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Ning to drop free services; communities face fees

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Social networking platform Ning is to withdraw free services, disappointing many non-profit educational and social groups, including furs.

Furry 4 Life, FurNation, Furry United, Colombiafur and The Furry Den are based on Ning, with F4L and FurNation already paying for ad control.

Zenon Tigerpaw, founder of Furry United, had two words in response to the news: "Oh shit." He later announced plans to move to a new host.

See also: FurNation relaunched as Ning site - Colombiafur moves to Ning - other Ning-related stories

Ning attracted communities to its platform through easy operation, networking features and free ad-supported service. CEO Jason Rosenthal - whose leaked email in which he cut 40% of Ning staff prompted the hasty response - promised to give details on May 4. (more information)

Ning already offer "premium services" for monthly fees: domain-name mapping ($4.95), additional resources ($9.95 per 10GB storage or 100GB bandwidth), removal of Ning branding ($24.95), ad-removal/replacement ($24.95) and support plans ($10/$100/$more, depending on level).

Update: Shy Matsi of F4L mailed in a list of other furry networks likely to be affected: furry4death, animalpack, foxes4life, fur4ever, furriesforever, talkosity, furrytogether, furrymates-or-singlefurrys, furspace, lionkingpride, furryfriends, wrubradio, kernbastien and werebeasts.

Shy also mentioned that F4L is paying for premium support and 15 extra units of storage/bandwidth, as well as ad control, totaling $185/month.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Unfortunately, the nature of the beast is, social networks eventually will have to start charging if they cannot make the grade. Here we have Ning, a multi million business, high up on the internet rankings, serving thousands of niche communities and seeing tons of traffic every day, and they are incapable of turning enough of a profit.

That's not good.

I would suggest that the people who are concerned with the fees not leave Ning, as the cost of a private server and colocation MAY be higher than they think. Not to mention that by switching over to another "free network provider" would require converting databases and might only be a stopgap until the "new place" goes paid only. Wait to see the pricing structure Ning sets up.

Your rating: None

Paid application hosting is certainly a reasonable option. The issue is that the people who can comfortably pay probably already are.

F4L and FurNation have thousands of members. They can drum up $25/month among their administrators, let alone the users. It's the places that have a few tens of members that may find it difficult – the same people who would probably have difficulty arranging hosting of their own and building or buying networking software.

Perhaps this is how it should be – arguably, well-supported networks are most likely to be a success – but it leads to disparity in who can start up a network. It'll be interesting to see what plans are offered.

Your rating: None

Well ,that is true. Smaller communities will have trouble getting the payment levels necessary. But, at the same time, we both know this stuff is not free to run. There is an impending crash coming where "free" sites run out of the capability to be free and will require some kind of payment. Some sites may be free forever, but others are a layoff away for one person from becoming pay or offline.

The internet costs. The long term is going to have to be paid at some point.

Your rating: None

Well, that's certainly disappointing, but I guess its still better than Wikia's tactics.

Your rating: None

The drive for profit hits most venture-funded projects. Any solution that involves people paying more or getting less in the way of service is likely to disappoint some groups.

WikiFur would probably have been OK paying for a certain level of service, but Wikia didn't want to be in that market. They chose to degrade the service rather than charge for a better one.

It may have been the right choice for them. Unlike Ning, their software is readily available. Wiki communities are also very price-sensitive – those who can pay less tend to contribute the most, because they have free time.

Network creators will be looking closely to see what Ning does with the transfer process. Wikia provides the content, while Ning currently makes contact details available. Neither directly allows the transfer of accounts.

Your rating: None

Throughout all the various communities, I find the move to a pay service deadly. They should've ran a poll for the heads of any of the groups which are hosted on Ning what they feel about paying for service. Ultimately Ning does not have control of the users, they can go somewhere else.

What I could see happening is a competing service write some code to port users/posts/content over to a new site.

How unfortunate a free service has gone pay-wall. Bye Ning, it was nice knowing you.

Your rating: None

It's a glimpse of the future. The internet cannot be free forever. Someone is paying for everything, and when the money runs out and the "hidden benefactor" is broke, then the cost gets passed on.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

We're talking about a social services site, not a news site. People are addicts of social networks. How do you think people would react if Myspace became commercial-only? Sites like Ning will simply die out, unless of course this may be their planning to earn enough money until they're bought out?

Sure I can accept there are costs to provide BW(which is negotiable), hardware and support services. If Ning is running in to money issues, it's their own fault. They've ads plastered on the site, which I block with Adblock, and have commercial widgets which should be paying for their efforts. If they're paying 3000USD per server when they should be building their own at half the cost, it's their fault. If they can't negotiate a dedicated 1000Mb connection for 900-2000USD/each, it's their fault. They need to work with what they have in costs and become good negotiators.

Free users are the advertising, the word of mouth. I didn't know about Ning until I seen a free community which didn't pay for any of the products. I'm sure people will be moving their communities to another source en mass.

Ning has doomed itself.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

You dramatically over estimate the value that ads bring in. The quick answer is, they don't. The recession has shown what happens to ad generated profits for websites.

As for Ning dooming itself, they found that 80% of their money comes from the paying customer. And 20% from ads. They're focusing on the 80% that bring value to the company. They've not doomed themselves, they SAVED themselves.

Your rating: None

It's not bandwidth or hardware that's the issue, it's salaries. Pan Alto is an expensive place, and free sites aren't free. They require some level of monitoring, if only to avoid them turning into spam/porn havens.

Ning are keeping the large high-traffic sites like F4L and FurNation – they're already being paid for that. Instead, they're getting rid of the low-traffic, high-maintenance free sites. The serious network builders are going to be able to pay for the service, and they'll still use Ning if it's cheaper or better than the alternatives.

Your rating: None

Right. As Andrew Cates over at Meatball said half a decade ago:

I think we have all had a bit of a free ride in IT terms on the back of investors who have been prepared to put money in for nothing. In the end we need to get some kind of sensible funding together and I guess we'll have to pay.

In Flayrah's case, the "benefactors" are WikiFur's supporters (though our donations and payments are recorded).

Your rating: None

Do recall, also, that they determined 75% of their traffic were premium customers and will likely be completely unaffected by this move. Sounds like they already DID a poll. They're doing what companies that survive do, focusing on the customers that pay the bills.

Your rating: None

I can understand Ning. Free is not a good business model (my own do bomb experiences)

Interesting enough I belong to another large Ning community of Hello Kitty fans called Hello Kitty Junkies(3008+). They are are discussing the same issues.

Your rating: None

As far as website hosting, free never really lasts. Unless you keep it very basic HTML, if you host your site for free, be prepared to move it when it goes belly up.

Social Networking though needs to be free for users, otherwise it doesn't work. They're already paying for internet, they're not going to want to pay per post. Losing a penny for your thoughts was bad enough, paying a penny for your thoughts is dumb.

Your rating: None

Ning will continue to be free for users, but if you run a community you're likely to be stuck with a bill.

The issue is one member ends up paying a disproportionate amount for the service. That might be fair if they're profiting in some other way, but it's often not the case, especially for smaller groups.

With ads, everyone pays. Unfortunately they're just not paying enough.

Your rating: None

This little website for fatfurs is also gonna have to close down: http://weightgaining.ning.com/

Your rating: None

I am an administrator on Furry4Death and a member of Furry 4 Life. While I see that Ning charging money for sites to stay up and running is sad, I can't say I blame them. They are a huge internet networking service who have bills and employees to pay, so they need to get their income in some way or else they would have to stop hosting sites at all.

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About the author

GreenReaper (Laurence Parry)read storiescontact (login required)

a software developer and Kai Norn from London, UK, interested in wikis and computers

Small fuzzy creature who likes cheese & carrots. Founder of WikiFur, lead admin of Inkbunny, and Editor-in-Chief of Flayrah.