Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ning Alternatives

Ever since Ning announced that they were phasing out their free service, I've been scrambling to find a suitable free alternative (being the Cheap Bastard that I am). I wanted to find a company that, by virtue of its size and, hopefully, successful business model, was most likely to survive and to keep offering the free service in perpetuity. I evaluated six candidates: Grou.ps, Grouply, Groupsite, SocialGO, Spruz, and Webs. (See Comments section for my selection criteria.) Here are my findings and recommendations...

Grou.ps

What I liked:
  • 10GB free storage
  • Upload and store videos from your computer
What I didn't like:
  • Very buggy -- could never get video uploads to work
  • Unreliable service
  • Profile questions text editor behaves very oddly
Recommendation:

Avoid this service.


Grouply

What I liked:
  • 10GB free storage
  • Can search entire network
What I didn't like:
  • Poor selection of themes
  • No custom profile questions (or their site manager is infuriatingly difficult to use)
Recommendation:

Avoid this service.


Groupsite

What I liked:
  • Can search entire network
What I didn't like:
  • Very awkward method of video sharing
  • Unable to post a blog using Chrome browser
  • Only 250MB of storage
  • Profile questions text editor behaves very oddly
Recommendation:

Avoid this service.


SocialGO

What I liked:
  • Can customize a theme with header and background image from your computer
  • Respectable 1GB of storage
What I didn't like:
  • Very inflexible site manager (in the free service)
  • Profile questions text editor relies on HTML coding
  • Profile questions are more tedious to set up
  • Search facility doesn't work
Recommendation:

Avoid this service.


Spruz

What I liked:
  • Nice themes.
What I didn't like:
  • Profile questions text editor relies on HTML coding
  • Profile questions use colon in a very odd manner
  • Limited storage space if your site has low traffic (100MB for less than 500 Avg Daily Page Views)
Recommendation:

Not a bad choice, if you can live with the quirks.

UPDATE July 8, 2010: Their free service has now changed because of this. A warning to all network creators that the economics of freemium services is unreliable.


Webs

What I liked:
  • Nice themes.
  • Upload and store videos from your computer
  • Video gallery allows embedded videos
  • Very flexible site manager
What I didn't like:
  • Very chintzy on storage space (40MB) and bandwidth (500MB)
  • No subgroups
Recommendation:

As long as you don't need lots of storage or bandwidth, and you don't need subgroups, I recommend Webs. I finally settled on Webs for my free social network, Good Sex Space.


Ultimately, none of these social network services live up to the standard set by Ning. Webs came the closest, but their parsimonious storage prevents them from delivering a knockout punch (however, this may keep them in business longer as the free service is not a huge drain). It's a pity Ning was unable or unwilling to continue providing the free service.

6 comments:

  1. My selection criteria for a free social network include:

    1. Sufficient storage space for photos and videos.
    2. Flexibility in setting up member profile questions. In particular, the text editor should be easy to use.
    3. Reliability and stability of service (re: uptime, bugs, etc.)
    4. Nice themes.
    5. Ability to search entire site.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your post, Richard.

    You might want to re-check your data on Grouply. Grouply *does* offer photo and video sharing from the Add menu on any page. Also the administrator can set an unlimited number of custom registration questions, and the user can customize the questions/answers on their own profiles.

    Here's a link to the Grouply Feature Directory: http://blog.grouply.com/features/

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, Mark. My bad. I've updated the post regarding photo and video sharing.

    However, I've spent over an hour trying to figure out how to add custom registration questions but to no avail. I may not be the brightest light bulb in the room, but if Grouply's site manager makes it so damn difficult and frustrates me to no end, that's enough reason for me to give them the thumbs down.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I should mention that, at least for the time being, Webs do offer a way around the chintzy storage space allocation: using their Credit Shop Launch Special, I am able to quickly accumulate enough credits to purchase additional storage space for free! I'm saving to purchase 1GB of storage space (for 500 credits).

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have used webs but embed videos can be used in most of those options. In GROU.PS and Grouply you dont need to worry about storage or credits(!). I created a couple of nice themes on GROU.PS but you cant mmigrate them. :/

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks, pasa. Embedding videos is not the issue. Some of these services do not permit the uploading and local storage of videos. While YouTube is generally satisfactory, they do not, for example, allow videos containing adult content.

    ReplyDelete