by Brian Solis

Credit: Fast Company

Ning joins Slide in the $500 million valuation club with its most recent financing of $60 million. Less than a year ago, Ning also closed a Series C round of $44 million.

The DIY niche social network company (Yahoo Groups 2.0) has exploded in growth, with traffic increasing by 4,803 percent, to 4 million visits, between February of 2007 and 2008.

Co-founder Marc Andreessen emailed VentureBeat to help clarify the back channel on the funding, “We raised the money to enable us to keep scaling given our accelerating growth (over 230,000 networks on Ning now, growing at over 1,000 per day) and to make sure we have plenty of firepower to survive the oncoming nuclear winter. At current growth rates, we don’t need it to get to cash flow positive, but having lived through the last crunch, it’s good to be conservative with these things.”

This funding coincides with a FastCompany cover story that it so over-the-top that it’s almost laughable. The article shares questionable observations such as, “Ning is poised to hit critical mass,” “no one can stop it,” “The secret is what’s called a ‘viral expansion loop,’” and “Significantly, viral-loop networks don’t create content—they organize it. They provide an environment that is, in theory, almost infinitely scalable, and then rely on the wisdom of crowds to create or aggregate masses of material to fill it.”

Is Ning useful?

Yes.

But unlike Social Media services such as Blogger or WordPress, the communities on Ning are driven by niche groups and “niche” implies a finite audience. However, if we look at the Long Tail model, Ning could be poised to connect the highly elusive groups of people that would never join a mainstream network. Let’s not forget that many 1.0 companies started this process, albeit less elegantly, and have paved the way for companies such as Ning to continue the adoption.

For a truly entertaining take on the FastCompany cover story of Ning, jump over to PaidContent’s story, “FC: OMFG, Like, Totally, Ning.”

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About the Author:

Brian Solis

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and culture. His current book, Engage, is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to build and measure success in the social web.

Visit Brian's page at http://www.briansolis.com

Discussion

    no imageMeryn Stol (Who am I?)19 April 2008 11:06 am

    Well, call me crazy, but I think Ning will last longer than myspace and facebook. Facebook and myspace are generic social networks, and therefore meaningless. Generic social networking WILL move to the open web. Look at the richness of WordPress and Flickr as opposed to the crappy features of facebook. Right now, facebook has a network effect, but the biggest network will always be the web.
    Ning adds value because it allows you to create a network for a certain interest. Admittely, facebook does this to, but Ning is more open.

    If MS ever succeeds to capitalize on their facebook investment with that insane valuation, it will be a big big big mistake of the people writing in on the IPO. It’s either them who are gonna lose, or Microsoft. Meanwhile some cash for facebook is nice of course.

    I think Ning could have a relatively stable place on the web like flickr, wordpress.com or youtube. Myspace and facebook are not part of the future.

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