November 8, 2006 5:42 PM PST

Ning brings social networking to the masses

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SAN FRANCISCO--Marc Andreessen and Gina Bianchini took the stage at the Web 2.0 Summit here Wednesday to publicly launch Ning.com, which lets people build Web sites for online socializing.

The company has been operating for more than a year, but waited until the conference to reveal details on its product. Bianchini, who is CEO, gave a demonstration in the afternoon after technical glitches marred the first attempt.

She showed that Ning allows people to create socially oriented Web sites without having to write code. People are presented with choices, such as who to share the site with and what kind of look it will have.

Ning has built templates for hosting discussions and sharing music, photos and videos. The site is set up so people can retain their own branding--a logo can appear in a video player, for example.

"What's different about Ning from other services is that we give you your own video site like YouTube, or social-networking site like MySpace," she said. "But unlike being a page in somebody else's service, it's yours. You get to choose what it's about."

In December, Ning plans to launch an upgrade that will let people more easily customize their social-networking sites, she said.

Andreessen, best known as a Netscape co-founder, said Ning is betting that more and more people will want to create social-networking sites of their own. He added that the site is fully programmable by developers.

"Our basic theory is that as people get more sophisticated and used to social networks, they are going to want a lot more flexibility and a lot more customization," Andreessen said. "We're making a big bet that there will be a lot more social networks over the next couple of years."

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