Friday, January 20, 2006

Ning-less?

I never did tell you how I got on with Ning. I guess that's because I didn't find it particularly interesting I just couldn't figure out the advantages of using Ning's proprietary stuff over just sitting down and writing your mashup by hand.

It looked fine if you just wanted to clone one of the existing applications, and make some minor changes, but not so fine if you wanted to write something unique. You also lost control of the hosting, user registration and lots of other stuff. In the end the disadvantages seemed to be much larger than the advantages for those people who wanted to do something novel. But I figured it was just me, that I didn't "get it", so I kept quiet...

Well it looks like it wasn't just me, Michael Arrington has just posted a damning inditement of the service on TechCrunch. Michael starts off by saying that he considers Ning to have been the perfect service at the perfect time, but from his post it looks like he's a disappointed man. He talks about the four main problems he sees with Ning, but to me one of these is overwhelmingly more important than the rest,
You have to know PHP, or at least HTML, to build anything unique on Ning. They promise to create tools to allow non-programmers to build stuff in the future, but for now, 99.9% of the Internet population is effectively locked out from creating new stuff. - Michael Arrington
If you have to know PHP or HTML anyway why would you use Ning unless they made your life significantly easier? Why share the fame and the glory of having the latest and greatest mashup with the Ning crowd instead of just writing it yourself?

The prime market for the Ning service sort of had to be the people who didn't know PHP or HTML, but had a good idea they wanted to rollout anyway. In the end the service didn't cater for those guys out of the box and that's probably why they're going to be one of the first casualties in the Web 2.0 bubble.

Update: Diego Doval replies to Michael's criticisms, and there are some some general murmurings that maybe 3 months is too short a time scale to judge the success of something like Ning over...

Update: Is any publicity, good publicity? Will Michael's criticisms breath new life into Ning? Are they worth another five minutes?