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We’re fans of healthy competition. We’re proud to put Ning and Your Own Social Network for Anything up against anyone. Our entire focus is on offering the single best, most flexible platform for creating your own social network and it’s sometimes nice to see how we’re doing against folks trying to do something similar. We were in this market by ourselves for so long that it’s nice to get a bit of company.

In the wild west of any new market, it’s sometimes hard for new entrants to get a lay of the land and know what the rules are for comparing products. With the Internet especially, sometimes newbies forget that a quick Google Search can prove your statements wrong. Unfortunately, the resulting credibility hit can be damaging.

So, I’d like to welcome our new new competition with a few rules of the road.

First, let’s get a general lay of the land.

While Alexa is terrible at showing absolute traffic numbers for this market (or any market for that matter), it’s a great service for showing relative traffic size and trends among companies within the same market.

Here’s a chart of relative page views between Ning and a few of our more vocal competitors:


Ok, so we’re a little bit bigger.

But that’s just one data point. Let’s look at the market from a different angle. (Continue Reading…)

Today there are over 165,000 social networks on the Ning Platform. These are both domain masked networks – which don’t show up in Google Search results because we actually mask them – as well as ones with the sub-domain. Of these, 117,975 networks have been active in the past 30 days. That’s an abandonment rate of 28.5%.

Now let’s compare that to, say, KickApps. Today they claim 14,000 sites, however as we mentioned in a past product comparison, they require the KickApps text in all URLs for the communities they host. Even the ones that are supposedly “white labeled.”

Because of this product quirk, you can do a Google Search for the KickApps URL on all of their sites. According to these results, the actual number of sites provided by KickApps is 2,350. For comparison, this same search for Ning produces 148,000 results. So, even if it is not exhaustive, it’s generally accurate. This means that KickApps claim of 14,000 sites either has an abandonment rate of 83.2% or it might be a bit of an overstatement.

Now, don’t get us wrong, we’re not trying to demoralize anyone the day after they release a new version. We know how hard it is to build any software at all. Especially when you are constantly being compared to another service and trying desperately to catch up. It’s no fun.

So, to make the competition a bit more fun, we’d like to propose the following:

1. We compete fairly on head-to-head product comparisons. Ideally, these comparisons would be supported with reference-able links or screenshots. Like this one. With today’s KickApps launch, I’m sure that they didn’t mean to misrepresent their traffic. But this new approach, they could avoid this altogether.

2. We try to use facts as frequently as possible. For example, easily checkable false statements like, say, Network Creators on Ning don’t have access to their member data could also be avoided. We’d both just use the test of asking ourselves, “Is this accurate?” If the answer was no, then it’s easy. You wouldn’t say it. No confusion.

3. We keep comparisons balanced. Especially as Ning continues to dominate the market, it’s going to be harder and harder for the competition not to lash out in anger. We understand. This stuff isn’t easy. But this new model, we’ll all strive for a bit of balance. The weaknesses are fair game, but we’ll all try to mention a strength here and there too. I’ll even start. We really like the way KickApps has done one-click adds for widgets. There. That was easy.

4. We check back in on these stats every 30 days. We don’t want to stop this competition before it even gets started. Given our head start and current lead, that wouldn’t be fair. Instead, we’ll keep tabs on progress and post here as appropriate. With such uneven playing field, that’s the least we should do.

If this works and we all stay focused on the right prize – making our own products better and better, not denigrating the competition – then the end result will not only be more fun, but better for everyone.

Here’s the thing. If all of our services continue to get better and better, then the people using them will have increasingly awesome features, a greater number of choices, and even more freedom to create the exact right perfect social networks for them, regardless where they get them from.

Now if that happens, then everyone wins.