Sunday, August 05, 2007

Ning, a high-level development tool for social networks

We have spoken of varying levels of abstraction in a development platform, and seen that white-label social networking systems provide a high level of abstraction.

Ning.com is a good example. I used Ning to create a demonstration site. As you see, the site has a typical three column layout. I selected the color scheme and layout by clicking on one of several templates. The left column has links to threaded discussion forums and audio, video and photo libraries. I added them by dragging and dropping four icons. I added the blog in the center with another drag and drop. Note the Google Map mashups showing the locations of the photo and video. A single click could change the menu language from English to Spanish.

Creating the site, selecting the template and features to include, and uploading the library material took less than 30 minutes. There was no learning curve -- a wizard lead me through the steps.

I created this test site using the free version of Ning. I could have turned off the ads and used my own domain name for an additional $25 per month.

Ning is one of several white label social network tools. TechCrunch has published an excellent comparison of Ning and eight others.

Tools like Ning enable you to create complex Web sites with a few mouse clicks. Is there still a need to learn HTML and Web development tools?