The real issue with Ning and WidgetLabs.

The spat between Ning and WidgetLaboratories has been an interesting read over the last few days. If you've missed all the action, then walking your way through this TechCrunch post will give you a summary version.

And if you're really interested, there's the email flow back and forth between the two CEOs you can pore over.

In short, Ning closed down one of their (maybe number one) leading widget developers, for purportedly disabusing their terms of service. Well within their rights, seemingly. Overnight, hundreds of Ning customers had some of their community functionality turned off, without prior notice or any suggestion of when they might see it back. Others have had their content go missing. I'm sure we'll hear more about it, the WidgetLabs folks seem mightily peeved and the team at Ning are doing their best to appease the disgruntled customers.

These shenanigans mark a clear distinction between two types of social media vendors. Those like Ning who are there to provide communities for sponsors who don't mind running these kind of risks; likely small companies, individuals or folks testing the waters of social media. And those others, like Awareness, who's customers insist on quality throughout the user experience, where arbitrarily switching things on and off without notice just isn't an option.

An interesting little saga, but despite who's right and wrong it's the community sponsors and their participants who suffer. In the impassioned words of the WidgetLabs CEO,

Not feeling too "comfortable" anymore having someone else hold the keys to your website and members? Ever think about the fact that some sites claim that you can "leave when you want" but then provide you NO MEANS to do so? Ever think about what it would be like to have YOUR Network UNPLUGGED after a year or more of hard work and hundreds or thousands of members all LOST? We have... we're living the nightmare.

Incidentally, if you're one of the 1700 companies who've been put in a spot by all this, then drop me a line. We may be able to help.

Comments | Add Comment

BY: Connie Bensen (8/27/2008 9:12 PM)
COMMENT: Data portability is one thing, but community portability is certainly another! And when there are business goals involved (which there should be if people are investing their time) the investment is an important decision.

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