In Marc Andreessen's vision of the future, MySpace is going to face stiff competition from a million mini MySpaces.
One of the cofounders of Netscape and a symbol of the technology revolution of a decade ago, Andreessen is now backing a company called Ning, which launched a set of new tools on Tuesday designed to help even the most tech-challenged person build a social-networking site.
"(Ning) is essentially MySpace version 2," Andreessen said last week, adding that he is placing a bet that social-networking sites will follow a similar development path to that of Internet service providers of the 1990s.
"It's like the Web," Andreessen said, "After people get used to it, they want freedom. The analogy that I think is very relevant is that it's very much like the public's shift to the Web from AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy. Stuff gets started and one-size-fits-all makes a lot of sense, but as people get farther into it, they want customization, they want control, they want flexibility."
That's what Palo Alto, Calif.-based Ning offers. Andreessen predicts that people will want to create more niche sites for people with similar pursuits and interests, and the MySpaces of the world will be too big to meet their special needs. MySpace and similar sites allow users to post their profiles on individual pages. Such sites control the advertising on those pages, as well as much of the technological functions of the pages.
Instead of just pages, the 2-year-old Ning is offering users the ability to build their own Web sites. Premium services let users choose their own domain name and give them control over the ads on their pages.
Ning also allows users to choose from an array of features, such as videos, photos, music, forums, profiles, and blogs. They can choose logos and decide whether to restrict access to the site to certain people.
The service, says Ning cofounder and CEO Gina Bianchini, allows users to select certain designs and move them to their pages in a drag-and-drop function.
"You don't need to know HTML," Bianchini said. "If you do know it, then you can do anything."
Anyone using the free service will have to settle for ads posted by Ning. For the right to go with the ad service of their choosing--or no ads at all--users must pay $19.95 a month. To use their own domain name, people must pay $4.95. For sites with lots of traffic, Ning sells additional bandwidth and storage at $9.95 per month per unit; a unit consists of 5GB of storage and 100GB of bandwidth.