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The End of the Red Light District

As individuals and as a service, we stand for the freedom to create your own social networks for anything. We believe that people should be able to set their own social norms and Ning, as a broad-based service, is designed to respect many different perspectives and enable them to co-exist seamlessly and effortlessly.

We architected Ning so many diverse types of social networks could create their own social space and this is still one of the proudest achievements we have of the service today. It’s from this foundation that we’ve seen Ning grow to hundreds of thousands of social networks and millions of users around the world.

Therefore, the decision we’re announcing today to discontinue our Red Light District is a tough one. However, from a practical perspective, this difficult decision is the right one.

As of January 1 January 5, 2009, we’ll no longer support adult social networks on the Ning Platform.

We’re not discontinuing the Red Light District because we no longer believe in the freedom to create your own social network for anything as long as it’s legal. We do. Practically though, supporting adult networks no longer makes sense. Here is what we’ve seen in practice to date with respect to adult social networks on Ning:

    • Adult social networks don’t pull their own weight. Specifically, they require other social networks to work harder because they don’t generate enough advertising or premium service revenue to cover their costs. Plus, our ad partners aren’t big fans of the adult networks and therefore require us to identify adult networks or risk our healthy advertising revenue. We don’t want to be in the policing business and, unchecked, that’s where this is heading.
    • By having legal adult social networks on Ning, we’ve seen a rise in volume of illegal adult social networks. We are always going to do the right thing as it pertains to social networks that are illegal or violate our Terms of Service. That’s non-negotiable. However, the time involved in reporting and assisting the authorities on illegal adult social networks is simply too time and cost intensive for the benefits derived by having adult social networks on Ning.
    • Adult social networks on Ning receive a disproportionate number of DMCA take down notices creating additional work for our team. We respect intellectual property rights and comply with the DMCA. Compared to our other social networks on the Ning Platform, the additional work created by adult networks alleged to have violated the copyrights of others is enough for us to discontinue adult networks in favor of investing time and energy in growing the Ning Platform from here.

Our focus is on creating incredibly simple, beautiful software and rapidly adding new features for the benefit of all. We can’t do that as efficiently as we need to and still support adult networks on Ning. It’s that simple. We’ve discussed and debated various ways to keep adult networks on Ning operating, including requiring them to be private networks or partnering up with someone who can make them self-sustaining. While there are strong cases to be made for either one of these solutions, they don’t enable us to focus our team on the most efficient execution of the Ning Platform possible.

This is important in all circumstances, but in this recession we have to be relentless in providing the most compelling service in the most efficient way possible. Therefore, from a practical perspective, the only practical answer we see is a clear elimination of adult networks from the Ning Platform altogether.

As part of this transition, we are exploring ways for adult networks that will no longer be available on Ning to export their content in addition to their members, which is readily available today from the Manage Members page. As we make progress on the specifics, we’ll communicate them in the Ning Help Center.

Again, this was not an easy decision and we did not make it on philosophical grounds. We made it on a purely practical one. For those of you who created and worked hard on your adult network, we appreciate your work and dedication and wish there were a different answer.

We’re happy to answer any questions you have in the Ning Help Center.

Note: We recognize that this is a controversial decision where people on both sides of the issue have strong feelings. We are reading all of the comments contributed to this post and responding to people individually via the Ning Help Center. Additionally, we continue to work through the content export issue and will have more information on that shortly.