Ning, the popular online service that allows users to create their own custom social networking sites, launched Ning Apps today. Ning Apps gives users the ability to embed over 90 new apps and widgets on their social networks. Given that Ning Apps is based on the OpenSocial standard, however, developers will surely create a lot more apps in the near future. Ning added basic OpenSocial support to its service last year. At that time, however, Ning only supported about 30 applications and users could only add OpenSocial applications to their own profiles but could not publish them on their network sites so that everybody could see them.
Now, Ning Network Creators - that is, users who administer their own social network on Ning - can finally embed these apps and make them available for all the users on their custom social network. Among the apps launched today are a service that allows artists to sell merchandise from Sellit, a BlogTalkRadio app for podcasters, Huddle workspaces, PollDaddy polls, as well as WordPress apps to display blog posts and a Ustream app for live video streaming. A complete list of existing apps is available here.
While other social networks have obviously provided their users with access to these kinds of apps and widgets for a long time already, this is a major step forward for Ning. Ning, according to its own stats, currently hosts over 1.5 million different social networks (how many of these are active is a different question, however) and has about 33 million registered users. If Ning wants to continue to compete with Facebook and other social networks, it simply needs this kind of open development environment to provide its users with the right set of features, though it also looks like Ning actually has an Apple-like approval process for new apps in place.