Many people have started communities on the popular network creation site Ning since its inception. On April 15th they announced they would no longer offer their free services. Realize this isn’t the end of Ning as they point out
The tens of thousands of you who already use our paid service represent over 75% of our traffic
So I imagine most of the popular networks you belong to on Ning will remain in place.
However, for the other 25% that might navigate elsewhere you have several options. I’ve yet to see a good breakdown of some of the better free Ning alternatives out there so I thought I would give it a shot. I found most of these sites in the comments and blog posts of other despaired Ning network creators. I’ve also tried to track down these other networks reactions to Ning’s announcement. Hopefully this will help you with your own transition.
Spruz seems to be the network of choice for most ex-ningers. I’ve read several reports of great up time and quality service. Spruz seems to have everything Ning has and a few extras that make it somewhat unique. I’ve seen users specifically boast about its file sharing capabilities.
[Post from Spruz welcoming Ning users]
Webs gets 30 times the traffic of Spruz and any other network on this list falling short only to Ning at two-thirds its traffic. Webs promises to always be free and shares several of the main features that made Ning popular including forums, member profiles and blogs.
I guess being in beta it wouldn’t be fair to compare their traffic to some of the other sites on the list. However, WackWall looks very promising. They are backed by a software company and don’t rely on investments which is why, they say, they will always remain free.
Grou.ps is another great choice based on open source software. It seems to have everything Ning has and a very reasonable pricing plan to help scale your network. They also prefer to be called a social operating system. Looks very powerful.
Grouply looks a lot like Ning on the front end and already has FAQs on importing members from other services. Matter of fact I’ve mistaken grouply groups for Ning groups a few times. One does have to wonder why their traffic has been dropping only to be revived by Ning’s latest news.
[UPDATE: Grouply no longer available]
BigTent may be one of the babies of the bunch but it provides all of the same services in an “integrated” approach. Users claim the support is tremendous making it worth their switch. BigTent looks like a very simple solution, maybe a little too simple for some.
Still trying to wrap my brain around this one but it looks VERY cool. Imagine FourSquare meets Ning and has little mobile babies. With tons of cool features to integrate the social experience, maybe its about time you take your network to the next level and go mobile?
Groupsite (formerly known as CollectiveX) looks like an awesome network solution with some excellent features. It does seem like they find ways to lure you into buying their premium services, like limiting subgroups to 5 but overall another good solution on the free side.
SocialGo, like the rest has a very impressive feature list and is just as popular as Spruz traffic-wise. The site seems to have a pretty satisfied user-base as I’ve seen several people recommend the site across different blogs and networks. Definitely worth putting on the list.
Open Source Solutions
Maybe the phasing out of Ning’s free service is what it takes to get you to take ownership of your community and move to a self hosted solution. The following are all free and trusted solutions in the industry. I personally would go with BuddyPress but to each his own.
I wan’t to hear your thoughts. If you know of any other free hosted social network creation services, please share them in the comments. Also feel free to give feedback on any of the networks listed if you are currently a user or have used one in the past.
– Photo by Samuel Stroube