Ning is a new venture from Marc Andressen which provides a web service that lets you easily create a simple, social application through cloning existing applications created by other members. This is very interesting because there are hundreds of thousands of potential simple social applications - such as 'best of xxx', 'worst of xxx', 'xxx sharing', etc.
Mike Arrington has written about ning several times (here, here and here). He was especially harsh on them on the second one and I agreed to most of his issues. The recent announcement of launching new features took my attention and I decided to try it out myself.
First, I looked at the very nice demo/tutorial which claims that you can create a photo sharing site with Flickr lookup in 5 minutes (or so). It seemed so easy and I decided to create a 'KoolSites' application where people can vote for the 'coolest website'. I started by cloning the 'Cinecrap' application.
Since this is a very simple application and the user flow is almost identical to Cinecrap, I thought I would be able to create the app in 5 minutes. However, it took 5 minutes to load a page! I tried to be patient and spent about an hour trying to edit the pages, but I finally decided to give it up.
I'm pretty sure that they are getting too much traffic because of the new launch and they will resolve the problem pretty soon. However, as an intermediate php programmer myself, I found it kinda hard to start-off. I tried to change one sentence in the first screen, but I couldn't figure it out without reading their documentation.
It seems like they have pretty good set of reference materials, faqs, and guidelines but I truly believe that in order for them to succeed, it should be really straightforward to use. I just think they need to be able to attract 'blogger'-level of techies to create applications, not programmers. In my opinion, Typepad is probably the limit in terms of programming complexity this type of service can get.