Today Ning chairman and co-founder Marc Andreessen announced the "merger" of his company with a larger company, Glam Media. In other words, Glam acquired Ning. It's interesting to look back at the history of Ning, a DIY social networking service that launched in 2005 when the Web 2.0 tech boom was in full flow. I wrote about the launch of Ning in October 2005, here on ReadWriteWeb, nearly 6 years ago.

Since that time Ning has negotiated the often rocky terrain of changing web trends. In 2005, mash-ups were all the rage and so Ning started out as a way to help you blend different web services together to create a "social application." This was the era when MySpace was the leading social network (it was acquired in July 2005 by News Corp.). Ning ultimately evolved to become a fully fledged social website builder. The history of Ning neatly explains how it fits into Glam Media's business, so let's take a closer look.

Back in October 2005, Ning co-founder and former CEO Gina Bianchini excitedly described Ning as a "Playground" for people to build social apps. In a comment on the launch post, Bianchini stated that "our ultimate goal with this Playground is for [sic] enable me or someone like me to create something small, but social without having to know Ruby or PHP or how to set up web hosting, ops, etc."


One of my favorite niche social networks created on Ning, Tu Diabetes.

To its credit, Ning has stayed true to its original mission and indeed expanded on it. Ning became not just a service to create social apps, but social networks.

Its biggest challenge has undoubtedly been adjusting to the mammoth success of Facebook, which considerably reduced the demand for DIY social networks. Why create your own social network when you could create a Facebook Page and tap into Facebook's network effects (i.e. its massive user base)? This caused Ning a lot of grief and the company experimented with various business models in order to survive. Which ultimately led it into the arms of Glam Media.

Glam Media was also founded in 2005, as a "social blog community." It now specializes in niche websites across many verticals, with brand advertising the business model. Glam particularly targets brand advertising for women. The network has more than 2,500 publishers.

Unlike Ning, Glam Media has enjoyed steady growth over the years. It's currently one of comScore's top 10 Web properties in the U.S., with over 80 million monthly unique visitors from the USA. Glam puts the worldwide figure at over 200 million unique visitors.

However, Glam Media's U.S. traffic has declined by about 10 million uniques per month over the past year, according to comScore. So the acquisition of Ning will help in that regard. Andreessen stated that Ning will add 40 million global unique visitors to Glam's 200 million.

Overall, this seems like a great deal for both parties. In terms of product, it is a close fit: Glam's vast network of niche vertical websites, together with Ning's 100,000 niche social networks. While it may not have been a dream financial outcome for Ning - given the amount of funding it ate through over 6 years - as a product it evolved well. The existence of niche social networks like Tu Diabetes has benefited me over the years, so the demand for a service like Ning won't go away.