Social-network creator Ning is letting those networks get even more customized: it's unveiled Ning Apps, the company's full plunge into the developer platform craze. It goes into private beta on Thursday and will launch in full later in May.
This announcement is a long time coming, as Ning launched a limited application gallery in October--and that was still nearly a year after it was among the original launch partners for the OpenSocial developer application consortium.
There are a couple of things that make Ning Apps different from the social platforms found on the likes of Facebook or MySpace. While the earlier, limited array of apps offered on Ning was strictly for members to embed on their profiles, the formal Ning Apps product is geared toward the creators and administrators of Ning social networks. They can add an application--from a cash donation widget for a nonprofit network, to a ticket sales app for a band's fan page, to a live video stream of what-have-you--and it'll mesh right into the social network.
"A Ning network creator selects one of these apps, that functions basically like a full-fledged feature on the social network, and by choosing to install an app the app has a presence on the front page of the social network," Jason Rosenthal, Ning's senior vice president of business operations, told CNET News. "It gets a dedicated tab within a social network, and perhaps most interestingly, by default the app is installed on every (member's) profile page of that social network."
Ning, co-founded by Silicon Valley notable Marc Andreessen, doesn't yet make any extra revenue off Ning Apps, even though the possibility is there for the social network to take a cut of financial transactions or ad revenue. "It does open an interesting new monetization opportunity for us," Rosenthal said, "but not today."
The company announced last month that 1 million social networks had been created on its platform.