Our Product Roadmap

Our Product Roadmap
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One area that we have been focusing on recently has been in increasing visibility for Network Creators on upcoming features. This post is the first of many (from myself and others in the product team) where we will preview what we are working on and what you can expect from us. Before that, however, I wanted to spend a minute covering how we will be approaching product changes in the future.

Going forward, we will aim for:

  • Transparency and clarity. We will strive to provide you with advance information on the features we are working on and roughly when you can expect them to be available. You will notice that in this post I won’t go into specific dates for features — that will change over time, particularly after we launch our three new products in July. Sometimes software development takes longer than anticipated, unexpected roadblocks appear, etc. When that happens, we will let you know as soon as we know.
  • Obtaining feedback from you early and often. We have been improving in this area through the Creators Network, NC Council, as well as in-person meetings and conference calls. Over time, we will be increasing our use of these channels as well as others, like surveys, polls, and online user testing of planned new features and changes. Note: In this vein, we are currently running a product survey, and I’d encourage you to spend a few minutes filling it out; your answers will help us prioritize development of upcoming features, many of which are mentioned in this post.
  • Focus on NC control. We will strive to add member-facing features in a way that lets you choose if and when they are appropriate for your community (in the rare case when, for technical reasons, this isn’t possible, we will give you plenty of advance notice). We will also be increasing level of control and ease of management of existing features.
  • A balance between NC and Member features. As a Network Creator, both areas are critical. You should expect to see easier access to information about your network and network controls, more stats, and more control mechanisms to configure your Ning Network exactly how you want it.
  • A balance between usability and features for engagement and monetization. Again, both areas are critical. While we have some work to do specifically on the latter, we will not stop improving and innovating on features that your members want and need.
  • Improving the extensibility and programmability of networks. Today, it is possible to extensively customize a Ning Network through either theme updates and Ning Apps, but in some cases not as straightforward as it should be. We’re making this easier and giving you more options to enlist third parties to help you in this regard.

These are clearly a lot of (sometimes competing) priorities to juggle for a small team like ours, but we are confident that, with your help, we can succeed in achieving all of them. Before we go into some details of our future product plans, let’s spend a moment looking at recent releases.

A look back…

For the last several weeks we have been furiously at work getting everything ready for the launch of Ning Mini, Plus and Pro in July. In parallel, we have been rolling out new features and better controls that preview the kinds of things we will be doing more of in the future. Here’s a recap of major releases in the last few weeks:

In addition to these, we have also been fixing bugs and improving performance both in our backend and frontend systems, and continue to work on simplifying the platform to further enhance stability and be able to release new features faster.

The pace of user-facing releases will slow down a bit over the next few weeks as we gear up for the Mini/Plus/Pro launch, but as we get closer to that we have already begun to plan the projects that we will be tackling next.

…and a look ahead

So, what can you expect after the new products are launched? We have a lot of good stuff planned, and it’s divided into four major areas: Network Creator Features, Member Features, Monetization, and 3rd Party Development/APIs. What follows is an overview of the major projects we have planned for development and release over the next few months. As I mentioned above, we will be providing more details, including target dates, as we make progress on them.

Network Creator Features

These are features that you as a network creator interact with everyday and help you manage and grow your Ning Network. In this area, we have planned:

  • “My Network” dashboard. This feature will replace the current “Manage” page/tab on your Network. It will provide a quick view of vital network stats as well as a completely revamped user interface to make it easy for you to access your network’s information and controls.
  • Network statistics, including storage and bandwidth use. This feature will complement other stats systems (like Google Analytics) with social stats and other information that is exclusive to your Ning Network.
  • NC leaderboards. Tied closely with network stats, the NC leaderboards will use a new system to track and analyze engagement that will let you quickly discover cool content, identify top users, and much more.
  • More member controls. While we have made some progress in this area in recent releases, there are more elements of the experience that you have told us you want to customize, including fine-grained controls over member contributions (e.g., how many photos a member can post), the ability to edit the content that your members create, and more.
  • More payment mechanisms, receipts, annual billing and more. We are currently completely revamping our billing system to support the needs that you have communicated to us over the last several months.
  • Language filter. For networks that run advertising, this will give you the ability to filter out words that would affect your advertising rates.
  • Individual Network ID & sign in. With the launch of the new products in July, members will only create a profile on your network, and will no longer have a cross-network profile.
  • A Network Creator iPhone app. To view and manage your network through your iPhone.

Member Features

These are features that increase member engagement and improve their experience, make it easier to sign up and stay on your network, and provide integration with external services critical in today’s online social experience. The features in this area are:

  • Login via Facebook/Twitter/Yahoo/others. This feature needs no introduction. It will allow members to sign up and sign in to your networks using their credentials from other systems.
  • Support for ‘Like’. We will roll out a feature to support ‘Like’ actions on your network, which can lead to greater user engagement and faster surfacing of great content. This will be only for your network, not related to Facebook’s ‘Like’. That said, we are also considering how to support Facebook’s recently rolled out ‘Like’ feature.
  • Member leaderboards. This will be a member-facing view of the leaderboards that we will initially release for NCs only — a long-requested feature that can increase the quality and quantity of member engagement and member-contributed content. (Note: as in other cases, it will be an option for you as a Network Creator to enable this feature).
  • Ning Apps on member profiles. Just like we are enabling Ning Apps on Network Homepages, we will also give you the option to enable them for member profiles, giving you the ability to allow members to install third-party Ning Apps on their profile pages.

Monetization

This is an area that we plan to do a lot of work on. In addition to mechanisms you will have at launch (e.g., running advertising, soliciting donations) we plan to integrate new ways to monetize your network and content that you have long asked for, including:

  • Paid membership. This feature will give you the ability to request payment for joining your network, including support for membership tiers.
  • Paid content access. With this feature, you will be able to create areas of the site, or specific content (such as one video, one group, etc.) that requires members to pay before they can access it.
  • More and better ad units. These will be new areas in your site that will now be available for placing ads more easily than today, including header and footer, as well as within other content sections (e.g. in the main content pages of your network)

3rd Party Development/APIs These features will allow you to further customize both the functionality and look and feel of your network. These include three main areas that we’re working on at the moment:

  • Ning Apps V1.1 including Full Opensocial 0.8 support. OpenSocial, the standard behind Ning Apps, supports both client-side and server side APIs. We will enable server-side support, long-requested by developers, in the near future.
  • External APIs. These APIs will be available as REST endpoints to your network and will allow you to designate specific apps (from Ning or third party providers) that you want to enable to support third-party integrations that further enhance your network experience. These APIs can be used to create anything from desktop and mobile apps to integration with other systems, such as blogs, other authentication systems, and more.
  • A New Theme System. We will be completely revamping the way themes are created and edited on Ning Networks, providing both deeper and easier controls for non-technical NCs as well as a much more powerful and modern theme system for designers.

Note: While this is a long list of features, we are aware that this doesn’t cover every request we’ve heard. This roadmap only cover the next few months, so you can expect further updates as we make progress on these priorities. Once more, completing our NC Survey will help us prioritize this and the next round of features.

In closing…

Phew! That’s quite a lot for one post. As I said before, we will be talking about these features, including their release dates, in more detail in the future. In the meantime, as always, comments and feedback are welcome.

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65 thoughts on “Our Product Roadmap

  1. Tiffany

    You mention a lot of (badly needed, long over due) features that you plan to work on:

    “Monetization

    This is an area that we plan to do a lot of work on. In addition to mechanisms you will have at launch (e.g., running advertising, soliciting donations) we plan to integrate new ways to monetize your network and content that you have long asked for, including:

    Paid membership.
    .
    Paid content access.

    More and better ad units

    3rd Party Development/APIs”

    Okay – this sounds wonderful and all. But when is it going to happen??!! Your customer base has been asking for these things forever and I am a little surprised that you’ve changed membership options, gotten rid of free sites and still have not given members the ability to recoup their costs in an efficient manner or manipulate the look and feel any better. This is precisely why I have not launched either of my sites and have considered canning them all together. Time lines and anticipated launch dates would be nice.

  2. troy miller

    We have been asking for the lastest activity bar to have the option to show just your friends feeds instead of the entire network which would in turn spam the user with unwanted information from thousands of users they dont know. Also to have the status updater for users would make our sites more attractive to user who are familiar with site such as facebook twitter and now Tagged who have now placed a status updater which has increased their sites views. We are really pushing for this option more then others i belive to make our sites more usesful communicating wise

  3. Sacha

    Hi,

    are there any progress reports for the membership tiers and paid content access?

    all the best,

    Sacha.

  4. Ronald

    HI NING/Diego,

    I noticed the my Google Analytics was broken due to a change NING made with your analytics tag!
    I solved the problem with a workaround, but it is way easier for you guys to use the right google code to prevent other NC to have similar problems (bounce rate 100%/ etc.)
    Please put that on the roadmap it is a 5 minute job.

    Solution:
    With the new asynchronous tag it is possible to use a split snippet. If You/NING put your own tracker in the header, and the ga.js all the way at the bottom (underneath the NC analytics box with the NC analytics tag!!)
    This way the ga.js will only be called once and the statistics of borh ning and the NC will be right.

    Example:

    //Ning Tracker

    var _gaq = _gaq || [];
    _gaq.push([‘_ning_ga._setAccount’, ‘UA-NING-TRACKER-X’], [‘_trackPageview’] );

    Page Content

    //Second tracker without ga.js

    _gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-SECOND-TRACKER-X’], [‘_trackPageview’] );

    //Ning ga.js
    (function() {
    var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
    ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
    var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
    })();

    Explanation by Google can be found here:
    https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection/gajs/?csw=1#SplitSnippet

    Thanks in advance!

    Ronald

  5. Morten Aabo

    I love this blog! …have one question though (know you guys are busy with the new payment system rolled out), but…

    Is there any thoughts, plans or ideas on which type of payment types will be available for the “Paid Membership” and “Paid Content Access”?

    Ex. PayPal, Visa, MasterCard and so on…

    Really looking forward on the updates placed in this roadmap, it’s nice that have more focus on the content handling and administration part of running a network this time.

    Thumbs up! May the coding be with you! :0)

  6. George Montgomery

    I like the future developments listed.

    Of particular interest to me is paid membership management, and having different levels of network membership – so they can use different features, like blogging, event posting etc.

    I’m signing up for the paid scheme in the belief that these new features will becoming available soon.

    Here’s to a successful partnership with Ning Networks.

  7. mdEUCE

    other than that, all this sounds great. Ning..bada boom bada bing, a network with your theme! yeah!

  8. mdEUCE

    After all that, did I miss the part about MOBILE? We can have all the bells and whistles imaginable but how much is it really worth if our members can’t do it mobile?

  9. suresh

    I would like to know the time frame of implementing above mentioned improvements.
    It helps me to schedule our planned projects.

    Thanks

  10. BrianH

    So, this post was about a month ago and nothing has been implemented yet. Am I to assume over the next 2 months that all of these will be live?

    1. Eric Suesz

      None of these will really begin to be visible until we release our new plans on July 20th.

  11. Jan Adema

    Hello Ning team,
    I have three ning websites, if I take a miniaccount do I have to take three of them or can I still have the three websites on one account.

    Kind regards,
    Jan Adema

    1. Eric Suesz

      Hi, Jan! Each Ning Network is treated separately. Purchasing one will not allow you to make an unlimited amount of Ning Networks.

  12. Graham McAndrew

    Here at sta.rtup.biz one thing we really need in this list is the Leaderboard feature.

    More specifically we need points to be awarded to members based on various activities that we can assign points to ( similar to the S4N app ).

    However it really needs the ability to be reset to zero every month, so that new members joining can comptete on an even level. Ideally there should be 2 levels:

    Level 1 : Monthly points totals enabling a monthly activity contest. New members would have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

    Level 2 : A cumulative total rewarding long term interaction.

    However in my opinion Level 1 is of the highest importance.

    For NC’s looking to really expand their network, this could work really well.

    Lets look at an example:

    A modest monthly membership fee could be charged. Lets say $10 per month.

    50% of the membership fee could go towards the Leaderboard Rewards System, with rewards for activity going to the top 10 members every month.

    Points could be weighted in any way the NC feels would work best for their network.

    So, for example, most points could be awarded for inviting new members, boosting the network, who in turn will be creating more revenue and further boosting the Leaderboard Rewards revenues for both site owners and participating members.

    Again high point could be awarded for replying to forum topics, or for creating new content, which will lead to more indexable content for the search engines, and hopefully more traffic, with more new members joining, and more revenue.

    Without the ability to reset the points totals as required, this will be hard to make work

  13. Jason G

    Also, as an educator I was aware that a sponsor would take care of educational sites on Ning.
    If so, where is the link to such support as we don’t want our site to be removed for non-sponsorship/payment.
    I am an admin for our school’s ESL site and would like to take care of this or find a sponsor to help with it.
    I hope to hear from you about this as soon as possible.
    Thanks,
    Jason G

    1. Eric Suesz

      Hi, Jason. We’re nailing down the final details of our education partnership, and we’ll be providing more information very soon about how you can apply.

  14. Jason G

    We have the money to pay for our mini Ning, but it seems nearly impossible to just find a click-and-pay button anywhere when I look for it. Maybe I can just send you the check for it in the mail? If so I would need an address.
    In any case, PLEASE make it easier to find info for where to send payment instead of all of the how to make money options.
    I would like to hear back from you about this so I can pay our fee for our Ning website.
    Thanks,
    Jason G

    1. Eric Suesz

      Hi, Jason. We’ll offer new plans on July 20th, and you’ll have 30 days to make a decision, so you still have time to consider a plan.

  15. Yuriy

    Long time ago we were asking for language switcher, but there is no improvement in that direction:( This issue is very important for countries where 2 or more languages are equally speaking. Would be great if you can implement this. Thanks.

  16. Val McCall

    I have created a campaign network on Ning, have registered the domain name with GoDaddy and I am all set to go public/live. Before I do, I need to remove the ads and use the domain name. Under the current Ning pricing plan, the combined cost to do so is $30.00. Under the pricing plan for beginning on July 20th, the cost to do so — or Ning Plus — is $20.00. Can I get the July pricing plan now?

    1. Eric Suesz

      Hi, Val. Glad to hear that you’ll be saving money with the new Ning plans. We won’t begin accepting payment for the new plans until July 20th. Stay tuned.

  17. Cyndi

    It sounds like you are obfuscating about a deeply discounted or free nonprofit program (with all the bells and whistles of the premiums). Grassroots nonprofits supported Ning from Day One and were part of the basis of Ning’s ability to grow and flourish. Our word of mouth is priceless and our loyalty should be invaluable. Technology philantrophy is de rigueur — this is a brand-building opportunity that money can’t buy that gives Ning the chance to blow the competition (growing by the minute) away. It should be part of Ning’s organizational culture.

  18. Ariane Benefit, ADHD Coach

    AWESOME! Loving what I hear.

    One comment I get from members…

    They want to get a “digest” of activity mailed to them daily or weekly (ala Yahoo Groups) In fact many of my members are asking me to move to Yahoo so they can get this…Any chance this will option will be available soon? I don’t want to do this manually!

    Second: Will there be an option to create broadcasts like reminders of upcoming events and just set a date for them to be emailed? I have a hard time to remembering to send reminders and would LOVE to be able program a daily or weekly broadcast.

    3rd. Would love to be able to designate a member to be able to send broadcasts only…no other admin power. Is that possible?

    Thank you! I LOVE LOVE NING!

    1. Eric Suesz

      Thanks, Ariane, for the suggestion. We have had requests for a digest before. While it’s not on the near-term roadmap, I’ll be sure to share your suggestion with the product team since it has been requested by a fair number of Network Creators. Also, I like the idea of broadcast reminders. I’m not sure I’ve heard that request before, but I will also share that one. I don’t think we will enable the ability to make a member a broadcaster, although that is an interesting idea, too. Lots of great ideas. Thanks for sharing and I will pass them along.

  19. Simon

    It is wrong for you to expect customers to pay more for a package that includes events when the events module has so many problems. Please make fixing them a top priority. Simply do a search for “events” in the forums to see the issues that need fixing (functionality that a reasonable events feature should have)

  20. 9b

    Ok Eric,

    If You’ll let ALL members of a specific network to add VIDEOS requiring other members to pay before they can see them, You’ll do something Youtube, Vimeo, … and also Facebook are still not doing …

    Referring videos, but also GROUPS, … this “Paid content access” feature can give an unique value to ning networks for sure.

    If in Ning networks I can sell all over my videos, even if for 5 cents, why to continue to upload them for free in Youtube ?

  21. Edmauro

    Thanks Eric,

    RPX is certainly a solution that would reduce all work on this issue on login. And still offers the most used options in the world, however, offer login via Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo has just not given as well the needs of various countries.

    We would be grateful if a more comprehensive solution, whatever it is, RPX or not. That common sense prevails =)

  22. Edmauro

    Hi Eric,

    Login via Facebook / Twitter / Yahoo / others?

    Here in Brazil, we hope that you make available through Windows Live login ID (because the Windows Live / MSN Messenger) and Google (because of Orkut, a social network created by Google and a leader in Brazil, followed by far by Twitter and more still far by Facebook). According to a study released on Tuesday, 15/06, the research firm Nielsen, Brazil led a number of visits to social networks in April this year.

    The survey attributes this success of social networking to the Orkut in Brazil, who came to Brazil in 2004 and today has about 24 million active users.
    The survey indicated that 86% of active Internet users accessed social networks in the country.

    This can be ignored by the developers of Ning? I suggested to Lisa, a partnership with the RPX: http://www.janrain.com/product/social-login/ or Ning offers at least similar solution.

    1. Eric Suesz

      Good point, Edmauro. I don’t think we currently have plans for Windows ID, but I will pass this along to our product team. RPX is a really great suggestion, too.

  23. Cristian Echenique

    I would like to know the possibilities to have a environment for development or test different a production. Actually, we create other community and test the new features, or try news design pages, and if all is successful, we done the same changes to production environment.

    This question I do it because with the new schema of pricing of Ning, we didn’t have thought pay for a second community.

    1. Eric Suesz

      You might want to share your question on the Creators Ning Network. We have announced that we plan to offer test Ning Networks. Check out our FAQs, too. Hope this helps!

  24. Lori

    The Paid VIP content area is something I’d like as well. I’m sure I could do it manually but what a pain that would be. Would really like to have that option! I’m still up in the air about using NING. It has pros and cons and i just can’t decide.

  25. Christine

    I use Ning to coordinate my volunteers at at NFP. Will we be sent an invoice when we’re supposed to pay? I need time to raise a purchase order and am worried my Ning will be closed in the changeover time.

    1. Eric Suesz

      We’ll provide you advance notice. Today’s announcement is also probably helpful. In any case, you will have 30 days after July 20th to make a decision.

  26. Russell

    Still.. no upgrade on the most important function of a “Community” – It is called the Message Forums

    1. Eric Suesz

      We will being accepting payments on July 20th, when the new plans will be available for purchase. You’ll have 30 days after that to make a decision. So, you’ll have until August 20th!

    1. Eric Suesz

      We have had a number of requests for recurring events over time, Jim, although doing that is beyond the roadmap we’ve set up for the next three months.

  27. Brian Fløe

    FANTASTIC guys – we can’t have everything at once and these updates sound fantastic. You mentioned a survey 3 times in this blog post …but not where I can find it and participate ?

    1. Eric Suesz

      Hi, Brian! Our survey is a large selection of Network Creators. Although randomly selected, it’s quite a large list, so you may be receiving an email with an invitation to participate.

  28. Nelson

    This all sounds great! At first I was skeptical about the new paid model, but if it gets you guys going on these great features and brings profit to Ning, it’s all good with me!

    QUESTION: regarding the paid membership feature; I know tons of successful internet marketers, who have huge audiences of hundreds of thousands to millions that would flock to Ning if you were able to provide the ability to:

    1. have a 2 tier (max) system whereby their affiliates can create unique affiliate links and promote the NC’s paid network…then have the ability to set the percentage that affiliate will receive from each membership they promote (either one time, or each month).
    2. the percentage should be individual rather than fixed so that special promotions can be created and certain (Larger) affiliates can be compensated accordingly.
    3. Those affiliates are called ‘1st tier affiliates’ and the people they members they bring to a network are their ‘2nd tier.’
    4. 2nd tier membership rates are fixed to what ever the NC has set it at, but can be changed at any time.

    I guarantee you this would bring TONS of users to Ning networks. This is a business model used over and over and normally they use WordPress blogs to create the network and PayPal recurring payments to charge their fees.

    An organized system like this on Ning would just Kill it!.. No doubt!

    THIS IS NOT MLM!
    MLM is when there are more than 2 tiers involved, simple as that. This is how it is described by the FCC and many laws.

    Would love to see this in place.

    Thanks,
    Nelson

  29. Paul

    Hi Ning Team.

    Looking good, thank. I appreciate the transparency as it makes it easier for us to plan in the future. I questions regarding paid membership:

    1) When you say that people will be able to pay to see content/areas – will this be one off payments, or will we be able to charge a percentage of our members a monthly subscription to always be able to see this ‘premium’ content/areas?

    2) What do you mean by areas? Are they existing areas such as the forum/photos/videos etc., or will we be able to create new content areas?

  30. cinthom

    As a non-profit educational organization with an increasingly limited budget, we hope your plans include special considerations for non-profits. We would hate to give up our Ning network, but may have no choice.

    1. Eric Suesz

      We’re very close to announcing the details of our education partnership. Wrapping up the details right now. We’ll definitely be writing a blog post about it, as well as devoting a page on our site. It won’t apply to all nonprofits, but it will be a great offer for many education-based Ning Networks. So, subscribe to the blog to get the first word!

  31. BeachLocal

    Great update. How about recurring events?? Again, great job on the progress. Ning delivers again!

    1. Eric Suesz

      Recurring events is something many people have requested. It’s not on our roadmap right now, but I’ll definitely sound a call internally for your request.

  32. 9b

    With “Paid content access” feature, who exactly will be able to add a specific VIDEO that requires members to pay before they can access it ?
    Just the network creator or also all members of a network ?

    Will this part of “Paid content access” feature (referring to VIDEOS) be just on Ning pro or on Ning plus too ?

    Thank You in advance.

    1. Eric Suesz

      I appreciate the questions about charging members to participate in areas or with VIP content. I don’t have specific details about this right now, but we generally post an announcement on the Creators Ning Network and often here on the Ning Blog before we release new features (with these kinds of details), so we’ll post what we can there when we’re closer to the release date.

  33. Mark Avey

    There are some terrific sounding ideas here and I applaud the vision for the future. However, one thing I would really like assurance on is the improvement in communication when things go wrong.

    Looking at the last 2 instances of extensive downtime (one from a few weeks back – a 3.5 day downtime – and the current UK ISP blocking incident), the lack of communication just makes a bad situation worse. Seeing the “All systems go” status update when you can’t access your site is, to be honest, infuriating.

    I think some sort of official and, more importantly, accurate status updates need to be put in place, along with somewhere where we can raise issues AND have them responded to (and not with comments such as “If you don’t like my comments, check the [inaccurate] status updates” you get on Creators. My last three tickets relating to the UK ISP block still remain unanswered.

    Sorry to put a downer on this announcement, as they’re great ideas and I look forward to them, but it’s import to not lose track of stuff that should be in place already.

    1. Eric Suesz

      Hi, Mark. We’ll definitely take that feedback and share it internally. We try to do our best on Creators to update people with information, as we did with the recent Virgin ISP block. (Here’s the all-clear message if you haven’t seen it already). I think part of the challenge is how much information we share. Some people want all the technical details of what’s happening across all Ning Networks, yet some want a concise message that pertains only to them. We can definitely improve the way we communicate this and how much we communicate, so thanks for pointing it out as an important detail for you.

  34. depymak

    Let us know your plans about non profit educational networks.Should they remain free and totally functionable?Please make it clear,in order to take our dicisions. Kind regards from Greece.Depy Makry

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