April 15, 2010

Ning's future questionable

Sadly, Ning just announced that they've cut over 40% of their staff and are discontinuing their free product. Existing free networks will have to start paying or migrate to another service. It's difficult to imagine migrating content from a Ning site to something else and how that could be anything other than copy and paste. However, parts of a Ning site could be ported to other services. For example, Posterous committed to developing a Ning blog importer

Related stories: 

It's unfortunate that K-12 education customers won't be able to continue using Ning for free. Educators have flocked to Ning in the past couple of years. Many teachers have built social networks to support learning activities, and for most it's a good alternative to using Facebook at school. Ning's troubles are going to impact higher education too, though not to the extent that it could derail innovative efforts in K-12 education.

Web 2.0 is a double-edged sword for schools. Educators flock to free tools for good reason ($$$), but they question how long those services will be around. To what extent should they commit their time and energies to innovative web-based services that could disappear or start charging money tomorrow? Henry Thiele argues that we should always have an exit strategy planned for the tools we use. That's easier said than done--innovation in teaching and learning typically stems from the creativity and ambition of a classroom teacher, not the strategic planning of a technology coordinator or district administrator. 

To most of us, Ning seemed well established and their support to K-12 education has been exemplary. Hopefully, even in this very challenging time for the company, they'll find a way to continue supporting schools for free. On the other hand, maybe it's time for school districts who are adopting Ning on a large scale to start supporting the company too. 

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