Crowdvine Versus Ning

Image representing CrowdVine as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBase, source unknown

I will have more on China soon, but today I must talk tech again. If you would rather read about China, click here for a short press release from Reporters Without Borders.

TJ Sondermann reminded me about CrowdVine in a comment on my quest for the best social network software. I had quite forgotten that I even knew that it existed. TJ mentioned that their blog claimed they were about to add OpenID which was a major feature that I was looking for. When I went to sign-up and check it out I was quite surprised to find that I already had an account and that I had, hold your breath, signed in with OpenID. See what happened is that the local Providence Geeks group uses CrowdVine. I just thought of it as the Providence Geeks group not as part of CrowdVine. The ability to make the site your own is a very important feature, and apparently CrowdVine got that part right.

So CrowdVine has OpenId and apparently has had it for quite a while. That make it the winner in my book, but let’s look at a few other things to make a fair comparison.

Short URL / Custom URL

The Ning domain is shorter than CrowdVine (obviously), but Ning requires 6 characters for the sub-domain.

Control over Appearance

Ning has a basic control panel and allows custom CSS. CrowdVine gives a choice of 5 color palates.


Ning has a full forum, but CrowdVine has a blog/article posting option with comments which in this context is essentially the same. CrowdVine could use a way to categorize the posts, though.

Member Profile

Both have member profiles. I did not see any important differences.

Direct Communication

Both have direct communication options.


Ning has sub-groups which are handy for local chapters, and event based groups, but does add a level of complexity. I like the idea but you definitely have to moderate the setting up of sub-groups or they get out of hand. I am a member of on Ning where there are hundreds of cliques of one.

CrowdVine uses a set of customizable questions to group people by. It solve the same problem in a more manageable way.


CrowdVine has it. Ning doesn’t. As a matter of fact, I checked with Ning and discovered that Ning does not have any developers who understand OpenID well enough to implement it and does not have the resources (or interest) to acquire developers with these abilities.


I get the feeling that Ning has been around a little longer and has a larger user base. This is rather handy for new groups since many people already have a Ning account.


Both have advertising, but CrowdVine’s is less in you face and obnoxious, and thus probably less effective. Both of them could take a lesson from FaceBook if they want better advertising.

Is there any other criteria I should be comparing? Anything else I missed?

If you think of anything else let me know.

Conclusion: Ning needs OpenID and four character sub-domains. CrowdVine needs CSS, and a shorter URL (or let us use our own). CrowdVine’s list is easier, so my prediction is that Ning is going to get its head handed to it on a platter.

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38 responses to “Crowdvine Versus Ning

  1. Luke,

    Thank you for such a nice review of CrowdVine. I’m glad you took the time to write it up!

    Although I’m glad we fared so well in the head to head comparison, I find that we rarely compete with Ning for customers and that, for the most part, a customer can make the right choice between the two of us without hurting either of our feelings. I’ve got some other criteria and explanation which I think are useful for making the right choice (and important for anyone who wants to understand where social network software is going).

    CrowdVine and Ning have fundamentally different company structures and that leads to different approaches which I think, now and for the future, means that we will live in different segments of the same market. Also, I have tremendous respect for the team Ning has put together, starting with their founders Marc and Gina and including the engineers I’ve met (Brian McCallister in particular), so I don’t expect that anyone is going to hand them their head on a platter and I’m very sure that if anyone tries, CrowdVine won’t be the platter, the hand, or the instrument that placed the head on the platter.

    Ning was founded as a traditional silicon valley startup. It’s backed by venture investors who are by definition driving for massive growth (and they’re succeeding). Ning has massive amounts of funding (over $100M) and are by far the most successful of the venture backed social network software providers.

    CrowdVine was founded as a traditional business. Our goal was to build a company that was sustained from the beginning by our revenue and that grows at a moderate rate every year until we become too old and too tired to raise our pickaxes. We’re 100% privately owned and we’re profitable.

    There’s an independence that we have, that no startup can have, and that I think is essential to the promise we’re making to niche communities. We’re promising them their own form of independence, a community that’s free and separate from the mass market social networks they had to live in before. I think that promise is strengthened if we as providers don’t also have a massive financial obligation (we have a small obligation, which we’ve met, to pay the rent).

    Because of that fundamental difference in company organization I find that CrowdVine and Ning have and will continue to have fundamentally different qualities. Briefly, those qualities in CrowdVine are that we make a direct connection between your time spent on our network and you achieving a goal, that we can and do make powerful niche customizations, and that you can get very high level support.

    First, on the topic of connecting your time as a user to achieving a goal. Our customers are network creators who come with existing business goals. If we solve those problems we justify our pay. We have no incentives to keep you on the site, but lots of incentives to help you achieve your goals.

    As a comparison, the first time I saw Gina (Ning’s CEO speak), she described Ning’s design philosophy as “if you’re hosting a party you don’t want to run out of activities.” They’re building very feature rich software so that their networks have lots of activities and so that they are good places to hang out. A lot of older people are confused by the popularity of social networks like MySpace and Facebook, but the truth is that these types of social networks are an upgraded form of leisure. People who knock social networks as not comparable to real life socializing are missing a crucial fact: social networks don’t replace face-to-face, they replace TV. Measured by usage this is probably the biggest segment of the market and so is a great opportunity for a venture backed startup like Ning. Ning is an eyeballs business. They need you to hang around (and if hanging around is a replacement for TV, then that’s a very good thing).

    CrowdVine is a goal oriented business not an eyeballs business. Our design philosophy is to connect people and then get out of their way. That comes out in the features.

    All our email notifications include everything you need to make a response through email: the full text of the message or comment, and the email address of the person on the other end. No need to return to CrowdVine.

    OpenId is part of a larger example to connect and integrate with what people are doing outside of the our networks. We also pull in your Flickr, Twitter, and Blog feeds directly into your profile. We’d rather be the glue for your content than the repository.

    Advertising is yet another way this comes out. You’re absolutely right that the minimal amount of advertising that we run on our free networks could be optimized for more revenue. But we’re not an ad-supported company (less than 1% of revenue) so you’re not going to see any of our networks plastered in ads.

    Second, on the topic of niches. Where not always the right choice, but when we are the right choice, we’re very right.

    The market for simple focused social networks is smaller than the market for leisure social networks. Partially this is true because so many of the best customers are businesses and they tend to either adopt later than consumers or have customized needs.

    But if your goal is to connect with people, the fewer features the better. I learned this first hand on the team that launched Twitter. Every pundit we heard from compared us to earlier companies that had “more and more compelling features.” What none of these pundits seemed to get is that the only compelling feature for Twitter was the people. Any other feature was a barrier. If you have such a use case, then CrowdVine is the social network platform for you.

    Plus there’s one specific niche where we do have a customized version, conferences. Our CrowdVine for Conferences product has features you can’t find in any social networking platform and that wouldn’t make sense for any use case beside conferences.

    These “niches” are great for us because we can show real value to our customers but make a lot less sense for Ning because on the one hand the market for simple is smaller and on the other hand the individual markets for verticals like conferences are simply too small for that much venture backing.

    Third, support. Put simply, you can get the founder of CrowdVine on the phone. I’m not out talking to the investors, or managing a huge team of people, I’m talking to our customers every day. Again, I think that’s part of being a business that depends on the success of our network creators.

    Well, that was probably more of an enthusiastic response than you were probably expecting. Thanks for reading this far and especially for the review.

  2. Pingback: CrowdVine Blog » Blog Archive » CrowdVine vs. Ning

  3. Pingback: Stubbleblog » Blog Archive » CrowdVine vs. Ning

  4. […] Gedeon has a wonderful review up comparing his experiences with CrowdVine and Ning. […]

  5. Thank you, I had not been exposed to CrowdVine yet. It is great when people take time to share and give a detailed review and be honest.


  6. Thanks for this wonderful article, I think it will help a lot of people. I have heard some thing about CrowdVine, but I never used it, so your article provided me with all useful information about it.

  7. Such an interesting review.. really helpful

  8. Thanks for the info. I have used Ning and liked it a lot. I haven’t come across CrowdVine yet but after your prediction I guess I’d better get over there!

  9. Crowdvine works great. I have read many possitive reviews. What I like the best is the integration of openID

  10. The openID is surely a good feature of crowdvine.I think ning also should make provisions for it.Crowdvine is great.

  11. What’s with these comments? They’re not coming from us, but they’re savvier than the usual fake comment stuff.

    • Sure Tony…. whatever. We know you are paying people to go add comments about CrowdVine all over the web. 🙂

      Just kidding, man. You have a really good product and deserve the praise. If you were wondering why an old post is getting new comments I think that has something to do with the new related posts feature I added last month. BTW, have you been seeing fake comments about CrowdVine? Seems like an unusual target.

  12. We have a Ning page for our basketball league and it has had great reviews from the parents. However, we are looking to go more techie and have more features as the league grows and Open ID will be an added benefit if we try Crowd Vine.

    I just need to get my blog a little prettier to go along with our social page. The parents really love that stuff too as in this area of the country we are more tech savvy.



  13. interesting comparison, a great post and I think must be usefull for a lot of people

  14. Agree, this post must be useful for lot of people here.

  15. This is one of the better comparisons of Ning I have come across. I think you should also mention the cost and stuff. Sure, ning appears to be free, but they make a fortune for themselves by running AdSense from the community sidebar. It takes some $24 to remove it – per month!

  16. Cufflinks,

    Funny I did not even think about the cost to remove ads because I have gotten to the point where I barely notice them. I am glad someone is making money off of them so they can provide so many cool things for free but I am not contributing much toward that.

    But thanks for the additional information. It will be a big help to those who are bothered by the ads.

    By the way. Addressing you as Cufflinks seems really weird. Would you mind entering your name as John Smith of Cuff…… I can tell you are human by comparing comments on multiple posts, but still.

  17. Great article Luke. i haven’t come across CrowdWine yet but it certainly worth a go i guess. Since when was this around? Great review by the way. Your site gets interesting by the day. Keep it up. Cheers

  18. I like Ning better. In fact I’m using Ning for one of my communities right now. I guess it’s more easier for the non-technical people to tap into and use. But if you’re an experience web designer, the community formatting pages with CSS would be ideal too.

    But I guess there’s a lack of customization options.

  19. Well yes, I agree with Nadeesha. I’m a Ning fan as well. I’m not big time technical user so Ning is ok for me. not a huge fan of customizations n stuff also so Ning is fine for me. Crowdwine is also ok. But Ning has won me over.

  20. This is one of the better comparisons of Ning I have come across. I think you should also mention the cost and stuff.

  21. Its Very usefull For other persons. bye!

  22. The comparison has been really awesome. thanks for it. I think for me crowdvine is better. Simply because I love to do a lot of customization and stuff. crowdvine is really my thing. Thanks Luke. Good job.

  23. This is a really helpfull review of those two services. Both have their advances and good points though. I haven’t really used them yet but this review of your gives me a quick heads up on these sites. Thanks.

  24. I am so glad I found this review as I am currently doing research on Crowdvine and Ning. From what I understand, Crowdvine is a tad better as it is more flexible as it allows customization. Thank you.

  25. I too like Ning better. It really does give a chance for new users to do some wonderful things without much knowledge. Crowdvine is fine as well but My personal Choice would be Ning

  26. Once gain awesome article Luke. love your blog. Certainly some informative and interesting articles around 🙂 Anyway I personally like Ning too. Only reason is because it is easy because I’m not a big tech person 🙂

  27. I surely would use Ning. Not a techy so Ning is more than enough for me :)) may be I’ll try out CrowdVine now that you have mentioned bout it. Cheers

  28. Even though most of the comments say Ning is better I prefer CrowdWine. Love the complexity. Been a fan of complex stuff :)) Nice article. cheers

  29. I think I would agree that Crowdwine is better. it’s simple and nice. just as most of the people would want it to be. Thanks for the article. cheers

  30. I personally like Crowdwine better. No particular reason. Just that I’ve been using it for sometime and like everything about it. Great job Luke. Cheers

  31. I don’t like either Ning or Crowdvine mainly because of total lack of control. Anyone who is seriously considering a social network should consider hosting it themselves if they wish to plan for growth. And anyone who wants to make money from this in the future should never use a platform hosted by a 3rd party. Elgg and Dolphin are both pretty decent social networking scripts if you want to host these environments on your own server.

  32. Obviously Ning Rocks and Nice Article!


    Internet Games

  33. Its hard to choose – they both have good and bad features, but I like the forum option so I guess my vote goes to Ning

  34. The comparison has been really awesome. thanks for it.
    .-= Horror ´s last blog ..Pig Hunt 2008 DVDRip XviD-ViSiON =-.

  35. Nice post….
    .-= Gamer´s last blog ..Overclocked: A History Of Violence =-.

  36. Thank you for the information on Ning it is very useful

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