ning at 100,000 – nature of social networks

Just read Michael Arrington’s post about Ning getting to 100,000 networks this weekend.  This is cool, since Ning’s demise was spoken about back in January 2006

 And …  Marc Andreessen, founder of Ning, gives his own assessment of this milestone.

Foraging through comments can be fun and often helpful … Some of the comments got me thinking about the essential nature of social network sites/tools. For instance:

I am sorry but 90% of those user created social networks are just curiosity creations and shells. They won’t last more than a few months. After the pool of fools get dried up, where will Ning’s growth be?

If everyone and their grandma runs a social network, they are as they say in finance, cannibalizing each other.

then a another person offers this a bit down the comments list:

it’s not really a ’social network’, per se;
it’s more like a somewhat different, advanced myspace page

and besides, social networks were not designed to be highly fragmented – only a select few are meant to exist.

the power is in its people – and if there are only a few, as a result of this high fragmentation – it’s purpose has been defeated

Besides some axe to grind perhaps, or just being unnecessarily smarmy … the commenters seem to say that a social network is not nor can be sustained unless it draws upon a huge number of participants or members.  

I suppose there will always be a ‘popularity’ issue with some folks … getting 100’s of people as friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter. Fine – I get it – ego strokes and all that.  But Ning just might be on to something, instead.

The smaller, niche social network. Or maybe I’ll call it the targeted social network … one that may only appeal to a small group (particularly when you compare it to the other biggies out there) that has a real need or desire to connect. 

For instance … I have several ancestors that fought in the US Civil War; and one of them was involved in the New York City Draft Riots.  Hmmmmm … I think I’ll get a small network together for folks who are interested in or researching New York Civil War ancestry.  I wouldn’t expect to get 100’s of people involved … but so what.

Ning is filling a need here that the other social network giants just can’t.  I think we’re going to see more and more fragmentation like this to accommodate people’s wants to have more options that are more customized for their particular interests.   

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About Rory

I make my home in the central part of the Garden State along with my family. When I'm not working as an Instructional Designer (focusing mostly on Web-Based learning ... and other eLearning technologies) or researching something, I'm found at home playing computer or video games. Among other things, I volunteer as a choir member and catechist for 8th graders at my parish.
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One Response to ning at 100,000 – nature of social networks

  1. Great analysis. I go back and forth on this issue. I think the social networking for social networking sake this is a little short sighted. I actually think the social networking as a function of a useful DIY web app is the right way to go (disclosure: my company, BricaBox.com, is heading down this path).

    But that whole fragmentation issue is really the big unknown. Are small groups sustainable? Or does churn keep these things alive…

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