From time to time, I have posted to remind people that there’s no substitute for having your own server (not literally your own, but one that you pay the hosting bill for) before building anything of substance on the internet. It’s always struck me as insane to build stuff on “free” servers run by somebody else who hopes to monetize the traffic you generate, especially if you’re involved with sexual content that they might decide is icky. Either they will like you too much, and try to steal your traffic in various ways, or they like you too little, and kick you out (oh, and keep your traffic). You might hope to be Goldilocks, but hey, good luck with that.

Thus, posts like my:

Why Blogging Services Suck
Indecent Blog Hosting
Blogging Services Still Suck

I don’t remember posting again when Blogspot (now Blogger, a Google company) killed about half the sex blogs out there over a period of months, deleting many of them and putting many more behind ugly, traffic-killing warning pages. It struck me as inevitable, and I saw a lot of sex bloggers take my advice when it happened and get their own host and domain. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot more just vanish when their “free” hosting environment became toxic. This might even be the second most common reason (after “stopped posting”) why sex blogs die. So, I notice it.

But it’s important to remember, this is a broader principle of life and business on the internet. It’s not just blogs.

Remember way back in 2004, when an outfit called Ning announced (with great fanfare) that they were going to host social networks like MySpace, for free, so you could set up your own? I even (briefly and somewhat later) toyed with the idea of setting up a social network on Ning for my ErosBlog community of fans, but I wasn’t confident Ning would prove adult-friendly over the long haul.

Well, other people dove into it. And as of this week, all the folks who started social networks around porn, sexual nudity, or “fetishes” learned they were about to be royally screwed, with all their years of community-building effort flushed right down Ning’s toilet:

On Monday night we announced that we will no longer support adult networks on Ning beginning January 1st, 2009.

As it relates to the Ning Platform, adult networks include, but aren’t limited to pornography and depictions of sexual acts. To clarify the point, networks that contain or are focused on the following topics would clearly fall into the adult category include:
* Pornography or images of sexual acts
* Nudity intended to sexually arouse the viewer
* Graphic photos or videos
* Fetishes

To be fair, the original announcement cites practical and (to me) believable financial reasons why the adult networks are being evicted from Ning’s network. Some of these networks — and this is no surprise to me, given some of the toxic porn marketing I encounter daily — seem not to have been good tenants.

To their credit, Ning appears to have embraced open standards that may (I am far from certain) make it possible for these banished Ning communities to export at least their user lists, and possibly more of the network content. Maybe some of them will be able to reconstitute themselves on their own servers — is there free open-source social-networking software out there these days?

Anyway, I’m not saying the Ning people are being bad or evil. But the effect of their sweeping anti-adult business decision has been to wipe out an enormous amount of effort that users invested in their platform. It’s a pattern that repeats itself whenever people use “free hosting” of whatever kind. If you build your shit on somebody else’s land, they can, and they eventually will, either tear it down or tell you to haul it away (if you’re lucky). Nor does “upgrading” necessarily save you; Ning offers paid upgrades from its free advertising-supported service, but it appears that, upgraded or not, if you like teh fetishes or teh pornz, you’re still banished.

It’s not just blogging services that suck.

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