Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ning Bitch Slaps WidgetLabs

Social network giant Ning has suddenly pulled the plug on one of the biggest plug-in developers - WidgetLaboratory. They just summarily removed all of WidgetLaboratory's widgets from every single user's site - leaving a smoking pile of twisted debris in their wake.

Let's just say that the folks who had spent (literally) hundreds of hours perfecting their vertical social networks found themselves with sites that didn't work, or had big, gaping holes where there was once functionality.

All of this happened overnight. Without any warning from Ning to their members.

Ning says that WidgetLaboratory violated their Terms of Service. They haven't specified exactly what TOS they violated - but hey, nice job in blowing up a large portion of your user's sites!

The folks over at WidgetLabs haven't taken kindly to getting the boot. In a recent blog entry - they went on the warpath and decided to just totally open source all of their widgets so that their customers could get their sites back up and running. Considering that WidgetLabs was actually being paid for each widget (usually on a monthly basis) from each customer - this is a very big move that is a clear case of doing the right thing in the name of customer service.

Opening up their code should also put Ning in a bind. If Ning continues to ban the WidgetLabs software (which the users paid for and uploaded themselves to their own private site), then end users can just skim through the code and either re-create their own widget. If Ning allows the widgets to stay, then the "network degradation" issue they sited as the reason for the ban - is just a smokescreen.

Ning claims that they were just "protecting their network" in this Friday post. In that post one of Ning's controversial founders, Gina Bianchini, keeps talking in circles while she fails to mention anything of substance. What is interesting, however is this statement: "If we could fill these holes today, we would. We will start this effort shortly"

Something stinks in Denmark.

I wonder if it's nothing more than greed. Maybe WidgetLabs had been getting too successful? Did Ning sense a revenue opportunity? Or did WidgetLabs simply piss the Ning folks off?

Ning is in the wrong here. Providers of infrastructure shouldn't just pull off a third-party developer's content (used on hundreds if not thousands) of sites - with zero notification. There's no reason in the world why Ning couldn't have given people 30 days notice or something. I mean, it's not like we're in China or something...

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