Social-network-out-of-a-box Ning has relaunched as covered by TechCrunch. It’s an interesting platform which enables users to create their own social network in just seconds. Maybe I’ll give it a try – the screenshots look promising. It is mass-marketed and ad-based or you’ll have to pay a premium fee for the ad-free version. They also offer premium services like extra storage and the possibility to run your own ads on your network. Developers can further customize the service by using API’s and PHP runtime on the site. Aimed at the masses, I’m really anxious to see their results. Compare this with the PeopleAggregator service which does somewhat the same but is aimed at service providers, e.g. AOL, who want to offer their clients “social networking as a feature”. This service is also very standards based, something Ning isn’t as far as I can judge for now.
But the part of this news that really interests me is the vision behind the service that founder and funder Marc Andreessen (ex-Netscape) shares with us in the comments. According to Andreessen, Ning is just the first service build on top of their platform with core functionalities which he calls an “online operating system”. The platform is accessible through web services API’s. In my opinion, this vision is a good example of the vision portrayed in an article in O’Reilly Radar about a year ago about web development 2.0. My take away from that piece: build you app starting from the API and see the public website as the first implementation.
And on a side note: what a case of first class customer service and PR by Andreessen and Bianchini by being on the ball like this in the comments. Something Andreessen is known for, apparently.