December 4th, 2008

Can’t a girl head offline for one, tofurky-filled holiday without the whole internet going to hell? Upon returning to California yesterday evening, I found an email from Ning, the people who host the software for Beautiful Stranger. Well, not any more apparently. In their own words:

As a Network Creator of an adult network on Ning, we have an important announcement regarding your social network.

As of January 1, 2009, we are discontinuing support for adult social networks on the Ning Platform.

We’re not discontinuing support for adult networks 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…

For those of you who created and worked hard on your adult networks, we appreciate your work and dedication and wish there were a different answer.

So, in less than a month, my cybersex matchmaking site — which I’ve put hours of work into and has 100+ members — is just going to disappear? You’ve got to be kidding. I’ve been writing back and forth with a Ning representative, trying to negotiate a different decision. Could I get a paid Ning site and keep my content? Could I transfer Beautiful Stranger onto a different URL, one that’s not associated with Ning? Could I somehow tone down the content so it no longer falls into what Ning is calling on its blog “the red light district?”

Needless to say, I’m outraged — on both moral and pragmatic grounds. Over at their blog, the Ning team is claiming they’re all about pragmatics too. Here are the reasons they give for shutting down my site and sites like it:

1) Adults sites don’t bring in enough traffic. Seriously? Oh wait, they eventually admit, it’s more like their advertisers feel uncomfortable with them. That’s odd, since the ads they run on Beautiful Stranger are a heck of a lot raunchier than my cybersex site, which comes with explicit rules about conduct I couldn’t even get Ning to uphold in our advertising.

2) Too many people have made “illegal” adult sites. Like what? Prostitution sites? I can see how that would be a tough call, but couldn’t you just assign someone to keep an eye out for illegal activity instead of shutting us all down? Does every porn site get axed when the cops spot a few doing something illegal?

3) Adult sites are more likely to infringe on copyright issues. If you say so, Ning, but it still seems this should be done on a case-by-case basis. What about Beautiful Stranger says “DMCA” to you?

The most ridiculous part is Ning is essentially giving us users — the ones who trusted them with our time, energy, and content — absolutely no options. Also from the blog:

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.

This isn’t a pragmatic decision, it’s a purge. Why else wouldn’t we be allowed to at least work our sites, instead of seeing them disappear? If I had to guess, some major advertising backer probably threatened to pull unless Ning distanced itself from all its questionable content — and fast. Now anyone linked to sex is collateral damage.

Tags: Beautiful Stranger, social networking

44 Responses to “Ning takes down adult social networks”

  1. Jincey Lumpkin Says:

    Yeah, I’m also dealing with this awesomeness. And now that we can’t access via API, all the data is now held hostage.

  2. HammerHeart Says:

    Frankly, I never ‘got’ what Ning was anyway. You couldnt search for members on the sites, nothing really. My 1st thought was after looking at a couple of Ning sites was “All they are really doing here is collection everyone’s Info!” Never trusted them.

  3. Jincey Lumpkin Says:

    Hammer, that’s not completely true. There are a lot of useful functions for Ning sites- meeting people, talking, chat, etc. There was a 3rd party developer, Widget Lab that had created a lot of great applications, like “Advanced Member Search” that allowed you to search for members on any set of criteria you created. However, WL was so good that Ning booted them a few months back. It’s crazy.

  4. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Wow, Jincey, I totally forgot you used Ning, too. You had a paid version with a separate URL though, right? It would be so said if your entire site had to be redone!

  5. Apotropaios Says:

    I just wrote to them to register my disgust. I’d encourage anybody else to do the same.

  6. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Thanks for the support! Sadly I don’t know that we can convince them, but at the very least spreading the word might help get other equally aware/pissed.

  7. Beblo Says:

    I’m being hit too. I run a fetish community with more than 500 members called chainedbyconsent
    http://chainedbyconsent.com
    Got the exact same email You did. I’ve noticed another fetish site who is going to carry on just banning nudity in the photos so I wrote to my ning rep asking if that was a legit go around. Still very very lame though. Anyone have suggestions for other sites similar to Ning?

  8. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Here’s Ning’s latest email:

    [The Ning Team – 12/04/2008 04:17 PM]
    Hi Bonnie,

    If you’d like to keep your network running on the Ning Platform, you’re more than welcome to make the appropriate changes to ensure that your network doesn’t fall into our definition of an adult network. This involves removing any and all adult content from your network.

    Adult content includes, but isn’t limited to:
    · Pornography
    · Depictions of sexual acts
    · Sexually explicit or obscene themes

    These changes take effect on January 1, 2009, so you’ll need to make your adjustments before then. If you’d like more details, we’ve put up a new blog post clarifying this transition and what we consider an adult network on Ning: http://blog.ning.com/2008/12/a-few-updates-on-the-end-of-the-red-light-district.html. Hope this clears things up!

    If you’re planning on leaving Ning, as mentioned in the blog, 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. Let me know if there’s anything we can help you with.

    Thanks,
    The Ning Team

  9. Spencer Forman Says:

    In our opinion, Ning can change its policies any time it wants. The manner of breaking promises without first providing fair and reasonable alternatives or solutions is the issue.

    When customers have relied on your policy for months or a year and then you switch, it is simply bad business to cut them off with less than four weeks notice and no means to move.

    Why has Ning failed to provide a simple migration tool BEFORE it raised the issue of deleting adult networks? It is not only possible, but we’ve previously created a tool to do this, and then Ning shut down their public API, killing any such tools.

    To prove our point, yesterday we created a simple photo migration tool in a matter of a couple hours. To date, Ning is still claiming that they are unable to do the same, even though it is their own platform.

    Here is a link to the migration tool and a how-to video.

    http://www.widgetlaboratory.com/members/profile/1/blog-view/lab-ninja—backup-and-migrate-your-ning-photos_64.html

    WidgetLaboratory is very familiar with Ning’s method of “dealing” with customer relationships by way of obfuscation and finger-pointing. The truth behind the words is often hard to find.

    Making large profits is fine (great even). But, not at the expense of those who have supported your growth. Given the origin of their name, it’s sad to see that they’ve lost their moral compass and common sense somewhere along the way…

    Spencer Forman – CEO WidgetLaboratory

  10. Nunya Says:

    Let’s face it, the internet would not have grown as quickly as it did without adult sites. Those were the first ones to be profitable, ecommerce was very largely driven by them, and even VHS beat Beta because of the adult entertainment industry.

    It’s one thing for a particular site to want to shun adult advertising, but for a platform to change midstream, it seems to me to be suicide.

  11. Bruce Wagner Says:

    The Social Networking world is pissed at Ning right now! …and rightly so.

    Ning is abusive! Highly recommend Ning customers move to a Free Open Source social networking platform, giving them freedom and independence.

    InfoWorld names Elgg BEST Open Source Social Networking software of 2008 http://ping.fm/2me29

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  12. Rubber Rebel Says:

    I have 24,000 members and have been paying ning for all their prem services as well as strongly inforced copyright laws. granted my site gets alot of traffic but no problems ever came from my site. Now with less then 4 weeks to move and still no access to data im in a bind.

    I suggested to them to create a seperate ning spin off for “Adult” sites and appoint a moderating group to take the work load off them, and to make it manditory to pay for the prem services, all these would make their argument moot.

  13. John Says:

    I switched to http://www.datingsitebuilder.com, Ning will shutdown my site by the end of Dec, so I still have 2 weeks to ask my members to signup on my new site.

  14. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Thanks for the suggestion, John. That sounds like a good place to try next. As it stands, I have all my user info saved, and Ning swears they’ll be sending me the rest before the end of the month. Now I just need to break the potentially bad news to my members themselves, and, like you said, start convincing them to switch over a new site.

  15. Don P. Says:

    Oh how neat….ning took down the blog. How nice.

  16. Dan Says:

    It looks like rSitez, another hosted social network platform, is courting adult networks booted from Ning: http://socialshakers.com/2008/12/03/ning-shut-down-adult-networks-sites-search-for-new-home/

    I know nothing about them other than my horror at the spelling of their name.

  17. Dana Says:

    I have switched over to social go and so has most of the other swinger sites that I associated with on ning but it is a nightmare. Are there any good suggestions out there?

  18. vin Says:

    I have switched over to rSitez. I hesitate about Social Go but I am afraid they are too much like Ning. rSitez’ support team was really helpful with the migration. The UI is not as easy as Ning but it works for me. So far, I’m happy with them.

  19. D M Says:

    There are soooo many sites now, it’s difficult keeping up with the competition. I need to look into something new and up to date to stand out from the crowd.

  20. JESSIE Says:

    I was thinking about socialgo.com and datingsitebuilder.com, and socialgo seems to create a new website just for adult websites. So I was concerned they would do what Ning did and I went with dating site builder. Their support is great and site is easy to setup. Migration was painless.

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