Brain Trust: Ning chairman Marc Andreessen (he built Netscape back in the day), with Bianchini, at the company's HQ in Palo Alto. | Photograph by Art Streiber
Back on April 15th, Ning announced that they'd be moving from both paid and free offerings for their social network building service to paid-only. Ning was and is mostly used by those to whom the word "free" is most important--nonprofits. It's tricky and expensive to build a private social network, and even large-ish organizations like crazy commercial-maker T. Boone Pickens's 200,000 alternative energy enthusiasts opted for Ning's free service as an alternative.
Ning's new paid service is hardly expensive, starting at $3 per month ($20 per year) and going up to $50 per month for more premium options. But one group apparently complained loudly enough to be heard: public schoolteachers. Teachers have both a minuscule budget and an insane amount of red tape to go through to have any funds approved, and even Ning's cheapest option may have been too much to afford. (That says as much about our public school system as it does about social networking startups, but that's a different argument.)
So, according to the New York Times, Ning will exempt public schoolteachers from fees. This might all be just a minor sacrifice to score some press adulation, which is going to be an uphill battle since tons of other nonprofits will be taken offline, but it's a nice gesture nonetheless.