On May, 4th 2010, Ning, one of the most popular social networking platforms on the web, is phasing out its free service. All free online communities will either be converted into premium online groups or discontinued altogether. As a consequence of the subsequent growing demand for Ning alternatives, this MasterNewMedia guide wants to provide a comprehensive list of other social networking platforms and online group services that can be used as replacements to the Ning community service.
John McDonald, Vice President of Ning, stated clearly on a post on the Ning blog that his company will make new pricing plans effective only in early summer and provide online community owners 'a minimum of 10 weeks to transition.”
If you are a Ning community owner, then you only have a limited time left to evaluate whether to remain on Ning or to select one of the social networking Ning-alternatives available on the web.
There are in fact quite a few social networking platforms and online group services that can be utilized as valid alternatives to Ning as these social networking platforms do generally replicate the key basic functionalities offered by Ning-based communities; and they also come in all flavors: free, paid and open-source.
Not only. Some of these social networking platforms have specifically developed a facility to transfer all data of your former Ning group into their platform at no additional cost to you.
In this guide you will find a comprehensive mindmap, two comparative tables, and a set of mini-reviews that will help you evaluate the best Ning alternative for your needs.
Here the criteria I have used for my comparison:
If you are considering the option of switching to a different social networking platform to replace your soon-to-be discontinued free Ning community, in this MasterNewMedia guide you will find all the data you need to identify your best Ning alternative out there.
*Requires an additional module.
BuddyPress is a plugin for the WordPress blogging platform that allows you to create an online social network. Free to use, BuddyPress enhances your standard WordPress blog to support common standard features of an online community service like Ning: customizable member profiles, blogs, a discussion forum, photo galleries and videos. By using one of the many WordPress plugins available you can also add a shared calendar to BuddyPress and track group activities and events. Other core features of BuddyPress include: activity streams, file sharing and private messaging. To style your BuddyPress-powered social network you can choose among several readily-available templates and assign your social network a unique domain name for a small fee.
GroupSite is an online social collaboration tool that you can use to create your own social network. Free to use (but ad-supported) or starting from $29 per month, GroupSite tries to take the best out of social network applications and collaboration services while merging the best of the two worlds: customizable member profiles, group blog, discussion forum, photo galleries, videos and shared calendar are all standard features. Other core characteristics that make GroupSite stand out are: file sharing, members endorsement, analytics, permission controls, readily-available templates, email digest and more.
Grou.ps is a social application platform that allows you to create and manage an online group. Free for the first 100GB of data transferred, you will be charged 0.90 credits (dollars) per additional GB of storage used. Grou.ps has all standard features that you would expect to handle your online group: member profiles, blogs, discussion forum, shared calendar, photo galleries and video. Also, you have other features like file sharing, chat, permission controls to specify precisely who can access your content inside the group, the possibility to create a wiki and much more. Distinctive features of Grou.ps are a location-sharing option to visualize your group members on a shared map and the ability to aggregate your social media and post updates from services like Twitter, Facebook or YouTube inside your own group.
Grouply is a online service that allows you to either create a brand new online group or to add extra features to your existing Yahoo! or Google Group. Grouply is free to use and sports many features of a Ning-like community like: blog, photo galleries, video publishing, discussion forum, shared calendar and customizable member profiles. Other features of Grouply include: Activity streams, daily email digest, real-time alerts, analytics and readily-available templates. Group administrators can also monetize their social groups by running their own ads and also by sharing revenues on purchases made by members.
Pligg is an open-source content management system that you can use to create a website managed by multiple authors with social networking features that foster user engagement. Started as a free article submission and rating service, Pligg has added over time a handful of social features like: blogs, member profiles, private messaging and RSS feeds while remaining free to use. You can also add additional modules (free or for a price) that allow you to embed video clips, photo galleries and shared calendar capabilities. Free and paid pre-made templates to style your website are also available inside the Pligg forum area. No discussion forum is available.
ThatsToday is an online service that lets you create an online group where you can gather your friends and fans to collaborate on common projects, exchange files, videos, photos and run a multi-author blog. Completely free to use, here are in more detail the main features of ThatsToday: Member profiles, blog, photo-sharing, video-sharing, discussion forum, shared calendar with built-in Google Maps support. Other distinctive characteristics of ThatsToday include Facebook and GMail integration, private messaging, file sharing, RSS feeds and the ability to integrate all your social network profiles.
Spruz allows you to create free websites enhanced with social networking features. Blogs, video sharing, photo galleries, forum discussion, shared calendars and member profiles are all standard features of Spruz. Advanced features include: file sharing, permission controls, readily-available templates, chat, analytics, and much more. Your website will also be completely customizable with a drag-and-drop interface and greater control over the appearance of your social site. To ease the transition for former Ning users, Spruz offers a migration script that allows you to transfer your Ning community to a brand new Spruz website.
BlastGroups is an online service that allows you to create a free online community. You can set up fine-grained privacy controls for your group by making it public, private or restrict the access to selected people. Basic features of BlastGroups are: member profiles, blog, photo sharing, video sharing, discussion forum and shared calendar to manage group activities and events. Other distinctive features include: file-sharing, activity streams, private messaging and audio sharing (particularly useful to showcase your songs if you have a music band that you want to promote).
SocialGO is a web-based service that allows you to create your own social network. If you are familiar with Facebook, you will find a similar interface and many Facebook-like features. SocialGO comes in two versions: a free, ad-supported solution with standard features and an ad-free alternative priced at $29 per month. The premium solution of SocialGO allows you to run your own ads and other advanced features like adding widgets to your website and using live audio / video chat. Personal and group blogs, each member has a wall where people can comment and post media, photo and video sharing capabilities, customizable member profiles, discussion forums and shared calendars to keep track of group events. Other features include: activity streams, file sharing, permission controls, readily-available templates, API, Facebook and Twitter integration, email notifications, and more.
Yuku is an online community service that allows you to build a full-featured social group for free. Standard features of Yuku are the same you would find inside free Ning communities: blog, discussion forum and customizable member profiles. For a price of $1 per month you can further extend the range of features available by purchasing additional capabilities like photo galleries, photo tagging, private messaging, readily-available templates, real-time alerts, activity streams, chat and even more. No shared calendar is available.
Qlubb is a hosted online social platform that allows you to gather students, friends or co-workers to collaborate on shared projects. Qlubb is ad-supported and completely free to use. Inside a Qlubb social group you can access shared calendars, file and photo archives and an automatic event remainders. Every online group created is private and secured and you decide which information is accessible to whom. No forum discussion, video, blogs or member profiles are available.
Yahoo! Groups is one of the online services offered by the Yahoo! portal that allows you to create an online community. Free to use, you only need a Yahoo! account to get started. In a matter of minutes you can build a web site where people can login and post their messages on a "wall" shared with all other members. You can also set up your Yahoo! Group to permit email posting and allow group members to post something just by sending an e-mail message to a dedicated inbox that is unique for your group. Main features of Yahoo! Groups are: shared calendar, photo galleries, online polls and file sharing. No member profiles are available, though each member can personalize her own Yahoo! Profile. Also, no group blog, discussion forum nor video are available.
BigTent is an online service that allows you to build and manage an online group. You can create either a private or public group to share information, events, and discuss with your members around a topic of your choice, completely free of charge. Standard features of BigTent include: photo-sharing, discussion forum and shared calendar to keep track of group activities and events. Other features of BigTent social groups are: file sharing, permission controls, polls and a facility to handle paid subscriptions and payments using a web-based interface. No member profiles, blogs nor video sharing are available.
Elgg is an open-source social platform whereby you can create your own online social network. Elgg comes in two flavors: a hosted solution priced between $29.95 and $49.95 per month and a free alternative that you can download and install on your own web server. Whatever option you go for, here some of the basic characteristics of Elgg: member profiles, blogs, discussion forum, photo gallery and video gallery. A shared calendar can also be added by using one of the many user-contributed plugins available. Other standard features of Elgg include: private messaging, file sharing, the ability to create and run a wiki, permission controls social bookmarking, activity streams and more.
KickApps is a social platform that you can use to create an online group to gather your friends, to manage your employees or to collaborate with your co-workers. With prices starting at $39.95 per month, KickApps provides you with a blog, video- and photo-sharing capabilities and activity streams that help you visualize in real-time on a timeline what other group members are doing. File sharing is also permitted. The cost of your KickApp-powered social group is subject to how many people view the pages of your social network online. No forum discussion nor shared calendar are available.
Igloo is an online community-building service tailored to business users. You can either create a free online social group with limited features or go for a premium account starting at $199 per month. Standard features of Igloo business communities are: member profiles, blog, photo gallery, shared calendars and forum discussion. Advanced features of Igloo-based communities are: wiki creation, rating, polling, analytics, real-time alerts, RSS, email reminders, pre-made templates, drag-and-drop interface and more. No video sharing is available.
Miixxt is a Ning alternative that allows you to create your free social network. Blogs, video sharing, photo galleries, forum discussion, shared calendars and member profiles are all standard features of Mixxt. Advanced features include: file sharing, permission controls, readily-available templates, wiki, group email, and much more. A white-label version of Mixxt is also available for organizations that need fine-grained control on their social community. To ease the transition for former Ning users, Mixxt also offers the Mixxt Importer that allows you to import most of the data of your existing Ning community.
Webs is a free online community-building service that you can use to create your own social network. Blogs, video sharing, photo galleries, forum discussion, shared calendars and member profiles are just a few features that you can expect from Webs. In fact, advanced features include: Facebook integration, activity streams, readily-available templates, group email, analytics and more. And if you are willing to spend a few bucks for a premium plan (starting at $49.95/year), Webs also allows you to go ads-free and have more space to share your media.
Robin Good and Daniele Bazzano -
Originally prepared by Robin Good and Daniele Bazzano for MasterNewMedia, and first published on May 3rd, 2010 as "Ning Alternatives: Guide To The Best Social Networking Platforms And Online Group Services".