Ning has launched. I really like the idea behind Ning and TechCrunch does a good job in writing down my thoughts..;-)
"The reason why I’m excited about it is simple: allowing people to build cool new stuff that they normally wouldn’t (empowering the users) is one of the best things you can do on the Web 2.0 space. If you think about it, back when blogging started it was also about allowing people to do things they weren’t able to before - publish content online. This is it, all over again, but instead of blogs, you get to build cool apps."
However, I do see some problems with the way Ning implemented the platform idea. Basically it will work best for people with good ideas but no resources. I guess that will be their primary user group. There's lots of potential there and if they succeed I'm sure we will see some very nice applications and services. But if you are a developer with some basic skills and experience, it's already becoming so easy to transform a dream into a working application using webservices etc. With that comes the advantage of still being in control over all possible revenue sources. Which is not the case when developing on the Ning platform:
"The Sidebar reserves 225 pixels in width on every app running on a free account. At this point, it is not optional. Our hope is that users find the services useful and developers look at the Sidebar as providing features they would have to otherwise build themselves. It is also where we plan to run advertising in the future, which is the reason its presence is more of a rule than a suggestion."
Another problem I have with Ning's platform is that it's not very easy to detach an application from it. Understandable from Ning's perspective, but I would have liked to see that shared services like registration, tagging, navigation and search would be open source as well. Not in order to change it while you are using Ning's platform, but to make it easier to leave Ning once you've outgrown the 'playground' to use their own words. If Ning doesn't change this I'm sure it won't take long before we will start to see 'Ning migration services' appearing... Ning's business model should not be based on a lock-in, but on good value-adding services.