Ning In Full

I have to hand it to Ning – it took them well over a year after their initial beta launch to fulfill their promise of allowing “anyone” to create social applications, but they’ve done it. Ning relaunches tonight with new functionality and an interface that allows even the most novice of web users to create their own highly customized social network in moments. The site has been down most of the day – the new stuff should be online around 10 pm PST.

Until today, creating new applications in Ning required at least some programming knowledge, unless you simply cloned an existing application. For the first few months after it initially launched it was so hard to use that basically no one was – I called it a dead application. I’ve softened on the company since then, giving them their requested time to fully bake the service. After seeing a demo earlier this afternoon, I’m now willing to offer a full mea culpa. The new Ning is an impressive and useful service.

The New Ning

Ning can be used to create a fully functional and customized social network in minutes (click on image to right for larger view).

There are some screen shots included at the end of the post showing the app creation interface. The first step after naming and describing the new application is drag and drop desired modules- such as text boxes, RSS feeds photos, forums, blogs and videos – into the application in the area you want them. Adding the “members” module, for example, shows a list of the networks most popular members within that module.

Customizable themes and templates can then be applied (again, by clicking and dragging, no coding), a logo uploaded, etc. The creator decides if it is a public or private network, and member profile questions can then be added.

For users who want to do more customizing, CSS and HTML files can be uploaded. Very few aspects of the application are not customizable.

The application is then ready to launch. It’s completely free, and Ning offers a la carte upgrades like the ability to add your own Google Adsense code for $20/month, and domain name aliasing for $5/month.

Even before today’s launch, Ning CEO Gina Bianchini says growth has been strong and steady. Nearly 30,000 applications have been created to date, up from less than 5,000 a year ago. Page views have been spiking, reaching 20 million per month, 20x traffic a year ago. Unique visitors have reached nearly 5 million per month as well, 10x a year ago.

The company remains privately financed, mostly from Marc Andreessen, who’s put $9 million or so into Ning to date. The company has 27 employees and is headquartered in Palo Alto.

Screen Shots of the creation interface: