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Ning.com lets you run a MySpace of your own

By Larry Magid
Special to the Mercury News

Move over MySpace — there’s a new social networking service and I’m running it. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. My new “service” (costcotips.ning.com) isn’t likely to attract the 100 million-plus users of MySpace, but like anyone else who sets up a service using Ning.com, mine offers all the basic features including the ability for anyone to set up their own profile on my site to post their own videos, photos, blog items and more.

The nicest thing about my new social networking site is that I didn’t have to raise millions of dollars to launch it. It’s all free, as long as I’m willing to let Ning put ads on my site and the profile sites of people who join my network.

Ning was co-founded by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen and former banker Gina Bianchini. The concept, said Bianchini, is to let users “create the exact right social network for you and your community however and with whomever you define that to be.”

She doesn’t worry that communities created on Ning won’t have the mass membership of MySpace or Facebook, whose office is directly across the street from Ning’s Palo Alto headquarters. The idea here is to create a network that’s tailored to you and your friends or whatever community you’re trying to attract.

Setting up a Ning site couldn’t be easier. I built mine in less than five minutes by dragging and dropping elements to a page. If you want to host a video archive, you just drag the video icon to your main page or sidebar. Same for a blog, photo page or an RSS feed from other sites. You can also create a text-box to insert HTML code to add features. Like other social networking tools, users can change their “theme” to control how the site looks.

The service is supported by targeted advertising but, for $19.95 a month, they’ll turn off the ads and even let you sell your own ads if you want to.

My only concern is whether the organization and its community will have the wherewithal to help protect its members. MySpace’s parent company had to hire a security czar to police that service, which is not something I can afford to do for the humble little social networking service that I built on Ning.

For more information, you can listen to a 10-minute podcast with Bianchini at pcanswer.com/ning.

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