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Marc Andreessen's Next Big Thing? Cover Your Eyes

Now that Hewlett-Packard is buying Opsware for $1.65 billion (some $138 million of which goes into his pocket), Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen will be devoting more time to Ning, a Web startup for creating your own social networks. My first visit to the site was an eye opener -- as in, I couldn't believe what I saw there.
Now that Hewlett-Packard is buying Opsware for $1.65 billion (some $138 million of which goes into his pocket), Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen will be devoting more time to Ning, a Web startup for creating your own social networks. My first visit to the site was an eye opener -- as in, I couldn't believe what I saw there.Founded in 2004, Ning has created a "platform" for social networking. Some 75,000 social nets have been created on the site, ranging from soccer fans to people of faith. There's also X-rated content, as I learned when I clicked on the "All Social Networks" tab that brings site visitors to Ning's social network directory. There, on page 1 of the directory, was a social network called "Toys 4 Men" with a picture of the male anatomy that, well, let's just say I'm surprised it got through my company's Web filter.

The sexually explicit content itself wasn't surprising -- this is the Web -- but I didn't expect to encounter it on my first click from Ning's home page. Ning isn't just for teenagers and college kids, it's intended for businesses, too. Imagine directing your company's marketing executive or HR director to Ning for potential business adoption, only to have them experience Ning uncensored.

If you can get around the potential pitfall of unclad people doing unspeakable things, then Ning seems like an interesting option for businesses that want to give Web 2.0 technologies a try. Ning provides APIs so that corporate developers can add their own features, and Ning documents its architecture so tech managers can see how it works.

Andreessen explains the thinking behind Ning in a July 2 blog posting. He claims there are more social networks on Ning, including those for handbell musicians, PHP coders, and "lovers of all things cute," than on the rest of the Internet combined.

If Ning is serious about serving as an Enterprise 2.0 platform, however, it should think about pushing the smut out of plain view.