Ning is ditching their free service and according to Jon Dale this is a brilliant move. Educators and non-profits are ranting all over the Internet about how this move is going to destroy all the work they have been doing for so long. Just think of all the free networks set up for educators. Ning is going to provide a paid option for educators and non-profits that is supposed to be affordable. Ning has grown so large that their premium users have suffered.
So what do you think will be happening with Internet companies that focus on education? They will be setting up more closed communities with or without a free version, more ads on free sites, and user information sold to third parties. It is happening because companies cannot continue offering free access without ongoing and sufficient capital to run their businesses. Venture capital only goes so far. People cost. Servers cost.
Nothing is free. Look at the total cost of ownership and how much you invest into a particular tool or website. Your time needs to be valued. How much time did it take you to create the website, add content, and update your lessons online? Take time to research and plan how you will use social media or an online community. Be aware that the free site you are using may change their revenue model and budget for it. There will still be free sites and applications. Just be aware that those companies may be selling your private information. Nothing's free.