By the standards of timeliness, Ning is late to market. WordPress and Googles Blogger were among the first wave of social sites. Then Myspace and Facebook arrived – and set new standards for what could be done on a social website. Now Ning has arrived and set a new standard for how easily things can be done when inteligent Web 2.0 based processing is brought to bear on a website. But of even greater interest is that the whole Ning codebase is available to developers – though most users will find the four step, drag and drop, then launch process not just easy but satisfyingly quick.
One can see from the screenshot of the admin module above that Ning provides the website developer with a very rich set of options – music, photos, videos, events, forum and blog, activities, badges, RSS – all the major options one would expect at Facebook or MySpace with a little 3rd party help. But what took my breath away was how easy and intuitive it was to develop in Ning. I am just getting used o Joomla 1.5 and Drupal 6 – popular open source CMS apps – and it is sometimes like pulling teeth to get them configured properly (no problems with either on setup though).
So here was my test of ease of setup and configuration – setup a photo gallery site with Outing events and forum for discussion. Customize it to look halfway decent – and hopefully be done by the end of the day. Well, just two hours later this was what I had been able to produce in Ning:
Now the uploads of the images were slow – I could not get the Java bulk loader to run. And the simple individual file loader took about 15 minutes for 8MB of images. A bit slow. I also have yet to figure out how to get Photo albums posted like activities or blog entries in addition to the slideshows:
Find more photos like this on jbsurveyer
Also I could not tell the difference between a Blog with comments and a Forum … but maybe that is just my dim wits. However, I was impressed with how easy it was to set up a very functional website in such a short time. And when I saw all that Ning was prepared to expose to developers so they could refine their sites- all the templates with CSS and coding, huge insights into how to call and utilize the modules and APIs .. in short almost as good as getting the Joomla or Drupal code downloads. But also as sophisticated – not for the coding faint of heart.
But the bottom line is that Ning has targetted for Designers as well as Developers – you choose your level of interaction with Ning and you still ca get an awful lot done very quickly. Impressive on first run – hope they have enough server power, because Ning will get used.