Ning is a free online service (or, as we like to call it, a Playground) for people to build and run social applications. Social “apps” are web applications that enable anyone to match, transact, and communicate with other people.
Our goal with Ning is to see what happens when you open things up and make it easy to create, share, and discover new social apps. These might include for any city, your own take on Craigslist…for any passion, your own take on Match.com…for any interest, your own take on Zagat…for any event, your own take on Flickr…for any school, your own take on the Facebook…for any topic, your own take on del.icio.us…for any mammal, your own take on Hot or Not or Kitten War.
You choose the app, decide for whom it’s most relevant, create the categories, define the features, choose the language – or just clone an app that’s already up and running on Ning – and be on your way.
Technically – its a tag based language (think Cold Fusion) with optional embeddable php script and a set of classes and libraries combined with a great big impressive content management system and a free hosting service.
There is an extensive set of classes including ones that implement and interface with common Web 2.0 site APIs. (Flickr/Amazon etc.. )
In Ning the design patterns are entire styles of site. eg. Amazon, HotOrNot, Ebay, CraigsList, de.licio.us etc. Once you start with a pattern you can customise it by inserting your own programming logic using php and/or XNHTML.
All data added is placed under Creative Commons By-SA license.
The next cool feature is the “Content Store” which contains
“…public content which is created can be accessed by any application. This content store is well abstracted, and has a content creation and query system. You don’t have to worry about scaling up: You can leave that to the professionals in the backend. At the same time, you can collect data from all the other apps in the playground. You want to create a book reviews site? First, grab everything that’s known as a Book from the site, and then use the built in classes for ratings and comments to build a discussion board. The possibilities for content mix and match are really spectacular. However, if you don’t want others touching your data, you can mark it as “private” and use it only in your app but why would you want to? “
Ning and possibly 24 Hour Laundry Service may be a gamble that people are prepared to put up with developing code in yet another framework if there is some over-arching ‘codeosphere’ and free hosting. If this project succeeds then it only bodes well for MetaWrap which thankfully is targeting a completely different area so I have not yet been gazumped 🙂
I’m both impressed and disappointed. I’m impressed by the scope and audacity, but its not as clean or as pure as what we are trying to do with with MetaWrap, but in some spooky way rather similar, mind you these guys have shipped real product and I am still coding away in open source land refusing to compromise on the vision (the weasels keep me honest). 🙂
The official Ning developers blog is here