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Ning to Stay Free for Teachers, Everyone Else Pays

Ning said it has signed a letter of intent with what it described as a "major educational company" to keep the service free for educators and their students.

The company, which did not divulge the identity of the institution, had only weeks earlier announced its intention to end its free service. After CEO Jason Rosenthal disclosed the company's intention to move to an exclusively subscription-based model, Ning took heat from advocates for non-profits and community groups. But like a lot of so-called Web 2.0 companies that relied on advertising, Ning found itself forced to modify its business model when the recession accelerated a sharp drop in the economy.

The pricing plan features three different subscription services, offering varying degrees of user customization and support.

  • Ning Pro: Offers unlimited membership, full control over branding, multimedia options including music uploads and branded players, and advanced customization. Price: $49.95 / month or $ 499.95/ year
  • Ning Plus: Offers unlimited membership, full control over branding, and features including events, groups, chat, pages and Ning Apps. Includes advanced customization options, such as the ability to edit CSS, add Javascript and make use of a Language Editor. Price: $19.95 / month or $199.95 / year
  • Ning Mini: Offers access to core features including, blogs, photos, forums and video embeds, and the added ability to run custom advertising. Price: $2.95 / month or $19.95 / year
The question now is whether it will work or open to door for other (still-free) social networks to attract Ning "emigres," as Harry McCracken of the tech blogTechnologizer suggests in a post up today. In a conversation with CBSNews.com, Rosenthal said that Ning would disclose the name of its educational sponsor within the next few days.
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