As you may have noticed, social networks are pretty popular these days, especially with those young people. What you may not have noticed is the following:
For those of you new to this blog, Ning is my third company, cofounded with Gina Bianchini. We enable you to create your own social network for anything -- in two minutes, for free. Think of it as creating your own MySpace, Facebook, or Youtube -- but around any topic you want, with whatever set of features you want, and as public or private as you want.
People are using Ning today to create and run social networks around practically every topic you can possibly think of.
And as of today, they (you) have created more than 200,000 networks on Ning.
"My" in this context refers to a certain Marc Andreessen, whom older readers will remember as having something to do with a quaint little browser called Mosaic, and rather more to do with not-so-quaint and now-defunct company called Netscape.
Ning is in the business of offering what are known as a "white box" social networks - and rather successfully, I'd say. The thing is, this suggests that there is a huge opportunity for an open source Ning. The business model would be the standard "give it away, make money on the support, training, customisation" etc. It's very close to the model employed by the UK Company Formerly Known as OpenAds, and now, for reasons best known to its management, renamed (for about the eighty-third time) as OpenX.
I've often wondered why we don't have that open source white box social networking company yet, but maybe one's on the horizon at last:
Insoshi is an upcoming white label social networking platform. It will differentiate itself from many of the other social networking platforms by taking a completely open source approach. In other words, Insoshi lets you host the social network yourself, which puts it into competition with other white-label social networks like People Aggregator. The availability of the source code may make Insoshi more palatable for larger companies wanting to build their own networks. Insoshi argues that all big enterprise software markets eventually get an opens-source competitor, and it plans to be the one for social networks.
Nothing much on the Insoshi site itself, as yet, so it's too early to tell whether this is the company I have been waiting for.