In our last entry Sarah shared with you the detritus of Google’s attempts at social networking. Part of this is good and sensible. Working in the tech sector, like working in any industry, involves trying things that very well might fail, unless you pivot properly at the right time. And then there are things that are before their time (think Friendster before Facebook) that don’t catch up when the wave comes. Ning is precisely one of those stories.
“Ning” means peace in Chinese and it was an attempt to build more private, more personal social networks. It attempted to take the most popular features of facebook: photos, discussions, and messaging and put them into an open-source platform which could be monetized or not. For those who were simply creating a Ning for their Boy or Girl Scout troop, neither the numbers nor the resources would justify a “paid” Ning account. For those who were trying to leverage and monetize their brands and endeavors, the paid Ning would have more features and support. It makes sense from the external view. LinkedIn, one of the most power names in social media, works on this “freemium” model to this day and hour.
But Silicon Valley, after initial buzz which talked about a $4B market (yes, Billion with a “B”), lost interest and Ning decided to jettison the free users to focus on the paid users. That pivot didn’t last either and ultimately Ning was acquired by Glam Media. Glam is not well known to outsiders – and they like it that way. They like to simply and quietly create and curate the best content on the web and Ning was a platform that allowed them to do that. They acquired Ning – left a lot of the existing 2.0 communities – free and paid – intact, and went on to create Ning 3.0, which they ultimately used to platform Foodie.com, which is the “Pinterest of Food” and runs entirely on the Ning platform (note: you will get hungry after browsing over to that page).
The moral of the story? In the fast-paced world of social media and the iterations that tablets/handheld devices and the prevalence of high speed internet force upon that already fast-paced world, you can still salvage a worthy idea: if you are willing to pivot to what the market wants, or ultimately, change into a butterfly from the caterpillar that you thought you weren’t.