Tonight Ning will introduce new chat functionality, giving Ning network administrators the oft-requested ability to integrate a rich chat environment similar to the one launched on Facebook last April. Ning’s new chat system is Flash-based, presenting users with a persistent chat bar along the bottom of their screens as they browse through a Ning network. Users have the option of chatting through an interface at the bottom of their screen, or can ‘pop-out’ their chats into their own windows. While the interface will remain consistent across each network, users won’t be able to chat with members outside of the Ning network they’re currently browsing.
Ning originally introduced a more basic chat feature last summer, but that version uses either dedicated chat pages or sidebar iFrames, which means they aren’t always visible as users navigate through a network. But even the basic version has proven to be very successful – Ning’s chat traffic has skyrocketed, as seen in the Compete graph below pitting Ning’s IM domain against Meebo’s homepage. To be fair, the graph probably doesn’t take into account Meebo’s traffic that occurs offsite (Quantcast reports that Meebo’s entire network sees more like 12 million uniques), but it’s clear that Ning Chat is rapidly gaining traction.
Aside from its growth in chat, Ning has also been posting some impressive stats recently, growing to 4.8 million uniques in January (a 368% growth year over year) despite the fact that the site recently banned porn networks, which some believed were responsible for a significant amount of Ning’s traffic.