Ning Eliminates Free Accounts…

…but BuddyPress Comes to the Rescue

By now, you’ve probably heard that Ning, the “roll-your-own” social network platform, is doing away with its free accounts. Details on the whole process are still a bit sparse, but the majority opinion seems to be that the free accounts will be deleted if the owners choose not to upgrade to one of the premium options. More details are supposed to be released on May 4, 2010.┬áThe party line, so far, has been that this move will allow Ning to focus all of its attention on the paid users, allowing the service to roll out new features and bug fixes more efficiently.

Ning was a platform that operated previously on the “freemium” business model. Users were allowed (and encouraged) to set up free accounts that would be supported by advertising peppered throughout the network. If the user wanted to do away with the advertising, register a non-Ning domain name, get “premium” customer support or acquire any of the other premium services, they would pay an additional monthly fee. Now, however, customers are going to have to pay some sort of fee in order to even create a Ning network. Again, though, there is still very little official information as to what paid services will qualify users to be allowed to keep existing networks up and running, or what the minimum monthly fee will be to set up a new network.

However, for users that already have a free Ning network account that are looking for another solution, BuddyPress announced today that there is a new, free plugin available to import Ning data into a BuddyPress site. BuddyPress is a branch/plugin allowing users to turn WordPress into a social network platform/discussion forum.

It will be interesting to see how many free and paid Ning users jump ship to start up BuddyPress networks. It will also be interesting to see how Ning’s actions will affect the company’s bottom line. Will Ning be able to survive and thrive through these changes, or is this a desperate last gasp from a sinking ship? Only time will tell.