Updated: Ning, a Palo Alto, California based start up that has made irregular appearances on this blog, is one of the most enigmatic start-ups in the valley. Ning is close to announcing new features, including video and photo sharing services, and a new business model, that would outline company’s plans.
The company, if you ask CEO and cofounder Gina Bianchini, has built a web platform that allows users to clone, and modify many social services that can allow you to share bookmarks, or have your friends help you create a little recipe site. Even your own Hot or Not!
The company is about to launch a new video and photo sharing applications based on the Ning-platform. I can hear readers groaning and saying, not another “something” sharing service. The key difference is that unlike YouTube or Flickr, these new add-ons are about creating a private space, where you can share family videos and photos. You can make it private and limit access to these spaces.
But most importantly, the Ning Video (and Photo) can help you pull in and organize videos from across all video services like YouTube and Google Videos. If you so desire, you can embed the videos in your blog, or MySpace page.
You can customize the look and feel of your video player. I tried it – its pretty simple actually. In other words, if I could find time to exhale, I might be able to do GigaOMtv. No that is not happening anytime soon, but the power of Ning platform makes it possible.
The other two services – Ning Photos and Ning Groups give you the ability to basically create your own photo sites, and even private social networks. I am not going to go into the details, and you can check them out yourself.
Now for the most important part of the new Ning news – a business model. The company will charge you $7.95 a month to run your own ads on these sites, or $4.95 if you want to map your domain to their website, and you can buy extra storage and bandwidth.
In short, it allows niche sites to cheaply add community tools to their existing web presence. This could be a precursor to a fund raising effort by the company that has so far been privately funded by Marc Andreessen.
I think if they could come up with an easy to understand package for families, this could be a good way to share and stay in touch. Nevertheless, it is worth a look and let us know what you think!
Gina just emailed with some clarifications:
1) While our Ning Group site can be made public or private/members only, we won’t be rolling out that feature on the Videos and Photos sites for another three weeks. We didn’t make that clear. No biggie, because you still get a fantastic Flickr-style photos site or YouTube-style videos site for free that you can customize on a whim.
2) Premium features – like charging to run your own ads – is not our primary business model, advertising is. J Premium features have been up since last year and it’s just a little side business for people who want more freedom than we offer with the free service. The basic service is free and we run ads against it. That’s how we plan to keep the lights on.
3) Running ads will be free until next week when we’ll actually be rolling out new pricing of $19.95/month to run your own ads on your Ning sites.