Posted by: nickgerlich | April 28, 2008

In The Loop

As a youngster growing up in Chicagoland, it was always a lot of fun to take the train or bus downtown and hang out in The Loop, that section of the city more or less regarded as the CBD (Central Business District). The architecture, the shopping, the dining were (and still are) first class. And a ride on “The L” was an essential part of the experience.

But no matter how you approached this excursion, no matter how many times you had been, The Loop always remained the same size, a fixed geographic quantity in a city whose legendary wind is more personal bluster than it is meteorlogic.

But while Chicago’s Loop is etched in stone, on the web it is something that can be expanded almost infinitely. And although it quickly conjures images of Amway and Multi-Level Marketing schemes, this one doesn’t require to fill your garage with inventory, or lose all of your friends in the process.

No, this loop is what made upstarts like Hotmail an overnight success, and explains current phenoms like Facebook and MySpace.

It’s all just basic math. Start with one and keep doubling it.

NingTechnically known as a viral expansion loop (and explained quite well in the May issue of Fast Company, this explains how today’s insanely popular sites got to where they are today.

And may very well explain how newcomer Ning may well be The Next Big Thing.

So what’s Ning? Simple. It’s a social networking site for social networks, and users are free to simply stay in their chosen network, join others, and/or start their own.

Which means that Ning is actually a double viral loop because its users can reside in multiple dimensions.

Picture the possibilities for targeted advertising with specific networks, and it is easy to see how this engine could be called Amway on steroids.

So rapid has Ning’s growth come that in 14 months it has gone from 0 to 230,000 nets, and is predicting it might reach 4 million nets by the end of 2010. With everyone from rap stars to companies, organizations, and alumni groups launching networks, such stratospheric ambitions may not be out of the question.

Back down on earth, if Chicago’s Loop had grown like loops do online, we would all by now be Chicagoans.

And trying to get rich selling Amway.

Dr “Can I Interest You In Some Vitamins?” Gerlich


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