Ning

Review Summary

Summary: 
The "Market Leader" Has Room for Improvement
Type: 
Hosted
Cost: 
Tiered, Starting at $2.95/mo.
Cost Info: 
No Free option. Tiers are user, storage, bandwidth and feature limited.
Pros: 
Mature, Large Community of Users, Solid Functionality
Cons: 
Price, No Recurring Events, No Private SubGroups, SubGroups Can't Create Own Events
Editor Rating: 
3

Any company delving into the realm of hosted social networking platforms realizes that Ning is the target; the one to beat. Despite their removal of all free products in April 2010 (exceptions are made for education and health-centered groups), all reports show that Ning still supports the largest number of sites. For people seeking the most basic of sites, the lowest tier may be well worth the investment. Unfortunately, most will want some of the features of the highest tiers, leading to a difficult financial decision considering there are still plenty of free or less expensive options out there.

Ning does what it does well and has developed a very mature product. Most of the features of the site have everything you'd like to see. There are some very notable exceptions however. A basic concern is that there is no one-click way to quote someone in the forums. A more troubling one is that, despite the ability to create SubGroups, you cannot make them fully private (i.e. unlisted in the main group) and they cannot create their own events. Considering the significant monthly charge to even have group functionality at Ning, this is very disappointing (and a deal breaker for our group). For groups where Ning meets all of their feature needs, it is a solid choice. What features it does provide work well. The interface is user-friendly from both a member and administrator point of view. There are plentiful options for finely tuning the look and feel of the site as well as the security and privacy. Users are even provided multiple options for how their information should be shared and when they should be notified about network activity through email.

The fact that Ning has been a success and has a strong following also provides for community support and hopes that they will continue to develop new features. Some doubt is cast on this, however, with regards to things like recurring events. A quick search of their user community found that as long as three years ago, Ning was responding to requests for this feature, suggesting that it was on their radar. Three years later, it still hasn't happened. If Ning already has all of the features your group needs, then they certainly should be considered if you have the ability to pay. Otherwise, you'll likely want to give consideration to one of the many up and coming competitors who are motivated to do more for less.

Significant Feature Notes

Resources - Strong developer resources if you want to work on an integrated (mobile, desktop, etc.) application. Creators forum for sharing ideas, tools and seeking help from other group owners.

Pricing - Tiered with no free option. Member, storage and bandwidth limited. Groups, events, chat and access to "Ning Apps" only available in upper tiers. Exceptions made for education and health-centric groups.

General Use - Very user friendly. Administrators can provide ability for users to modify their "My page" theme and layout. Finely grained user preference settings, including detailed choices of when to receive email notifications.

Admin - Invite members through multiple address books. Ability to export all member data. Customizable member profile questions. Ability to create custom roles providing moderation privileges per feature or content item. Refined permissions including control over members sharing information through Facebook, allowing status updates and different requirements for membership (i.e. require verification of email address). Create your own Terms of Service users must agree to upon registration. Ability to create a "test network" so that you can try out changes before making them live on your site.

Layout - Drag and drop layout editor. Provided themes along with color customization and full access to CSS. Adjust menu tab order and names.

Forums - Visual entry or HTML editor. Ability to attach files. Quoting available through "blockquote" tags. Appears to have ability to subscribe to an entire forum (i.e. receive an email anytime a new discussion is posted)

Events - Costs extra. No recurring events. Requires user entry of Google Map link. Public or Private events. Can invite all members or from address book. No integrated calendar. Export to iCal or Outlook available.

Groups - Costs extra. Can have own Comments, Discussion Forum, Text Box and RSS Reader. No Events. Does not appear that Groups can be fully private. You can moderate who joins, but there does not appear to be a way to have the group not be listed in the main group.

Videos - Embedding available at all levels. Uploading only available at highest tier.

**Note Regarding Feature Listing: Features marked "Y" come with lowest cost tier. Those marked with "$" require higher tier.

Average User Ratings

Overall Rating:
4
Reliability Rating:
4.5
Features Rating:
3.5
Ease of Use Rating:
3.5
Support Rating:
3.5

User Reviews

Most useful reviews listed first (as voted on by logged in users). Click on a Title to see the full review.

Title Overall User Rating Review Useful Votes
Covers Most Bases...
3

From a user's perspective, Ning is the new, shiny one-stop community hosting webfront.  It offers a range of interactions, including Groups, Blogs...

1
Good For New Networks, No Go for Existing Ones
5

Ning is a very advanced social networking platform. The features are second-to-none. Everything that users now expect from social networking (for which the...