends of yours. This is the first option as you go on to create your social network. Above that is the name of your network. Below the public or private option, you are prompted to type in a tag line for your social network. After the tag line, you will need to type in a short description of your network, which cannot be more than 140 words. Below that you will be prompted to type in keywords for your network to make it optimized for the search engines.
After all the important aspects of your network are typed in, you will need to select your language, country and zip code or postal code. After that, you can click next.
After clicking next, you will open a page that will allow you to add features to your website. On this page, you can add all kinds of features; including forums, groups, blogs, music, descriptions, or chats. Adding these features is very easy, simply drag them into your network diagram. For adding the chat feature, you need to click on the check box next to the chat symbol. After you are done with all that, click on the next button.
After you have clicked the next button, you will open a page that allows you to customize your social network. You have six designed webpages that you can choose from to build a face to your network. You can also make your themes unique by selecting all kinds of tabs that allow you to customize all the features of the template that you chose. You can click on the all options tab, which allows you to change the colors of every feature of the template that you would like to change. You can also allow members to change the color of the text if you like that sort of thing. The advanced tab is for those of you who are the great programmers and like to mess around with html and css codes. This is one thing that Ning has that makes it great. It has the basics for beginners and all kinds of advance programming features for those who are internet and html savvy. There is something for everyone here.
Once you have chosen to change what ever features you wanted to change, simply click on the launch button to launch your social network out there in the wild worldwide web.
Once you have launched your network, you can always edit features to your network pages at a later time if you choose to do so. In fact, to keep having the search engines indexing your network, you should change things periodically. In this respect, Ning does not only allow you to build your very own social network, but give it the professional fling to it as well.
How does the social network that you have just created work? It works great. You can add all kinds of features at any time, post blogs and even allow others to comment on your blogs if you wish. Once you have successfully launched your new social network, Ning will send you an email with the URLs and APIs of your new social networks.
Who are the people behind Ning? Ning was created by two internet innovators, Gina Bianchini and Marc Andressen.
Gina Bianchini is a cofounder of Ning and also serves as the company’s CEO. Ms. Bianchini has had quite a bit of experience in the social network industry. Before participating in founding Ning, she worked at Harmonic Communications, where she was also a cofounder of that company and CMO. Prior to that Ms. Bianchini worked at CKS as Director of Business Development and Investor Relations, as well as at Goldman Sachs, where she worked as a financial analyst. Gina Bianchini graduated from Stanford University with a BA, and then went on to the Stanford School of Business, where she received an MBA.
The other cofounder of Ning is Marc Andressen, who serves the company as the chairman. Mr. Andressen is also an investor, who has invested in several startups, which include Digg, Plazes, and Twitter. Mr. Andressen is an avid blogger and is also a multi-millionaire software designer behind designing Mosaic, which was later to be known as Netscape Navigator. Mr. Andressen also founded Netscape, which was the producer of Mosaic and later Netscape Navigator, which was the world’s first web browser until Microsoft developed Internet Explorer. Other experiences that Mr. Andressen has under his belt, including working for Opsware as the company chairman and later as the CTO of AOL, when AOL received Netscape as an acquisition. Mr. Andressen graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Sciences.
Ning has also gotten a fair share of coverage in the media. In a CNN report from May 29, 2009, Ning was reported to be changing the future of social networking by allowing users to create their own social networks. CNN also reported that in January of 2009, Ning has had over 4.7 million unique visitors and over a million social networks.
On April 23, 2009, Gina Bianchini was interviewed by CNN and she explained on the CNN newscast that Ning would be the social networking industry like cable television was to the television industry. Ning can also allow users to create their own social networks so that people can make new friends who have the same interests. Ms. Bianchini also indicated that with the million social networks on Ning’s server, the social networks can vary from topic to topic. Some of the networks created on Ning include a social network for moms who love to twitter, people who love fashion, etc. Ms. Bianchini also told CNN in this interview that besides advertising, Ning also generates revenues by offering premium services to its network creators and that some people are even using their Ning social networks as businesses and Ning’s premium services work very well for those people.
Gina Bianchini also appeared on CNBC on April 16, 2009 and also talked about Ning. Ms. Bianchini told CNBC that Ning has two methods of generating revenue. The first method is through targeted advertising, which is advertising targeted to specific social networks, for example, on one of Ning’s most famous network, moms who love twitter; advertisers which would target products for moms and twitter users. The other method was by offering premium services to its network creators.
Ning is based in Palo Alto, California and has over 80 employees. The company was founded in 2004 and is a privately owned company.
Ning’s main investor is Marc Andressen, who is also the company’s cofounder. Mr. Andressen invested undisclosed amounts in both series A and B funding for the company.
Legg Mason Global Asset Management invested $44 million in series C funding in July of 2007, and $60 million in series D funding in April of 2008.
Legg Mason is an asset management firm that was founded in 1899 and over the past 110 years has evolved into a global asset managing outfit, with offices in Poland, Australia, and based in Baltimore, Maryland. Legg Mason has an investor arm of its corporation, which invested in Ning. Some of these investment arms include Legg Mason Capital Management, Legg Mason Global Equities Group, etc.
Ning does have quite a few competitors, however, KickApps is the one that stands out the most. KickApps also has a service similar to that offered by Ning, allowing people to create their own social networks. KickApps is a privately owned company that employs 80 people and is based in New York City. The company was founded in 2004 and has 11 people on its management team.
For more information about Ning, click here.