Friday, August 22, 2008

Ning shuts down WidgetLaboratory

This morning Ning removed WidgetLaboratory's account and service.  While I'm sure they had what they think is a good reason for doing so this sort of thing is exactly the reason that Platform-as-a-Service providers must be open source.

WidgetLaboratory, for those of you who don't know, makes widgets that other Ning network creators could plug into their own sites.  These widgets of course were things that Ning didn't provide themselves, and a lot of people are very upset about this.

As I see it there are four outcomes here: WidgetLaboratory's service is restored, the people who are upset build their own replacements, the people who are upset stay upset, or Ning provide alternatives.  Of the four, I think the best possible outcome for Ning will be if they follow the first path -- if there was a ToS violation, fix it, restore the service, and move on.
We feel that the worst outcome would be if Ning went down the route of providing replacements.  The idea has already been floated by others that perhaps WidgetLaboratory's widgets were somehow encroaching on Ning's revenue.  If Ning recreate the widgets then fuel will merely be added to that fire.  Of course, it's only a possibility at this time, but it highlights something else we strongly believe.

We think a Platform-as-a-Service must be charged on a utility basis.  We don't think freemium models can work, because the provider will always be looking to expand their premium offering and sooner or later these will collide with those of their customers.  When that happens, sparks will fly, and fires will start.

Fundamental to everything we're doing is the belief that a utility model works for everybody - the customer wins because utility models are more fair, and the PaaS provider wins because more usage from your customer's customers means more revenue for you -- never less.  As a business-to-business software service, we believe there needs to be clear blue sky between what we offer, and what our customers offer.  That's very hard, and will continuously get harder, with a freemium model.

Reasonably Smart is open source, and is going to operate under a utility model.  We'll charge for bandwidth, storage, and operations in the VM.  You can build what you want, and if you don't like how we operate, or feel our charges are unfair, you'll have the ability to take not only your code, but our code as well, and it run elsewhere.



Chris Holland said...

So ... will u guys beat amazon EC2 pricing? Or are you using EC2 behind-the-scenes?

Anonymous said...

This decision is extremely infuriating and unethical.

As a premium member, I pay to own the code on my network.

According to the TOS:
Ownership of Code and Content
Ning does not claim any ownership rights in the Content or the Code you provide. You, as the Network Creator, own the Code you develop (“your Code”). You also own the Content you create and upload (“your Content”). After posting your Content or your Code, you continue to retain all ownership rights in such Content or Code, and you continue to have the right to use and license your Content and your Code in any way you choose.

Regardless if I write my own code, hire a developer, or buy it from a third party it is still my code. If there is a problem with the code I run on my site, then Ning needs to address that with me. If Ning has a dispute with a third party company, then that is between them. That dispute doesn’t give Ning license to remove whatever code I run on my site just because I bought it from that company. It’s my code!

What code was I running that violating the TOS on my site?

I don’t buy that ALL code provided by WL violated the TOS. Therefore it is unethical for Ning to remove ALL the code that originated from WL. Again, once I buy the code from WL, I own that code. That makes about as much sense as your landlord coming in and removing your GE coffeemaker because they don’t like GE dishwashers.

Most of the code bought from WL has been running on the Ning platform for months without concern. If one product from them violates the TOS, Ning’s response it to pull all code? Furthermore, by doing so, Ning has recklessly destroyed my content associated with that code.

The fact that Ning has recommended WL makes them complicit in this matter.

This is harsh, but you have to understand the frustration from the loss of code, content, time and money.

Bryan said...

Chris, very good question and as happens so often you have prompted another blog post

twister said...

Ning has dsiclosed all private information. They (especially Travis Swicegood) will not respect your privacy. Do not open account with Ning: you'll regret it!!!

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