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We love experimentation. In fact, one of the key design goals we had with Your Own Social Network on Ning is that a new social network would be incredibly easy to set up. We wanted anyone to be able to quickly and easily create a social network on Ning, regardless of experience level.

The now over 118,000 social networks on Ning – and the power law curve represented within it – demonstrates a level of freedom and experimentation not readily embraced by other services.

It’s somewhat ironic then that this support of experimentation and ease-of-creation – things that we celebrate as a core part of Ning – has some pundits gasping about the presence of abandoned networks on the Ning Platform.

Not only do we think that abandoned networks are just fine, but it reinforces the fact that creating social networks on Ning requires nothing more than the skills required to create a profile on any large, one-size-fits-all social network.

In fact, most people might miss the fact that you can create a social network on Ning in two clicks. First, as always, define a URL and title for your network. Then, at any step in the creation process, click the LAUNCH button you see in the far upper right hand corner:

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That’s it. That’s all you to have to do to have a full social network with a default theme and set of features that you can now tweak, tune, hack, test out, and play with.

From here, a person creating or using their own social network on Ning has profoundly greater freedom than you find on any other social networking service. You choose what you want your social network to be about. You choose your features. You decide what it looks like. It’s your network. It’s your members. It’s your unique experience customized to the degree that you’re comfortable customizing it, even if that means dropping down to the code to program something entirely new. Yep, you can do that too.

In fact, we want you to create networks for the sole purpose of unbridled experimentation. Go for it. Every Network Creator on Ning should have a network with which to be creative, messy, and experimental. Then, as you find things that work, you can roll them into your primary network or set of networks. You have 10 networks by default and we’re always happy to give you more.

I had a journalist tell me last week that the level of freedom we offer in empowering people to create their own social networks would reduce Ning’s growth potential and prevent us from ever becoming a “Top 20 web property.” Exact words.

To this journalist, giving people the freedom to create their own social networks – despite historical precedents as well as the tons of viral features that make it dead simple for any member to invite new people into any social network on Ning – made our demise inevitable. Perhaps he’s right. Or, perhaps as people continue to discover the power of social networks broadly defined, the demand for the freedom to create the exact right social network for them becomes the next great phenomenon.

It’s not hard to guess where our money is.