John Montgomery has a blog post entitled Why Ning? where he asks
Not to complain or anything, but I don't get Ning. For the past fifteen minutes, I've been clickning through hotornot-like scenarios. Some of them are hysterical (try "Which driver has the smaller penis?") and some are mundane (Which is the better beer?). But I'm looking for why this is the next bit thning and can't figure it out.
The potential that Ning presents is counterbalanced by how hokey it is. On the one hand, it is an attempt to cash in on the "Web 2.0" hype by creating a build-your-own-web2.0-website toolkit in much the same way build-your-own-eCommerce-website toolkits were popular a few years ago. I imagine the scenario outlined in Dave Winer's post Editorial: Ning harkens back to 1999 is closer to the truth than we suspect.
On the other hand, Ning points to the next stage in the evolution of building mash ups and web platforms. Forrester Research's Charlene Li has a post entitled The Roll-Your-Own Mash-up Challenge where she writes
Im at Web 2.0, which is just a great conference. One of the hot discussions is around mash-ups (def) which combines the functionality from two different applications into a new one. One of the best ones is housingmaps.com, which combines apartment rentals etc., from Craigs List and Google Maps.
To me, this is the next step in the "social computing", Web 2.0, or whatever-you-call-it evolution. First, we had personalized content a la RSS-generated content on My Yahoo! At the same time, widgets, which are now hitting their stride, gave us our own customized set of applications on the desktop
This is because I think were just at the very tip of the revolution. Imagine if we could tap into the collective creativity of thousands, millions of consumers. How many times have you said to your self, "Wouldnt be nice if I could just." And heres the killer part - what if some built a platform for consumers to do this, and then enabled a way to SHARE those innovations? Some of them would float to the top (thanks to ratings, tagging, etc.) and you could actually start monetizing them. Now thats tapping into the power of consumers!
So heres my challenge - what mash-ups would YOU create? Add them to the comments below - Im curious to see what all you bright minds can come up with!
I personally think Ning is ahead of its time. What we need today is more web sites turning themselves into web platforms as well as business models for both the web platforms AND the developers building on these web platforms. As an industry we're still muddling our way through at this point. Once we've have an ecosystem of web platforms as well as sustainable business models for the various offerings, the next step is how to broaden the target of these platforms outside the traditional developer market. This is similar to the same way that Microsoft brought programming against COM components to the masses back in the 1990s with Visual Basic except this time the platform is the entire Web and not just one vendor's operating system.
That's why Ning is cool.