Social Web is one of the hot topics of the Web 2.0 paradigm. The term Social Web refers to an open global distributed data sharing network similar to today's World Wide Web, except instead of linking documents, a social web link people, organizations, and concepts. It builds on user-generated and user-distributed content. A new venture, online for less than 6 months, is now making the creation of social web applications, mixing and matching existing data in new ways, more easily as ever.
The idea behind Ning.com is to create a free online service for cloning, customizing and sharing Social Web Apps. Think of a "Playground" for finding, creating, and sharing web applications that enable anyone to match, transact, and communicate with other people. Ning's online platform allows users to painlessly create these web applications without any hosting demands or server administration hurdles.
Applications are created by users or by Ning. The existing standard social apps offered today include listings, reviews, ratings, recommendations, bulletin boards, dating applications, photo sharing, social bookmarking, wishlists, events, and people matching, among others. Examples are Map Mash-Ups (like Restaurant Reviews, Photo Maps, Review systems, Trail desriptions etc.), media sharing applications (Photo, Video, Book sharing), Social Bookmarks, Marketplaces (like Craiglist), Social Networking, Dating application, and many more. Users can also easily add commerce functionalities of Flickr, Google Maps, eBay, Amazon, or Yahoo! Search.
So what can users create and customize? Say, you want to create a web site which helps food loves in your region to share their favorite restaurants, add cook books written by local chefs, a matching service to find dinner dates, and a navigation system optimizing the trail for a restaurant crawl. Within a couple of clicks and trials, you can build such a web serve with Ning. This sounds for me very much like mass customization of business models: Take some generic modules, adapt and customize these, mix and configure them according to your vision, and launch the business – to either profit from it or just have fun by connecting with other people.
The idea is to put the power of social web apps in the hands of everyone. "We think it should be as easy as a few clicks to turn any great idea into reality. On top of that, we just think it's more fun when people share their great ideas.", the founders describe their motivation. "We want to put something out onto the web that inspires creativity and where it's fun to make things."
Ning provides users with a
- Free hosted environment
- Standard PHP & HTML modules,
- Lots of freely available PHP code to get you started
- SFTP support for own IDE
- The opportunity to create own ads
- Data sharing between apps
- Automatic user authentication
- a built-in search engine and tagging system, and much more.
How does Ning make money? All user generated sites have a generic Ning Sidebar to provide shared services, but also text advertising and links. I believe that they will also get provisions for purchases made at, e.g., Amazon though one of their apps. And the user base of Ning will become an important asset for the company. We will see if this idea takes off. But I liked the concept very much, and it shows a new frontier of user co-creation and mass customization in an area not discussed before.